“I don’t dream anymore.”
“Nobody dreams anymore.”
“Is it still possible to dream? In this place?”
“Well, anything is possible. But no, not really.”
“I miss it.”
“You miss it?”
“They’re just dreams.”
“You don’t miss dreams?”
“When I was a kid I dreamed about the world series and hitting a homerun. You know, bottom of the ninth, two outs, down by a run, I’ve got a broken arm and I’m hitting into the wind – and then boom it’s out of the park. I march the bases, wave my hat, I stomp down at home. The crowd goes wild.”
“It’s a nice dream.”
“I think so.”
“You know, you can just do that now.”
“You’ve already done it?”
“Well there you go.”
“It wasn’t the same.”
“That’s because it was real.”
“I felt stupid.”
“It is stupid. Incredibly stupid.”
“You just said it was a nice dream.”
“A nice, stupid dream.”
“Well, I miss it.”
“I can’t give you your dreams back. Dreaming requires lacking and you lack nothing. Except for dreaming. Which is weird, but that’s just how it works. And if you try to dream about dreaming you’re in for a real headache. So don’t go doing anything like that.”
“Can you do anything for me? It doesn’t have to be the world series. Just a simple one maybe. I used to dream about driving down the highway. That’s it, just an open road and the engine and the sky. How about that one?”
“No dreams. Here’s what I can do for you though. I’m going to go ahead and diagnose you with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
“I don’t think that’s what I have.”
“Are you sure? It comes with a wagon full of dex.”
“It’s pretty much meth. Your teeth won’t fall out, but it will stimulate your psycho-activity.”
“I can’t dream anymore so you’re giving me a wagon full of meth?”
“To stimulate my psycho activity?”
“Take it or leave it.”
“Well, I mean, if that’s all you got.”
Jim pulled the wagon of dex along the top of the wall. It was like a little red wagon except it was big and blue. The pills were white and they rattled like teeth. The wall, forty feet high and ten feet thick, cut an erratic line through the Middle of Nowhere. Jim popped another pill and went back to stacking bricks.
Somebody called up to him from the ground.
“Hey! You! What’s the big idea?”
“What the hell are you doing?”
“It’s a wall!” Jim said. “I’m building a wall! Eighteen million nine hundred thousand three hundred and sixteen bricks so far. You never knew how many bricks it took to make a wall!”
“Well who’s it keeping out?”
“Where’s it going?”
“Why you building it?”
“I was bummed out and unfocused because there aren’t any dreams anymore but then the doctor gave me all this dex and I started to build a wall. There’s an infinite number of bricks up here and I never even thought to build a wall before. Eighteen million nine hundred thousand three hundred and seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Just look at this beautiful fucking wall!”
“Say, come to think of it, I don’t dream anymore neither.”
“Climb aboard! I’ve got a wagon full of dex and bricks for days! Yaaachachachaka!”
The somebody climbed up and turned into a George, who swallowed a fistful of dex and started scraping mortar. Jim stacked the bricks. When they finished a section George carried the mortar and the bricks and Jim pulled the wagon of dex.
“This is just great!” George said.
“Nineteen million one hundred and thirty-two thousand three hundred and forty-two!” Jim said.
“All this time I was just kind of wandering around I didn’t really know what to do I mean there’s so many things you can do up here I was just a little lost I was overwhelmed and distracted there aren’t any directions around here. You know? But now it’s like I don’t even have to think the thinking is gone and I can just do and do and do and I don’t have to think for myself I can just fucking do.”
There were a lot of people like Jim and George. Everyone they ran into seemed to have dreams that didn’t work anymore. Pretty soon there were a hundred, then a thousand dreamless souls, all tweaking through the Middle of Nowhere and leaving a trail of bricks. Whole teams for mixing clay and mortar, excavating, rock-breaking and landscaping, brick-laying and brick-counting and bricking. They were very organized. A hundred new miles of wall went up every day.
The psychiatrists of Paradise discovered the wall and rallied around its cause and began recruiting every patient for its construction. Thousands more and tens of thousands were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and soon a million men and women roamed the wall. The dex came in trucks.
They sang a song.
Fuck your boring dreams, and fuck your boring soul –
All you need is Dexedrine off you fucking go!
A zillion bricks to stack, eternity to roll –
A wagon full of dex will build a wall to
Nobody really knows!
So heed this word from us, who build and build it high –
Fuck us living, fuck us dead – Let’s build it to the sky!
A googol miles to march, infinity to fly –
A wagon full of dex will take us all to
For about thirteen years they built the wall. Their numbers swelled to thirty million and the wall stretched on for a million miles. The dex mines of Paradise passed the infinity test and no dreamless builder built without the bumps of Adderall or Ritalin or Dexedrine. Thirty million tweakers united by a single purpose – to build a brick wall through the Middle of Nowhere.
And they made it. Jim and George led them right to it. The great impasse loomed and the building of the wall came to a stop.
“What is it?” said Jim.
“I think it’s a university,” said George. “That there looks like admissions.”
“Can we build through it?”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s pretty big.”
Just then the gates of the university opened and a man rode out on a white horse.
“I am the Dean of the University of the Place Between the Middle of Nowhere and the Somewhere,” the man said. “What is your business here?”
“We just want to pass through,” Jim said. “We’re building a wall.”
“If you want to get to Somewhere, you have to go through the University. If you want to go through the University, you have to get a Diploma.”
“We don’t want Diplomas,” Jim said. “We just want to pass through.”
“Somewhere can only be reached by those who have Diplomas,” the Dean said. “And to receive a Diploma, you have to give me money.”
“What?! Like, how much money?”
“Lots of it.”
“Well fucking how much?”
The Dean of the University of the Place Between the Middle of Nowhere and Somewhere held up his hands, about three feet apart.
“He wants three feet of money?” George said.
“Three feet per person,” the Dean said.
Jim counted on his fingers.
“So if we get you ninety million feet of money, you’ll give as all Diplomas and we can pass through your University and get to Somewhere?”
“The cost of books is not included,” the Dean said. “There are also administration and athletics fees. And technology fees. And living expenses, such as parking and food.”
“Goddammit how much?”
“Two hundred million feet of pure money,” the Dean said. “I expect it in full no later than two weeks after the day before the beginning of the fall semester.”
The Dean rode his white horse back through the gates and they closed. Jim and George watched and scratched their heads.
“Where we gonna find two hundred million feet of pure money?” George said.
The banker spun her pen and clicked it then spun it again and tapped it on her coffee mug. It was a plain coffee mug. She was a plain woman with glasses.
“Let me get this straight,” she said. “You and all your friends got doped up on amphetamines and built a wall that serves no purpose in the Middle of Nowhere. You crashed your wall into a university, and you want me to give you two hundred million feet of money for diplomas that you neither know how nor intend to use?”
“Pure money,” Jim said. “And the dean says the Diplomas will get us to Somewhere.”
“Okay.” She spun her pen and pressed it to the document, paused and looked at Jim over her glasses. “And I have your personal assurance that, following the catastrophic failure of all your ambitions, you will spend the remainder of eternity paying the interest on this loan, in a futile attempt to get back to where you were before you started?”
“Yep,” Jim said.
Thirty million people was too many to make the walk, so the University of the Place Between the Middle of Nowhere and Somewhere fired the Diplomas out of T-shirt cannons. The red-ribboned parcels flew through the air like grapeshot. Anthropology Diplomas, Philosophy Diplomas, Liberal Arts and Fine Arts and Commercial Arts and Graphic Design Diplomas. There were Diplomas for Physical Fitness and Taking Pictures. One of the red-ribboned parcels struck Jim in the face and he tore off the ribbon and as he read it his name appeared in black ink.
The University of the Place Between the Middle of Nowhere and Somewhere
The Board of The University of the Place Between the Middle of Nowhere and Somewhere, after verifying the purity of three full feet of his/her money, has conferred upon
The Degree of
BACHELOR OF ARTS
Together with all the Honors and Privileges belonging to that Degree.
“General English?” Jim said.
“General! Well shit on me.” George stood at attention and saluted. “I got Parks and Recreation.”
“I think it means English in general.” Jim held the paper up to the sky, turned it this way and that, squinted, sniffed it. “I don’t get it. Shouldn’t everybody just have one of these?”
Disappointment and confusion were ubiquitous. Thirty million graduates built a Great Wall through the Middle of Nowhere, and there wasn’t an Engineer among them. No Scientists either. Just a bunch of philosophers and artists. They all seemed to understand at once that a mountain of dex would never bury their shame, and as broken individuals they stumbled off into Somewhere, clutching Diplomas in their anxious fists.
“Hey. Hey.” George jabbed Jim in the ribs. “You’re General Talking, I’m Private Walking. Get it? Parks and Recreation. Get it?”
“The drugs didn’t work.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I didn’t get anywhere.”
“It says here you got Somewhere.”
“Well, it turns out Somewhere isn’t any place in particular.”
“So why are you here?”
“I need more drugs.”
“I thought they didn’t work.”
“I owe the Bank of Paradise two hundred million feet of pure money. I couldn’t find any English work, but I’m pretty good at stacking bricks now. There’s a guy over on Cloud Fifty-seven with a brick fetish and he pays by the yard. So I need some more drugs.”
“I need at least a truck.”
“Not a problem. So, it says here you were missing your dreams? How are things on that score? Do you still miss them?”
“Well there you go. I can’t tell you the satisfaction that comes with helping a fellow soul in need. Here’s a prescription for an endless supply of any drug that keeps you productive, a flash-drive full of NBC sitcoms, and a bucket to scream in. And here’s my card for when it all falls apart again. Good luck to you, Jim.”
Other Short Stories