Dream of: 12 November 1996 "Grandfather's Sword"

the power to create beauty is transferred from artist to artist

I was in the home of a man who had been my grandfather and who had just died. I pictured him as a dignified elderly southern gentleman. His body had been carried off to a nearby building where it lay in state. I didn't know much about the deceased except that he had once been a great writer, even though I had never really been aware of his history as a writer while he had been alive. In his later years when I had known him, he had given up writing, and his story-telling skills had been reduced to telling fairy tells and fables to children. I had always appreciated the little stories he had told, but only now did I begin to suspect their inherent power; the stories had had a disproportionate impact on the people who had heard them.

Other relatives were with me in the house, and it seemed that some of my grandfather's possessions were being divided up. One relative - a matronly woman dressed in black - was talking in a narrative style in the background about what had happened and what we were doing. Although I was listening to her, I was more interested in something which I had found: a sword which had belonged to my grandfather.

As I held the sword in my right hand, I seemed to have a vague recollection of having seen it before. Perhaps I had seen my grandfather with it, or perhaps I had even once held it. All I knew now was that I liked it, that in fact I loved it. There was no question in my mind that this sword was mine and that my grandfather had wanted me to possess it. I held the sword out in front of me and examined it more. The blade was about a meter long, and very thin. It was so thin that when I swung the sword in front of me, the blade actually bent from the pressure, and I had to bend the blade back. Obviously the blade wasn't strong, and I doubted the sword could be used in combat; it was more of a novelty piece, but I loved it all the same.

Continuing to examine the blade, I became cognizant that the woman had stopped talking in the background, and slowly I realized the sound hadn't been coming from the woman at all: it had originated from a tape player. I also made other realizations. The voice on the tape player had been telling the very story of what was happening to me right now, about my grandfather's death and all. At the same time that the story was being narrated, I was actually taking part in the story. I also realized what story was playing: Light in August by William Faulkner. That surprised me somewhat, for I was familiar with that story, and what was happening now didn't seem to me anything like Light In August.

I walked over to the tape player, opened it and saw that the tape had come to an end. Since I was right in the middle of the story, however, I didn't want to stop there; I wanted to continue. Unfortunately I didn't see any more tapes. Then I remembered that I had the entire book Light in August on tape. The book was one of many which I had on tape and to which I had listened. I knew exactly where the tape was – on a bottom shelf of my large walk-in closet in my bedroom. I had just seen the tape the previous day when I had been rearranging some things in the closet. Without delay I turned, walked to the closet to retrieve the tape, and returned to the tape machine.

When I took the tape which had been playing out of the tape player, I saw that the chapters on the tape were listed on the tape's case and that they didn't match up exactly with the tape which I had brought from the closet. I saw that I would have to begin the new tape from the closet at a chapter which had already played on the old tape. I didn't mind; rehearing would simply refresh my memory.

As I inserted the new tape, I saw that the tape was unusual and that it didn't look like a regular tape. It was about the size of a compact disk, and had only one circle of tape, unlike a regular two-circle cassette tape. Nevertheless, the tape fit snugly into the player. I turned on the tape player and the story began again.

I sat back and listened, once again picturing my grandfather lying in state, a man who I now realized had an uncanny resemblance to William Faulkner.

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