The Woman of His Dreams
He’ll meet her when he’s sleeping in the right bed. He’s planned out what to do: he will grab her. Gently, carefully, of course. He is not exactly sure how hard one has to grab to catch hold of a dream. But he will grab, nonetheless, and hold on, and then he will wake himself up. He wears a rubber band on his wrist at night just for this purpose.
The right bed is important. So far he has only slept on the wrong ones. At first he gave them more than one try, sometimes sleeping in the same bed for months, even years at a time. But now he is older, and getting desperate, so he tries a different bed each night. He saves up for hotel stays (in which he tortures the staff by checking out and checking in to a different room each day), and when he has no money he musses friends’ guest rooms, friends of friends’ pullout beds. He breaks into apartments and houses, wanders sleepily through hospital wards, hides in mattress stores until after lock-up, rolling from one bed to the next.
But the woman is elusive. A figment, a promise, a prayer. Once in a flea-infested hostel on 19th street he thought he caught a glimpse of her pink gossamer scarf. And once—oh, once—in the 70s splendor of an over-cab bed in a brown and orange camper, he dreamed his nose was burrowed in her underarm. Softly prickly, a scent of overripe apricot.
He quits his job, says goodbye to his those of his friends he still has, and now a cross-country rail ticket, one way, burns in his pocket; he will search for her in a sleeper train. He will find her, crossing this yawning chasm, and pull her and all her phantasmagorical glory into strange waking life.
Mini-interview with Kimm Brockett Stammen
HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?
KBS: OK this is going to sound either dumb or snotty, but.
Something that has always inspired me to keep trying, as a musician and as a writer, has been encountering mediocrity. Hearing a crappy saxophonist makes me want to jump up onstage and play something fabulous. Reading a terrible terrible book makes me think “well if this exists, then certainly I can get published somehow.” In fact I have kept a certain paperback mystery on my shelf for fifteen or so years (mentioning no names!) specifically because every time I see it I am reminded that, whatever I write, it can’t be worse than that.
Dumb, snotty, honest? Probably all three. But also, only a tiny bit of the story. I could also tell you about rereading Robinson Crusoe for the fifth time, or the awesome mentors who worked with me at Spalding University (John Pipkin, Roy Hoffman, Rachel Harper, Robin Lippincott), or a ninth-grade study period which trapped me in the library for an hour every day for a year, or a note my husband wrote me after he read the first story of mine that actually made sense.
HFR: What are you reading?
KBS: Ha Jin. Short stories. Wonderful. Wonderful how the enticing stories of people’s everyday lives also give such a comprehensive historical portrait of post-Cultural Revolution China. Makes me definitely wonder if such a thing could be done about current American life, and whether it could be done now, or only in thirty years. (Ha Jin wrote, or at least published, these stories in 2000.)
Also Audrey Lourde, Tender Buttons, Botchan (rereading for third or fourth time; Natsume Sōseki, POV of a cat, 1906), The Sentences That Create Us (ed. Caits Meissner, especially intended for incarcerated writers and their allies but enlightening for any and all writers), and Scream Queens of the Dead Sea by Gilad Elbom.
HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “The Woman of His Dreams”?
KBS: This is embarrassing, but I can’t.
As I sometimes do, I was going through old files late at night. I’ve been sticking half-stories in Mac files for years, and when I am not feeling like generating ideas I go through them. Mostly they are full of a lot of dreadful nonsense, but often enough I find the germ of an idea, or a sentence I think is cool. Enough to use to create something new and send it off to some innocent, unsuspecting magazine.
I know that “The Woman of His Dreams” began in such a way. Probably with the first sentence, in which a man tries sleeping on different beds in order to return to a particular dream. I just can’t actually find the origin file.
In any case thank you so much for publishing and appreciating it.
HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?
KBS: Oh gosh. As you may have discerned, my writer’s brain tends to go, as Stephen Leacock wrote, “galloping off in six directions at once.” I am working on several short fiction pieces, two longer short stories, some memoir pieces (both short and long) and a second story collection. (The first is still looking for a publisher, hint, hint.) I am pretty good about keeping my website updated with all upcoming publications: kimmbrockettstammen.wordpress.com
HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?
KBS: Ummm. Possibly I have already been fanatical?
How about this: I would like to share my anathema towards leaf blowers. What could possibly be the point of producing air and noise pollution in order to push little leaves into the street, only to have the wind immediately push them back onto the sidewalk? If everyone with a leaf blower used a broom instead, it would be quieter, greener, more effective, and also contribute to the health of the broom pusher (broomist?) Join The Society for the Eradication of Leaf Blowers today.
Kimm Brockett Stammen’s writings have appeared or are forthcoming in december Magazine, CARVE, The Greensboro Review, Pembroke, Prime Number, and many others, and her work has been nominated for Pushcart and Best Short Fiction anthologies. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University.