Dream of: 22 April 1996 (2) "Corn"

Carolina and I were walking around a small store in downtown Portsmouth, when I noticed an odd-looking box sitting on one of the shelves. After walking over to the shelf, I picked up the box, and was surprised to see that it contained packages of unopened baseball cards – cards from the 1950s. I knew immediately that this was a rare find and that the cards were valuable. I looked for the price and saw that each package was on sale for $3.98, but that the whole box could be bought for $50. Flipping through the packages I estimated there must be around 20 packages, and I quickly concluded that the best deal would be to buy the whole box.

Although the cards were still in their packs, I could see the face of the top card in each one through a clear cellophane covering. The cards were all about twice the size of an ordinary baseball card – I thought that was the way they used to be made back in the 1950s. If I moved the top card a little, I could also see some of the cards underneath. I thought it was hard to tell what gems were hidden in the packages – perhaps some famous old baseball player's rookie card was buried here.

However I didn't recognize the names or faces of any players whom I saw. Only one player, somebody named Jimmy Something, a tall lanky fellow with a prominent nose, seemed familiar.

As I looked through the cards, I realized something else: Carolina and I were standing in front of a display case with an assortment of dozens of small objects – perhaps a hundred in all – sitting on it. All objects were included in the $50 price. Carolina was looking over everything in the case, and I, too, began looking at the items. I saw nothing of great value, although some interesting items appeared to be lying on the case. Also sitting beside the case was a telescope on its tripod. It was also included in the price and obviously it was worth something. I calculated several times in my mind, trying to be sure that everything was worth at least $50.

In doing so, I once again began looking at the cards. Only this time I noticed something I hadn't detected before: the card packages had actually been opened and taped back shut. That clearly diminished their value and appeal. I slipped a finger under the tape of one of the packages and slid the cards out. They now appeared much less valuable to me, and I thought it was possible that these weren't even the original cards from the packages – these might just be ordinary cards of little worth which had been stuck in the packages. I wasn't even sure of their date. Turning the cards over to look at their backs, thinking the dates would be there, I found the backs were blank, like a piece of cardboard, further lessening their value.

Looking up again, I now realized something else: everything on the display case was not included in the $50 price as I had originally thought. In fact it now appeared that only a few items, if indeed anything at all, were included in the price. The deal was becoming less and less attractive to me, and I was at the point where I thought I would pass it up altogether.

***

Carolina and I were about to leave the store, and the only thing I still needed to do was find a sack for a new shirt which I had bought. I recalled that I had been in this same store the day before, and that a clerk had directed me to a counter where I could find some bags. So once again I headed to the counter, only this time, before I could reach around behind the counter and take out a paper bag, another female clerk intercepted me.

She was a tall blonde-haired woman. She was attractive and well-dressed, but clearly had a nasty personality. She quickly informed me that the customers weren't allowed to go behind the counter and get their own packages. I protested that the previous day I had been told just the opposite by another clerk, a svelte brunette, for whom I now scanned the room with my eyes. I thought I saw the brunette on the far side of the room and I considered going to her to prove what I was saying, but upon more reflection, I thought what was the point. I didn't feel like arguing over a paper bag. If this blonde wanted to be a shrew, let her.

The blonde walked with me over to another counter where she took my shirt and put it in a bag. As I turned to leave, she said something about seeing me again. I smiled, said I doubted that she would ever be seeing me in this store again, and I walked out the door with Carolina.

As Carolina and I continued walking south down Chillicothe Street (the main north/south street through Portsmouth) I realized I was smoking a cigarette. Since I wasn't a smoker, having a cigarette in my mouth seemed particularly odd. I was concerned about how my breath would smell when I finished the cigarette, and what a foul taste the cigarette would leave in my mouth. I didn't want Carolina to have to smell my bad breath. However I seemed to think I had the cigarette for a reason. I thought I would finish it, but I had no intention of smoking another once I was finished.

***

Carolina and I were riding along Chillicothe Street in a car which I was driving. We were still headed south in the direction of the bridge which crosses the river to Kentucky.

As we rode along I was surprised at how much downtown Portsmouth had changed since the last time I had been here. Although a number of vacant lots (where buildings had been demolished) were still downtown, construction of new buildings was actually taking place.

I pointed out to Carolina something else I had never seen before: on some vacant lots, right downtown, were rows and rows of tall corn plants – perhaps three meters high. I thought using the vacant lots to raise corn was a great idea. I wondered who had done it. I remembered a fellow I used to know named Mohl (a Portsmouth acquaintance whom I met around 1977). He had always been involved in civic activities and doing unusual things. Maybe he had had a hand in the corn project.

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