Every night since the Dream came to visit, the old man has been helping the children get ready.

He began by painting the chairs the colors of a summertime carnival, arranging them in a circle around the trunk of the sycamore tree.

After that, the children began to play.

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He has watched through the broken window of the garage as neighborhood parents gather each evening at the edge of the front yard, discussing things like mortgage rates and food allergies while their children play tag around the chairs or blindfold each other in a game they call Guess the Color.

The parents pay no attention, but the old man knows why the children never fail to guess the correct color of their particular chair: One night, after the families had gone, he sat in a purple chair and the unmistakable flavor of grape lingered on his tongue for an hour.

A few nights ago, he placed red plastic party cups upside-down on the metal seats of the chairs.

After that, the children began to listen.

They walk around the inside of the circle, pressing their ears to the bottom of each cup. As the parents stand around complaining to each other about taxes and road construction, the children run over to them, presenting dazzling, solemn pronouncements of what they’ve heard.

Bees, buzzing inside a can.

Marching bands, fighting with each other.

Dinosaurs, roaring for their babies.

The parents pay little mind. But the old man knows it won’t be long now, because the children are describing the vision that came to him in the Dream.

The ships will appear as a humming hive of ancient galleons, silver and brilliant against the sun. They will float in a dead calm over the city, blasting their brassy, dissonant chords each morning at daybreak.

And then, the children will be gone.

It makes the old man a little sad to know that the parents will pound on his door, seeking their children, searching for answers.

He, too, will be gone but vows to do the best he can for them.

He will leave the lone, pink chair under the sycamore tree so that the parents can whisper into its red cup and listen for a reply.

If they are lucky, he thinks, if they have even the smallest drop of imagination left in their dried-up souls, their ears may catch the slightest shimmer of their children’s laughter wafting down from above.

 

© Michele Miller Nelson 2014

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