Four things I’ve dreamed of all my life. I dream of them constantly, while mowing the lawn, while half-listening in conversations, while sleeping, while not sleeping. These are the four:
- Finding a corpse.
- Finding something precious that someone has lost, and returning it to them (this could be corpse, but also a diamond ring, or an infant).
- Finding myself in a situation where I must save the day by subduing an evil person with my fists and kicks.
- Finding a stash of original Star Wars Toys.
In all four categories, I’ve come close.
On an ocean island, I discovered a wet suit mostly buried in sand, and with my hands, I dug down and down. There was no head, but this didn’t mean the rest of him or her wasn’t there. I dug into the tunnels of the wet suit’s arms and torso and legs, expecting all the time to feel bones. I found only sand. I was as disappointed as those guys in that Ark of the Covenant documentary who found only sand and ghosts and melting.
Returning Something Precious
The closest I’ve come to this is losing my wedding ring and giving someone else the opportunity to have my dream come true for them. Whoever found it has not yet fulfilled the other half of the dream and returned the ring to me. I suspect my cats. They found it, rolled it into the basement shadows, and are waiting for the right moment, a moment when they feel moral, to return it. This may never happen.
I tried to throw an evil kid onto the floor once. He was much younger than me, and very small, hobbit-sized. The hobbit kept stealing my soccer ball in the gym, so I grabbed his neck and tried to throw him down. Concerning hobbits: they have incredible balance. I swung Bilbo around but he would not fall, so we made an unspoken deal: if I stopped swinging him, he would stop kicking my soccer ball and start kicking me instead, which is what happened.
The closest I’ve come to this is having it happen to my boy, Sawyer. His grandmother went to the thrift shop and came back with a large plastic bag full of fifty Star Wars figurines, all originals, 1977 to 1983.
This happened before I married my way into the little family organization of Mindy and Sawyer.
I met my son when he was eight. I met his Star Wars toys when they were in their forties, all of them lost in a midlife toy-chest crisis, diamonds in a rough composed of sleazy McDonald’s toys and Rangers who desire only Power and Matchbox Cars modeled after the muscle cars driven by men and women born to peak in high school.
I read the dates printed on the legs of the Star Wars figurines and trembled:
My Wicked Plan
At that time, my son was in love with Skylanders. These are expensive toys designed for a video game. When you place a Skylander figure on a portal, the little warrior appears on your TV screen, then you can make him explore mythic lands, find magical items, and murder the locals.
I said to my boy, “I’ll buy you Skylanders if you give me your extremely boring Star Wars toys,” then I held up an example, a 1977 Greedo, and I twisted my face in disgust, trying to make myself look both bored and nauseated, as if Greedo was a dull length of cat poo.
My son fell for it. He selected the Skylanders he wanted, and I selected the priceless Star Wars toys from his minimum security toy-box prison.
And I kept selecting them, sneaking into his room when he wasn’t there, searching for any I had missed.
Seven Years Later
I heard a knock on my home-office door. “Come in.”
It was my son, and he was here because he’d helped me win second place in a writing competition, and I told him, “You, my friend, get to pick out a toy on Amazon.”
This is his reward, and mine, for good deeds. For example, when I clean my office or truck, Mindy inspects my work then says, “Amazon,” and I run to buy another toy.
Sawyer had helped me win by looking at a list of funny headlines I had written and picking the one he thought was funniest. That’s the one I wrote, and as it turned out, he and the judges of the competition were in agreement.
“So,” I said to Sawyer, after conjuring Amazon on my computer, “what’ll it be?”
“Star Wars,” he said, then whispered, “originals,” whispering this word the same way that I do.
A chill poured into my heart, but it stopped when I realized he wasn’t demanding his toys back. Though he often came into my office to gaze at my legally-stolen army of figurines, he never asked for them, and he wasn’t asking now. We were on the same page, he and I: the toys were mine.
Amazon disappointed us by offering mostly new figures. We went to eBay and twenty minutes later my boy pointed at a 1978 alien called Momaw Nadon, nicknamed “Hammerhead.”
“Are you sure?” I said.
Later, I told my wife what I had purchased for her son, and I fully expected her to celebrate my generosity and maybe allow me to buy a toy for myself, but she surprised me with her sadness.
She went to my office and looked at my figurines. They stood safely out of reach on top of a high bookshelf…
Mindy hated the deal I had made with Sawyer, by the way, somehow seeing it as cheating him out of inestimable treasure. But she had allowed it because I did it without telling her, and the boy loved his Skylanders with abandon.
Her sadness turned to anger when she located Hammerhead.
“You spent 47 dollars?” she said.
“Only 47!” I said, still waiting to be celebrated for my generosity, and better yet, a thrifty generosity. 47 is a steal.
She did not celebrate. Instead, she kept staring at Hammerhead, to the point of rudeness.
“What?” I said.
“It’s just too bad,” she said.
But she left.
“What!” I called after her, pretending I didn’t know what.
But of course I knew what. I knew what very well.
In the seven years since my shady deal, Sawyer fell in love with the 1980s. This is the dream of every parent who grew up in that strange decade.
What music does my son listen to?
- Cyndi Lauper
- The Bangles
- Duran Duran
What are the movies he loves and wants to watch again and again?
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
- Top Gun
- and especially Star Wars
In the quiet of the wrath and sadness my wife left behind her, it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me…
My boy was just like me.
Then it happened.
I looked to the eBay order still on my computer screen, then I looked to my figurines standing at attention. I looked to the order, back to the toys, then back.
And back and forth. I was Darth Vader looking back and forth between the Emperor and my son. Back and forth. What do I do? The Emperor, my electric greed, torturing my son, the boy who never blamed me for what he somehow still considered a fair deal, though it had robbed him of the birthright handed down from his grandmother. Back and forth. The lightning of my crime killing my boy while he silently cried, “Father, please!”
My mind rocked from the toys to my son then back. What do I do! What do I do!
Then I knew.
I seized all my precious Star Wars toys and held them high in the air, the electricity of my sin coursing through me, making me transparent, showing the world my moth-eaten miserly skeleton, then I cast the toys down, down into a cardboard box, my criminality screaming and howling, down and down, then I shut the box, silencing the shrieks, and it was done.
I rested, staring at the closed box, my labored breathing, the mechanical ins and outs of it, revealing how close I was to death.
My sin exorcised, all that remained of me was a tired old man, a broken wizard wearily taking in and out his first taste of fresh air in years.
Then I headed for Sawyer’s room.
The cardboard box lay across my hands like the body of a fallen sorcerer king, resting at last in death’s good sleep, reclining on a funeral pyre, awaiting the warmth and forgetfulness of flames.
I knocked on the door.
Sawyer said, “Come in.”
I placed the box on his floor. “I have a present for you.”
He opened it and lost his mind in shock and happiness, but then he stopped and stared at me.
“Are you sure?” he said, but what I heard was this:
Darth: “Take these toys from me.”
Son: “But you’ll die.”
Darth: “Nothing can stop that now.”
Son: “I’ve got to save you!”
Darth: “You already have, Sawyer.”
Then I went to find Mindy, and I told her, “You were right. You were right about me.”
Mindy smiled then held me tightly and whispered, “Go and buy yourself a toy.”