Pillow Talk

–I’m your alt-right girl.
–I want a regular right girl. Someone I can read the National Review with.
–The National Review does have the best word scope puzzle.
–Yeah, it’s called Henry Kissinger.

Actual dialog from a dream in which I’m in college, lying on a dorm room floor and flirting with the young woman lying next to me. Usually upon waking I only recall the general feel of a conversation, but this time I remembered the words themselves. Assuming my memory can be trusted, it appears that when the brain dreams a conversation it does go to the trouble of actually scripting something, and if that conversation is supposed to take the form of Whit Stillman-esque banter, the brain will dash off a passably joke-shaped dialog which it then stamps with the subjective experience of “funny conversation” as if adding a laugh track. Because in the dream the above exchange was legitimately funny. The last line in particular was a real zinger. You had to be there.

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Late June, Madison, Wisconsin

You are sitting with your friend Johnny on on his front porch. Johnny pulls two beers out of the cooler next to him and fumbles in his pocket for a bottle opener. “Finally,” he says, “it’s warm enough to sit outside and actually enjoy a cold one.”

“I know. This winter was brutal.”

“Brutal,” Johnny agrees. “Particularly brutal.” He holds the bottle opener just above the cap as a contemplative look crosses his face. “You know, I always love this moment.”

“What moment.”

“This. The first beer of summer. It’s like this little marker that you can relax, things will be getting better for a while. You know what I mean?”

You are less sensitive to cold than Johnny, and not as big a fan of beer. The idea that drinking one on this particular occasion would be a special thing had never occurred to you. Nevertheless, now that he has pointed it out, you understand what Johnny is getting at. You smile and say, “Crack me open a Johnny then.” He opens the beer bottle and hands it to you.

This entire exchange seems perfectly natural despite the fact that neither one of you are Norwegian nor do you speak Norwegian.

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Sunset

A guy walked into a bar and proclaimed, “Lilac is gone.” What he meant, he went on to say, was that there had just been a solar flare, the quality of whose radiation was perfectly calibrated to tear apart any molecule that reflected light in the lilac spectrum. In an instant, all lilac things on Earth had either been discolored or destroyed.

Everyone in the bar laughed. The guy was clearly unhinged. How does “lilac” vanish? “Oh yeah,” the guy said, “show me one lilac thing that’s left!” One patron half-heartedly pointed at his sweater, which was a deep purple, bordering on blue.

“Lilacs,” someone from the end of the bar piped up. “The flower.”

“Gone,” the guy replied. “Solar flare.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake: there was no solar flare.”

“Fine then, describe a lilac flower to me.”

“Well it’s a flower that’s…lilac-colored.”

“All dead. Fix it in your mind what the color lilac used to mean because it lives on now only in your memories!”

Everyone laughed, but awkwardly because the guy was clearly not just winding them up. He really believed that a solar flare had wiped out the color lilac. Which was preposterous, but you could feel a thought sweep through the bar: what was lilac, anyway? There was this palpable moment in which you sensed six or so independent brains simultaneously think, “Well: like purple, except, you know, different. Lighter maybe.”

Just after this thought passed through the room, six or so hands reached into pockets for phones. Everyone searched for “lilac”. The bartender finally delivered the guy the beer he had ordered. The guy was beaming. No one’s phone worked. The bit about the color lilac being obliterated still sounded fishy, but maybe the part about the solar flare was true.

People in the bar shrugged and ordered another round. So their phones weren’t working: big deal. Just last month a huge windstorm had knocked out the electricity for two days. Things come and things go. When their phones came back, they’d look up lilac, and lilac would come back. And if their phones didn’t come back, well weren’t there still books with pictures of lilacs in them? The sun began to set, tinging the sky orange, a color everyone felt they knew what it looked like. In a few minutes the street lamps would switch on, or they wouldn’t, and they’d deal with that when it came.

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The rats given the super-intelligence serum ran mazes in record time. The scientists were overjoyed at their breakthrough, but they didn’t know the half of it. That night the rats staged a mass escape, stole all the serum, and vanished into the sewer. One year later, an army of super-intelligent rats had conquered the Earth. Humans were reviled and foraged for scraps. The rats were king. And what did the rats do with their newfound power? They built giant mazes and ran them for sport.

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Breaking the Rule of Three

–Gimme some melted butter with garlic in it!
–You can’t just have…
–Melted butter and garlic. Mmmmm! In a little cup!
–I’m not going to give you a cup of melted butter and garlic.
[Stares ahead. Eyes wide, jaw quivering.]
–Tell me something you would like me to put the butter and garlic on.
[Barely containing himself.]
–Something the butter and garlic could enhance the flavor o-
–SNAILS!
–Snails it is…

–Here’s what I want.
–Oh God, not you again.
–I want you to take a stick of butter.
[The intonation of his voice doesn’t sound like the end of a sentence, so there is an awkward pause.]
–…Yes?
–And I want you to melt it in the microwave.
–Yes?
–So that it’s like water. Yummy yellow water!
[Again, unclear if he is expecting a response or no-]
–And I want you to pour the hot yummy yellow butter water…
–Yes?
–…
–Ye-
–Over a roach!
–A roach?
–But not just any roach.
–A particular kind of roach?
–A roach that crawls on the ocean floor!
[Heroically stifling a sigh.]
–Will a lobster do?
[Claps his hands and bounces up and down in his seat.]
–LOBSTER!

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Over Beers in Arkham

–So Cthulhu was actually…

–A giant supernova, yes. That is what the Old Ones meant by that name.

–Uh huh.

–The concept got garbled here on Earth.

–Well, don’t you find that a tad…disappointing?

–What do you mean?

–I was always under the impression that Cthulhu was scary. Like, really scary. Like a kind of, I don’t know, cosmic horror.

–Exactly. In the Old Ones’ language, “Cthu” means “horrible thing” and “ah-hulú” means “on a cosmic scale”. So “Cthu-ah-hulú” or “Cthulhu” literally means “cosmic horror”. What else would you call a giant supernova that obliterated ten galaxies?

–Yeah, I get that. It’s just…I was picturing something big and…scary.

–Ten galaxies! It doesn’t get any bigger that. A billion civilizations were incinerated. Cthulhu is literally the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the universe!

–Uh huh.

–That’s not scary?

–Well, not…scary scary.

–What is scarier than a destructive force so cosmically vast that your whole civilization means less than a speck of dust in the face of it? What is scarier than a supernova?

–I guess a supernova that…has it in for me personally?

[Stares blankly]

–Also tentacles. Lots of tentacles.

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What People Will Say About The Recent Past Twenty Years From Now

• They had real music, not the commercial junk we have now.

• Kids weren’t coddled back then the way they are today.

• Smartphones were great because they encouraged reading.

• It was a golden age of take out Thai food.

• They really made a good sneaker.

• Everything felt more hopeful. Not because I was younger, but because it was objectively more hopeful.

• Barcodes. I miss barcodes.

• At least U.S. Presidents are better than they used to be. Can you imagine living under Richard Nixon? He was the worst!

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