'Sweet Dreams' by Sylvia Petter

Dreams are funny things. You go to bed and snuggle under your doona and think you’re at peace with the world. Before you know it you’re walking down High Street, right foot on the kerb, left in the gutter. Wait a minute! It’s not you at all. This is my dream.

Men and women dressed in warm coats and boots, their faces muffled in scarves and caps, walked past me, staring and pointing. I looked around and saw they meant me. No one said a word. The foot in the gutter kept getting stuck in a shiny brown mass. I grabbed hold of my knee and yanked the foot up. Then I saw my reflection in a shop window. I was naked except for goose pimples all over my body and toffee enclosing my left foot like a boot.

I suppose it was the toffee that did it. I’d been melting butter and dribbling in sugar, spinning it around in a frying pan. It wasn’t the toffee I was after; it was a smell I’d been trying to retrieve. I wanted to breathe in that carefree time of marshmallows and apples. Go back to when people’s stares didn’t matter. When nobody fired sticks and stones. When nobody cared if I played in the gutter. All that came later, when I grew up.

In my dream, the goose pimples felt like a cloak. I wasn’t cold and I wasn’t scared. The only thing strange was that sticky toffee.

When I woke up my body felt warm, but my ankles were icy. I pulled back the doona and rubbed my feet. My sheet was speckled with crumbles of toffee. I sighed and reached for the tweezers that I keep on my night table and picked out the slivers from between my toes.


This story appears in Sylvia's collection, Mercury Blobs, Raging Aardvark, Brisbane. 2013

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