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.