Saturday, May 30, 2009

Skillet Dreams

Well,
I had the cast iron skillet dream again this week. I guess that sounds like I am dreaming about food, but that is not the case. It's a right unsettling dream but fortunately I do understand how it came to be a recurrence in my life. You know, some dreams can scare the boo out of you and you might have no idea how it came to be in your head. Not so with the skillet.

Back when I was a young teenager, maybe 13 or 14, our family pond was up in North Florida. We lived in a big, comfortable old house that did not have air conditioning. In the summers it was hot and stuffy even late into the night . Our house had double hung casement windows so we learned how to open the top casement enough to let the rising hot air out and in the lower portion we positioned it just perfect for holding one of those box window fans in place so it wouldn't fall out and skin our heads. In my room I had the head of my bed right under the window sill so the fanned air could flow over the length of my body. We girls all had a collection of those cute little cotton "Baby doll" pajamas and sometimes we would even tuck up those tops so the air could flow across our tummies too. Mostly our sheets were on the floor or sometimes on a trunk at the bottom of the beds. Where they were not was on us because it seriously was hot.

We would fall off to sleep smelling the gardenias under the window and listening to the hoot owl and the cricket night songs. Once I fell asleep, I slept pretty sound. There's even a family story about my MamaFishy coming into my room to hang fresh from her sewing machine curtains in the wee night hours. Thing is my MamaFishy was a bit of a night owl herself and once she had the curtains project finished she just couldn't wait to put em up and admire the results. Story is she came on in and turned on the lights and set about getting those curtains up. But Mama Fishy is petite and even standing on the bed she couldn't quite reach where the rod was so she just used my head as a step stool so she could reach just fine. The way she tells it, I never did wake up. No point in me denying it, I went to bed without curtains and woke up with beautiful new curtains with nary a thought about how that could have happened in my sleep. MamaFishy still gets a chuckle out of that memory and liked telling that story for years, much to my embarasment.

On one of those hot sultry nights there was a big commotion in our neighborhood.
I mean, BIG.
Loud too, cause it woke me up in the wee hours and I have already illustrated what a sound sleeping Fishy I was. I think the first thing that roused me up was flashing lights. Red and yellow ones because it was before the blue light days. I don't remember sirens but I have fragmentary memories of some yelling and maybe some wailing too. There was also a buzzy background noise like when you hear a big group of people from a goodly distance.

So I got up to lean my face in the window over by the side of the fan for a better look. There were the flashing lights and the noise but I was drowsy and couldn't make sense of things. I reached over to turn the fan off so I could hear a bit better and while the buzz was louder it still wasn't clear. I got up to go tell MamaFishy something was going on outside but she wasn't in her room, or in the Living Room reading a book or out at the sewing machine getting something beautiful made. She wasn't anywhere in the house.

That was a bit scary because MamaFishy was always a vigilant hen looking after all us chicks.
Daddy Fishy wasn't in the house either. I felt a bit queasy thinking, " Could that commotion be about my parents"? So I went on outside into that dark steamy night . I was careful to not let the back porch door slap too loud and wake the younger siblings then eased on down the back walkway to get a better look at things. A block or so down the street there were those flashing lights, an ambulance, a fire truck, several police cars and a group of grown ups milling around on the opposite corner . I walked down the block a way feeling insecure out there in my babydolls and bare footed but I still had a sleepy head and once I was out there I didn't think about going back for clothes. What I did do was walk along the inside of the sidewalk, close to the neighbors hedges , in the deep night shadows so I wouldn't be seen.

As I got closer I could see several of the neighbor ladies outside in their "wrappers" over their pajamas and some of them even had on those strange looking feathered high heel slipper things. The men seemed to be wearing those wife beater undershirts and looked like they had pulled on their suit pants over their pajama bottoms. It looked an awful lot like the black and white night scenes in To Kill a Mockingbird. One thing was for sure, it was something mighty serious for the club ladies and the bankers to be outside in their personals.

All that thick humid air and those whirly lights and that humming murmur of the gathered crowd was frightening. But, I crept closer searching for an explanation for this commotion. Eventually a grown up saw me lurking along the sidewalk shadows and barked a sharp order for me to git on home right that minute. I went too because I had no desire for my own folks to know I was sneaking around in the night in my babydolls.

Next morning, I asked MamaFishy about all the commotion and she told me to never mind all that and assigned me a chore I just hated to make me think about other things. But later in the day a group of us neighborhood kids had all finished up our chores and we had gathered in the park for a little game of kick ball. There I heard the story. We had a murder right in our own neighborhood! Seems like that strange scrawny lady down the street who always looked scared and never spoke or nodded to any of us kids had killed her husband! And, what they were saying out in that park was she had killed him in self defense by busting his head open with a big old cast iron skillet until his brains spilled out on the floor.

Soon as I heard those words come out of that neighbor boys mouth I had visions dancing in my head like watching a movie. I could just see that scrawny lady just quivering and crouching on the far side of the icebox holding a giant black skillet and just praying that man wouldn't be on his way through the house to hurt her. Then I could see that skillet swinging around just like a perfect hit with a Louisville slugger and , well if you've ever dropped a ripe watermelon on the sidewalk, I sort of had that vision with a pair of mean eyeballs staring out from the middle of the mush that use to be the mean mans head.

If any of you have ever seen some of the old black and white shows from the Twilight Zone or The Alfred Hitchcock Hour or were forced to read Poe in school then you can imagine this vision in my head was of that genre. As a design professional, that "vision thing" of being able to see what does not exist is a mighty big gift. For a young teen, that "vision thing" wasn't something I really understood and when I would try to tell others about what I was seeing they most often would respond, "Fishy, you are crazy. I don't see any such thing cause it isn't there" They were right, it wasn't there but I could see a thing that did not exist as clearly as a color photograph or a technicolor movie. I still can.

After that night, if I was really upset or frustrated to anger I would have the skillet dream. I believe it was the replacement nightmare for the BLOB. I think they played that movie in every drive -in theatre across America for ten straight years after Steve McQueen died.
You can imagine, what with the "vision thing" the nightmares I had about all sorts of objects and living creatures just getting absorbed into that giant gelatinous blob. I never could understand why folks were laughing in that movie.

Okay, in the Cast Iron Skillet Nightmare I become the terrified woman trying to hide beside the icebox clutching the skillet and feeling some unspeakable horror approaching me with slow deliberate footsteps . I can never see well enough in the hot, hazy summer night air to know what the hell is coming to get me , harm me, blob me . I may not have a "vision" of what is coming but I feel terror and just before the closest footfall reveals the threat I bolt awake with a swirly brain and a gasp of air if not an actual shout. My heart rate is about 200 bpm, my respirations are ragged and I am sticky sweaty like I should be in the babydolls with my head in the fan.

It is one of those dreams where you can't just get up and take a sip of water and go right back to sleep. No. It's one of those where you have to go outside in the moonlight and walk off the adrenalin prickle left behind. While I am out there, I try to figure out just what has triggered this recurring dream so I can put the issue to rest and get on back to normalcy. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not. This time, I have a collection of culprits to choose from so I can't actually say. But if I figure it out, I will bash the sumbitch with my granny skillet.

13 comments:

chickory said...

i truly loved the first part of this post - the description of your childhood home and room, tha ambience, the grown ups. loved in the dark night shadow of the hedges....and you in you baby dolls padding down the side walk.

interesting about the woman too. i wonder was she prosecuted? in those days i dont know if people were as hip to abuse or as outraged as they are now. maybe not.

either way, i understand about the anxiety. ive had a bad case of it myself for really no good identifiable reason. im hoping both of us get a crack at the boogeyman with cast iron.

great post. youre a good storyteller.

fishy said...

Hey there Chickory,
Thanks for the "you're a good storyteller" comment. Being Southern, the ability to tell an entertaining story is a much admired and enjoyed skill. My MamaFishy tells a great story and I always had a secret ambition to be as good at entertaining stories as she.

To me, the first part of this post does speak to a by-gone culture, And, in writing it today I couldn't help but think murder in any neighborhood today is ... not very unusual. But in that place in time and in that neighborhood of "club ladies and bankers" it was a right big SHOCK!

I will have to ask my MamaFishy if she recollects what happened to that woman. I can't help but think it was the sheer force of terror that gave her the strength to bash a big man's head in with a skillet.

On the anxiety front, well... these days we all pretty much have a regular dose of that. Usually if I have the Skillet dream I am very frightened at some core level and haven't identified the source.

Aunty Belle said...

Ohmigoodness, what a dreadful happenin' fer a young'un to know about!

Fishy, is you an' me 'bout the same age? I still wear batiste cause mah preteen gowns was little slips of batiste so a chile' could sleep cool in the hot sultry Southern nights. Mah mama would have us powdered so we would not stick to ourselves.

Yore story is classic Southern Gothic, very like To Kill a Mocking Bird. I doan know what it is 'bout the big mean men always findin' a skinny Boney Maroney to maul, but we onc't had a similar case near us.

He was drunk an' went to sleep after batterin' her yet another night. She simply lost her mind and bashed in his haid wif whatever was at hand. Po-lice testified they had been called to a domestic violence report so often at that house that in their view it were were defense. Judge took about 10 minutes to agree. Boney Maroney went free.

Boxer said...

Aunty nailed it with "To Kill a Mockingbird." Being from the opposite side of the world, I loved reading about a kind of heat I just can't imagine. But I know smell/etc is evocative and somehow that memory was infused deep into your memory... so deep that it infilitrated your dreams. I hope Aunty is right, I hope she was set free and had minimal nightmares of her own.

Great storytelling. Thanks.

chickory said...

willie nelsons wife sewed him into his sheets while he was out cold drunk and beat him with a baseball bat. theres a country song for ya. nobody died but they divorced. grrherha

fishy said...

Boxer,
The heat of summer was the reason we got up early mornings before the dew evaporated to get our outside chores done. Especially families that had animals to care for or vegetable gardens. They had to get out early with little metal buckets in which they had splashed a little turpentine. They would walk along the vegetable rows pulling the bugs off the plants. Folks did not use insecticides then...they used fingers. After they did the "bug patrol" they would throw a match or a cigarette butt into the buckets and incinerate those pests.

In our home, MamaFishy made us stay inside from noon until the rain because she said it was just too hot to be outside. We mostly played Monopoly and Canasta or did crafty projects with the little siblings
We drank plenty of Co-Colas and ate peanut butter crackers and learned how to be a family.

Now days, every member of a family has so many personal interests and activities most of 'em are rarely in the same place at the same time. I see families with big three month executive planner marker boards in their back entries which has everybodys commitments listed and sometimes there is only one or two days in that entire quarter circled and marked as reserved for family .

fishy said...

Belle,
I have noticed a time or two in your postings that we speak of a common Southern culture. If you have always been a Florida Chile then I reckon we do have those common denominators. I've come to understand thru the blogs that Troll and I actually lived in the same county for a while. I reckon that is one of the charming surprises of blogging.

On the common stories front... MamaFishy had a friend who was the head ER nurse at the county hospital. She says they always had to add extra staff on the night shift in the summers because of what she called "heat crazed violence". So I reckon it is not too surprising you know of a similar story.

About age. Well, it is probable we are within a decade of each other or we could not speak with such similarity of our foundations. If I were a piece of furniture, then some collector would snap me up as a classic Mid-Century Modern!

A question for you. What is your definition of "Southern Gothic"?

Boxer said...

We stayed inside, played games as a family because of the RAIN. I've always thought Malls were the death of civilization.

and bwahahah to Chickory's Willie Nelson story.

TROLL Y2K said...

Very well-written. I actually liked the descriptive stuff before the action better too.

Really curious what Mama Fishy will have to say about the events that transpired. Hope you don't mind my saying that I think she made an error in how she handled it at the time.

She could have told you what happened in a way that wouldn't induce nightmares. And her version would probably be both more accurate and less gory than what neighborhood boys related.

I'd bet there was ZERO "brains on the floor" and very little blood.

fishy said...

Chickory,
imagine going through life being known as the woman who sewed Willie Nelson in his sheets then beating the blazes out of him with a baseball bat! Do you suppose she is hailed as fiend or hero?

I am curious, who among us have been angry enough to beat a man with a bat?

Boxer,
In those hot Florida summers giant "picture" clouds would build throughout the day 'til it rained . You could nearly set your watch by the 3pm thunderstorms which is when we abandoned the Monopoly
board to rush outside to dance in the rain, if there was no lightening.

Good point about the Mauls!
Malls are not my idea of a good thing. But for those locations where it snows from October til May I expect they are more appreciated.

Troll,
Thank You. It's good of you to compliment the story telling.

I am not offended but certainly MamaFishy did not know I had been out in the babydolls in the wee hours . I assuredly did not volunteer this information as I am not fond of switches or the applied use of said instruments of correction.

Even if she had told me what she knew, it probably would not have changed things as the neighborhood boy would still have been in the park telling the news and the gory details.

I agree with you his scenario is highly unlikely. It takes a tremendous amount of force to mush up a head. It's far more likely the man had a closed head injury and I am sure his eyeballs probably were still in their sockets too!

fishy said...

Chickory,
imagine going through life being known as the woman who sewed Willie Nelson in his sheets then beating the blazes out of him with a baseball bat! Do you suppose she is hailed as fiend or hero?

I am curious, who among us have been angry enough to beat a man with a bat?

Boxer,
In those hot Florida summers giant "picture" clouds would build throughout the day 'til it rained . You could nearly set your watch by the 3pm thunderstorms which is when we abandoned the Monopoly
board to rush outside to dance in the rain, if there was no lightening.

Good point about the Mauls!
Malls are not my idea of a good thing. But for those locations where it snows from October til May I expect they are more appreciated.

Troll,
Thank You. It's good of you to compliment the story telling.

I am not offended but certainly MamaFishy did not know I had been out in the babydolls in the wee hours . I assuredly did not volunteer this information as I am not fond of switches or the applied use of said instruments of correction.

Even if she had told me what she knew, it probably would not have changed things as the neighborhood boy would still have been in the park telling the news and the gory details.

I agree with you his scenario is highly unlikely. It takes a tremendous amount of force to mush up a head. It's far more likely the man had a closed head injury and I am sure his eyeballs probably were still in their sockets too!

pamokc said...

Omg, what a story. You really drew me in with the description of your windows and I can picture it just right ... we had similar sleeping arrangements when staying with my granny at the lake house.

But, then it goes all Burning Bed and wow! And you told it just like Scout would have.

fishy said...

Hi Pam,
One of my relatives read this posting and suggested it would "retire" the skillet dreams if I would research the story from the perspective of an adult. Could be.
I have to admit I am curious as my parents do not remember if the skillet wielding woman was released.
MamaFishy says she thinks recalling her ER nurse friend saying there were so many records of that woman being an ER patient that the "self defense" was never in doubt.

Thanks for the visit pam, and the nice comments. I always think how nice it would be to know you and Kym...such generous natures !