A Tale About an Octopus

Recurring Dream

It’s after hours at a K-Mart,

or Wal-Mart,

or any large Mart,

and the store is deserted-

except for me and the octopus.

I’m running for my life down one aisle and up the next,

frantically searching for the charcoal briquettes

and tearing my shirt into small strands.

It’s hard to see because the industrial strength lights have been shut down

and only the occasional security lamp is on overhead

casting lonely spotlights onto shelves of hazelberry candles

and waffle makers.

I frequently trip upon debris from the shelves

the octopus has knocked over.

The octopus.

A fucking leviathan.

Like some B-grade Jules Verne movie prop

brought to extravagant life and dropped in

my midnight banal commercial Hell,

one night every month for years now.

I don’t know what I did to provoke the octopus and

make it my nemesis,

but I’ve no doubt it’s more than my match.

The octopus must be thirty of forty feet high

its head pressed improbably flat against the ceiling and

its tentacles flopping for meters on-end,

spastically tossing aside tractors and

gallon jars of stuff.

It smashes its pock-mark suckers down over shelves,

Crushing them and hunting for me.

And for all its slime and stench and muscular aggression,

It never makes a sound.

Not a cry.

Just the whisper of shifting muscles and crashing house wares.

Net loss.

And of course I’m crying as I run.

I have to whine.

Even in my adrenaline frenzy of feral fever

it comes out that way:

I don’t want to be that guy who died by octopus!

I want to be the one who died of an orgasm or

drowning in a vat of white chocolate.”

But the subconscious is dementedly conniving.

Dorothy got Oz.

I got the octopus.

Now, I have a plan:

The torn shirt, the charcoal briquettes—

they are part of a mad dash and

a desperate measure.

I’ve raided the liquor section and

helped myself to some high-proof alcohol—

as a tentacle brushes a Martha Stewart bedroom set over my head

I hide under a kiddie pool
shaped like a pitiful turtle without its shell.

There, I stuff my shirt strands into the bottlenecks.

Grasping my cocktails,

I dive from under the turtle and dart between

the rows of merchandise,

fervently scanning the shelves for charcoal briquettes.

I figure matches are too small to spot,

and I’m dodging under a crimson-ringed trunk of

death cartilage

as it smashes the makings of happy homes all around me.

So I skid around corners and hold my thumbs over the

tops of the bottles,

keeping the rags in place

and search scour the isles for those

sandpapery large bags with distinctive color schemes of

BLACK ON WHITE

and WHITE-framed BLUE

knowing that wherever those charcoals are,

somewhere close by

is a match to light

my drinks.

And I run and I slide and I fall and get up again,

skid on the recently mopped floor and search with pathetic urgency for some

charcoal

and the salvation it will bring me.

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