Over the years I have written nine dreams in which Charles Dickens has been mentioned. His imagination, especially his portrayal of suffering, has impacted my life.

Dream of: 15 June 1973 "Bleak House"

I had apparently been drafted into the army against my will and was fighting in a war in a jungle in what seemed to be Vietnam. I became disturbed after I shot and killed one of the enemy, and I decided I no longer wanted to fight. I could see the fighting was beginning to have negative effects on my mind.

If I quit fighting I would have to go to the army's jail; so I went to the jail voluntarily to find out what it would be like.

I found a special kind of punishment being used on the prisoners in the jail. It was administered by devices called "hot-boxes", which consisted of small rooms into which a person was placed and then blasted with hot gusts of air.

I stood beside one of the hot boxes, looked inside through a side window, and watched a young man being subjected to this unique punishment. He appeared to be undergoing excruciating pain and as I gazed into his eyes, I perceived his suffering and began to cry.

I decided I clearly could no longer fight for an institution which would do this to its own people. Being imprisoned myself would be better than fighting. When I went to the office of my superiors and informed them of my decision, they seemed annoyed, but not shocked.

I was promptly led away to a jail which seemed to be somewhere in the United States. When I arrived I first checked to see if the jail had a library and I was happily surprised to find one. I thought I could spend my time reading in jail – perhaps I could even read in a hot box if I were put in one.

I checked out a book from the library entitled Bleak House which I thought had been written by Charles Dickens. I was then led to the prisoners' quarters which consisted of a large hall in which were housed 100-200 prisoners. It was beginning to seem more and more as if I were in a Nazi-type concentration camp rather than in a prison run by my own country.

I was greeted in the prisoners' quarters by an old comrade whom I had seen for quite a while who had fought beside me earlier in the jungles. He ran to me and embraced me. We walked around together and I felt as if he were my close comrade.

I was soon surprised to find some females also imprisoned with us. I met and began talking with a young attractive girl with long frizzy hair who reminded me of someone I had known at The Ohio State University named Kathy.

For some reason she told me she had to make a grade average of 1.0 to leave. I showed her my grade report which was stuck in my book. When she saw I had made a 3.8 average she began calling me "the brain."

I next learned that some hot boxes were in the Philippines and that the prisoners were going to be transported there. We were supposed to board some airplanes and everyone began to leave. I walked outside and saw more buildings similar to the one in which I had been. Swarms of prisoners were streaming out of the building toward the planes. My group began running toward the planes and as I also began running, I felt as if I were flying.

As I looked around I was surprised by the extreme look of emptiness and sadness in the eyes of my fellow prisoners.

The concept of writers creating their imaginary worlds and transmitting these worlds to other people with words is difficult to comprehend. Yet images created in Charles Dickens' mind have somehow found life in my mind.

Dream of: 25 August 1982 "Flying Saucer Visit"

Another person and I were walking together on a road. As we talked, I noticed a round, flying saucer pass overhead. When the ship stopped right above me and focused a beam on me, I began rising in the air. I enjoyed the ride up as I floated toward the ship. An opening appeared in the bottom of the ship, and I floated through it. Everything seemed to be perfectly synchronized so I came right into the bottom of the space ship.

The interior seemed to consist of one fairly large round room about 10 meters in diameter. A man, a woman and a child were inside. I was apprehensive, unsure of what they wanted from me. Perhaps they were going to kill me. However, they seemed friendly and I concluded they weren't going to harm me, at least not right now. I thought they were simply going to transport me somewhere.

Looking around to see what they had, I noticed quite a few books along the walls, and I thought I also saw some animals. On one side the room was a window on which a turtle was running frenetically back and forth and around in circles. I thought they probably had also picked up the turtle on earth.

I pulled out one thin book, which appeared to be a National Geographic, except that it was hardbound. I opened the book and saw some pretty pictures of flying cranes on one page. I noticed what appeared to be pigeon dung on the cover of the book, as if the book had been left in a garage for a while. Apparently the space people had picked it up somewhere. I noticed the language wasn't English. It looked as if it might be Czechoslovakian, but I was unsure.

One of them began talking about an American writer who lived around the time of the Civil War. Either he wrote playful cartoons or people wrote cartoons about him. The woman talked about him, but couldn't remember his name. When the child said a name, the woman said, "No, that's not who I'm thinking of."

I said, "Charles Dickens?"

She said, no, it wasn't Charles Dickens. She knew who Dickens was and apparently she held him in high esteem.

We are all dying. As I die, I cling to certain people, somehow hoping they will save me. One of those to whom I cling is Charles Dickens.

Dream of: 15 October 1982 "Submerged"

I was in my home town of Portsmouth, Ohio, talking with my father and my sister. I told my father I wanted to do something worthwhile that day. We concluded that people had thrown much trash and litter out along the roads and that I could go and pick it up.

My sister (13-14 years old) and I boarded a car and drove north on Rt. 23 about five kilometers to Rosemount, Ohio.

We stopped along the road at the first turnoff into Rosemount, stepped out of the car and crossed the road. On the other side was a ravine with litter strewn all about.

I had brought several white plastic garbage bags with me and I unfolded two of them. My plan was to put all worthless litter into one bag and all aluminum cans into the other. I was quite pleased with the idea. I had previously thought how someday I would like to go out to pick up litter to help compensate for litter I had at times thrown out. Moreover, the idea of making a bit of money in the process enthused me.

My sister and I went to work. Holding the two bags in my right hand, I began filling one with trash (mostly paper), and the other with aluminum cans. I was quite surprised by the number of aluminum cans lying around. When my sister asked me how much they were worth, I told her about one-half cents apiece. I tried to calculate how much we could earn in a day and concluded we would make $48 if we worked all day.

My calculations were a bit bizarre. I figured 24 cans were in a pound. I thought I could find four cans per minute. I then divided 24 by 4 and reached 6 as a result. I therefore thought we would make $6 an hour. If we worked 8 hours we would make $48. But I wasn't quite sure I had calculated correctly and I thought I might need to divide the figure by one-half, meaning we would only make $24 per day.

I found many cans. Some contained water which I had to pour out. Some cans were still held together by plastic in six packs. I stuffed them all into my bag. I likewise kept stuffing litter into the second bag.

A cement culvert was nearby. It was peculiar because on top the cement was about a half centimeter of Styrofoam. I kept looking at it; in one part a big piece of Styrofoam was broken off and just lying on the cement. I couldn't figure out why the Styrofoam was there. Litter was strewn all over it.

As we worked I found what appeared to be a bunch of mattresses piled up, stacked in such a way that they formed a kind of shelter. An opening was near the ground. I bent down and looked in. Apparently some children had made it. I saw several very large Sears' or Penny's catalogs inside. I thought the children probably came there to look at the lingerie section of the catalogs. I half felt like opening one and looking myself, but instead I stood back up and continued on with my work.

A few minutes later I noticed my sister had taken part of the shelter down and stacked some of the mattresses over by some trees. I walked back over to where the shelter had been and saw an unopened pack of Kent cigarettes lying on the ground. I picked them up and threw them toward my sister. I didn't want them, but she didn't either. They just lay on the ground. I also saw some other cigarettes lying there.

A car pulled up and three men climbed out. They were drinking beer and one fellow threw down a can. I immediately retrieved it and put it in my sack. I felt humble, but it wasn't a bad feeling. I knew I had studied law and that these fellows were probably just country bumpkins. It didn't bother me to be out there working. I felt as if I were doing something good. After a few minutes the fellows climbed back into their car and drove off.

My search led me down the road a piece until I came to a place where much litter was lying about. Someone had been working with the litter there and had arranged it in some order. A stand was there with a bunch of paperback books on it. I concluded that someone had picked up the books from along the road and put them in order. I looked at the books and thought one was by Charles Dickens.

I kept looking around and saw a tray with packs of cigarettes on it. Apparently someone had also found packs of cigarettes along the road and arranged them for sale

I also noticed a sack with a bunch of metal cans in it. They weren't smashed flat. I wanted them, but I was unsure whether they belonged to someone. I thought they must, but I didn't see anyone and I thought about taking them.

A rather ragged-looking man was standing off to the side. I thought that he must be a trash collector and that the cans belonged to him. I left them alone.

My sister spoke to me. We talked about a large city dump where we might be able to hunt for cans. I told her I knew of someone who did that. The idea sounded intriguing to me, but I didn't want to do it because in the dump we wouldn't be helping to clean up the environment by picking up litter. I still felt good about getting the trash off the highway and I didn't just want to work at the dump.

As I looked around I saw many more aluminum cans. I picked up one can which clearly had the word "aluminum" written across it. I thought it was peculiar that the other man hadn't already gathered up these cans, but I concluded that he probably only came around once a week and that these cans had been thrown out during the last week. I gathered up all the cans and when I saw no more, I crossed to the other side of the road.

There I found a little building which seemed more or less like an abandoned house. I walked inside and found the place in utter disorder. Apparently no one was living there, but as I walked through the rooms I found a back room which appeared to be inhabited. Although trash was lying about and things were in disorder, it appeared that someone had been living in the room. A bed and a few other pieces of furniture were there.

I saw some aluminum cans and thought I might as well go ahead and put them in my sack since they apparently were just trash. So I did.

Whoever had been staying in the room had cut out some pictures and put them in a little stack on a table. I glanced through the pictures and concluded that whoever had been there had cut out the pictures for a collage. That was interesting since I myself liked to make collages and I thought it would be nice to talk with somebody else who made collages.

I walked out of the room and into a toilet. There on the back of the commode I found another stack of pictures. I looked at them but I couldn't tell exactly what they showed. The most prevalent color was red with some yellow streaks. I thought that maybe the pictures had just been left here and that I could take them, but I didn't.

I walked into another room, saw a few pennies lying on the floor, and picked them up. I was more interested in them because of their metal value than because they were money. I stuck them into my can sack. I found another penny and picked it up. It was one of the pre-1960 wheat ear-type pennies. I looked at the date and thought it said 1939-s. I thought it might be valuable and I kept it.

When I walked back outside, I was surprised to see a crowd gathered on the opposite side of the road. They were looking over the bank at something. I could see a muddy river was flowing along there and I thought it must be the Scioto River. Its waters were swirling and the current appeared quite fast.

One man was talking in the crowd, explaining how a car had gone off the bank farther up the road. But apparently some kind of accident had also occurred right there. From where I was, I couldn't discern what had happened.

Suddenly a man stuck his head up from the bank. Apparently he had been down by the river's edge and had climbed back up the bank. He was very cool and calm. He pointed to a little spade lying on the ground by the crowd and he asked if it were a "Dig." Someone said it was and handed it to him. Then he disappeared back down the bank.

Meanwhile I had crossed the road and could now peer down over the bank. I was surprised and shocked at what I saw. There, visibly submerged beneath the water, was a car. It appeared to be a hot rod roadster. But what really surprised me was that at least one person, maybe two, was still inside the car.

The one person (whom I could clearly see) was moving around in the car which car seemed to be completely under water. I didn't see how anyone inside could be getting any air. I thought the man who had taken the spade was perhaps going to use it to pry open the door to free whoever was inside.

As I watched the person inside the car, I saw he was motioning toward us. He was waiving his hand back and forth motioning us to come to him. It was quite eerie.

Obviously something needed to be done. Since the people around me weren't moving, I immediately decided to do whatever I could to help. The bank was very steep and I didn't think I should try to jump down to the water's edge. Instead I saw some steps about 20 meters to my left. I ran toward the steps and started down them. I was unsure what to do. I was frightened because I realized if a drowning person grabbed someone who was trying to save him, the drowning person sometimes wouldn't let go and both persons would drown.

In our little life-times our powers of imagination can become our solace. To be able to pass on these imaginary worlds to others is an uncanny gift.

Dream of: 20 September 1990 "To Dream. To Dream."

Several men and I were filming the life-like story of a ship captain named "Wilson." The action was taking place in the 1900s in some far-away islands, apparently in the Pacific Ocean. The story was about a group of 20-30 men who had defended an island against an attack by a larger force. In the film, I was among the men who were defending the island. In the story, we had captured some rifles, which we distributed among ourselves. The rifles had some large round balls about the size of marbles, and some smaller round balls only about a fifth that size.

I considered what would be involved in the defense. Each ball had to be put in a rifle and shot one at a time. Since some of my fellow defenders were only boys, I thought they could be putting the balls in the riffles while the other men shot.

I had a vision of what the attack would be like. I envisioned a swarm of men attacking, finally overrunning us. I thought it would help if we had a cave into which we could retreat so we couldn't be surrounded. In my vision, however, I saw us being attacked and shot until the attackers were finally able to swarm in upon us.

I was going to be given three small islands to protect. I would also be given some men to help me protect the islands. We were given some milk to be distributed among us, which we filled into plastic gallon jugs. Some women were also with us, and one woman named Jesse had disappeared. The others said she was a beautiful woman. One man reported the woman's disappearance to Captain Wilson, and everyone wondered what had happened to her, especially since we were in a strange place. They decided she might have taken some jewelry, which she had with her, and left.

I walked up a little road away from the others. As I walked away, one of the men hollered out to me. He thought I was upset because Jesse had left. I hollered back that I didn't even know Jesse, that I had never seen her. I couldn't be upset about her.

I continued walking until I noticed, on a road perpendicular to the one on which I was walking, a car sitting there. When the car began flashing its lights, we knew that the flashing was a signal that we needed to get ready, that the enemy was approaching. I began hurrying back to the others so we could prepare.

As I hurried along, I thought about the film. I had never heard of Wilson before. It was interesting that I had now become so involved with him and that I had learned so much about his life in such a short time. I knew we were making a film, but I thought about how real what we were doing seemed to me. I knew that although many people weren't going to survive the attack, I would survive. I thought that was because when the attack came, I would be on one of the small islands which wouldn't bear the brunt of the attack.

***

I seemed to be reading a book and I was either visualizing the scenes from the book, or watching a movie at the same time. In the book, two men had each gone to separate rooms where each was reading a book. Each man was intending to sacrifice himself for someone else. When I reached the end of the book I was reading, I read the last lines of the book the men were reading. The lines were, "If not me, who? If not now, when? To dream. To dream."

Reading the words, I realized I had heard them somewhere before, and I tried to remember where. It occurred to me they were the last words of Charles Dickens book A Tale of Two Cities.

Identifying oneself as a character which has been created in the imagination of an author is a sign of the author's success. It seems that something more than words passes from the author to the reader. The nature of this transmission remains a mystery to me.

Dream of: 17 February 1995 "Driving Miss Daisy"

Venable (a Fort Worth, Texas attorney) was giving me a ride in his car to the federal court house in Fort Worth, where we both needed to register to continue practicing law in the court. Once we reached the courthouse, we walked into a room and sat down. When Venable stood and walked into a side room where the registration was taking place, I sat and waited.

Only gradually did I realize I was sitting in the bankruptcy court room, even though the room didn't look like a courtroom. Instead it looked like a large ornate church with gothic arched ceilings perhaps 30 meters high. I recalled that I had attended a service once before in this church, and that Tillman (the bankruptcy judge) had been the preacher. I had liked Tillman very much, and I had enjoyed listening to his sermons.  I thought I would even like to start attending church there on a regular basis, just so I could listen to him. But how much should I give as offering each time? My mind raced along trying to calculate what 10% of my income would be. I thought $500 a week sounded like too much; I concluded $250 would be closer to 10%. Since Tillman was also a judge and would have some idea of my income, I would have to be accurate.

After Venable returned and was standing to my right, I slowly realized a service was about to take place. Tillman walked out in his black robes and stood at the front of the church. As I waited to hear his sermon, I remembered that after the sermon, there would be a church school. I didn't want to go to the church school, and I thought if I did begin coming regularly, I would try not to stay for the school.

Tillman finally began his sermon. Although little registered with me, I did hear him talking about the formation of a baseball team. Seeing several young fellows in the audience dressed in baseball gear, I realized Tillman intended to form a church baseball team. I thought I might want to join. I had never played much baseball, and I doubted my skill, but I thought I should give it a try.

When the sermon ended, someone passed around an offering plate. I hadn't expected the plate, and I didn't know what to put in. Other people seemed to be putting in five's and ten's. I watched to see what Venable put in. He put in a five, but it looked as if there might be another bill folded under the five. I decided to just put in a five and I pulled some bills out of my pocket. When I dropped the five into the plate, I suddenly saw a twenty lying in the plate, and I thought I had mistakenly dropped it in also. I started to reach for it, but the man holding the plate kept moving, and I pulled my hand away. I didn't want to look foolish trying to take money out of the plate, especially since I wasn't completely sure I had dropped it. I just shook my head, feeling stupid, and I accepted it. When the man had finished, he walked back over to me and asked me if I had been trying to get back a quarter that I had dropped in the plate. I thought maybe I had just dropped a quarter instead of a twenty; I indicated to him that it didn't matter

As the congregation walked out of the church, only five or six of us were still left when Tillman walked back to talk to us. Only now did I remember something else: I was living in Dallas in a large house with Tillman's elderly mother. Tillman had hired me about a year ago to drive his mother's car for her. I had seen that same kind of scenario somewhere else, and although I couldn't think of it at the time, I was thinking about the movie Driving Miss Daisy. Tillman's mother didn't use my services as a driver much anymore, but she did depend on me quite a bit for company and conversation.

I slowly realized that all the people remaining there with me also worked for Tillman's mother, and that we were expecting some of us to be laid off our jobs.

When Tillman saw me, he called out "Pip." I hadn't heard that name in quite a while, but I remembered that when Tillman had first met me, he had referred to me as "Pip", comparing me to the main character in Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. I walked over and talked with him; he seemed surprised to learn I was still working for his mother. I explained that he had hired me as a driver, but lately I had become more of a companion than a driver for his mother. He seemed quite interested in everything I said.

I feel so unworthy. Like Pip, I have made so many rueful mistakes in my life. I look to the character of Pip for courage to face my own disgrace, and I thank Dickens for showing me that character. 

Dream of: 26 October 1997 "Great Expectations"

I was walking along the streets of Paris. I had just arrived, having come to talk to a woman for whom I was working. She was a seemingly refined business woman (probably 60 years old), tall and slender. Dressed all in white, she somewhat resembled Miss Haversham (a character from Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations). She had a table set up right on the sidewalk, and from this table she was conducting her business. When I walked up to her, she was standing and talking on a telephone. She was haughty and disdainful when she addressed me.

She had hired me to produce several television shows for her. The first show was supposed to be broadcast that very evening. I was nervous because I didn't feel prepared. Thus it came as an enormous relief when she informed me that that evening's production had been canceled. I would still be responsible for other shows later in the week, but I felt that I would have time to adequately prepare for those.

The lady was also upset with me about another matter. Apparently, about a year earlier, I had written a letter to another woman in Paris. On that old letter, in the upper right corner I had drawn a small picture of a smiley face. Now, the woman with whom I was talking found such a drawing extremely offensive, gauche, a breach of etiquette. For myself I was somewhat amazed by the ardor of her disdain. I saw little reason for so much beratement merely on account of a smiley face. But what astounded me even more was that a letter which I had written so long ago, to a person I had already forgotten, could now be the source of so much ire. It hardly made sense.

The lady began talking to me in French, rattling off a number which she expected me to write down. But I couldn't quite understand the number she was uttering, even though she repeated it several times. I had the feeling she was deliberately trying to ridicule my knowledge of French. I began counting in French, "Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, seis ...", both to refresh my memory and to show that I knew my numbers. I was thinking the number she was saying might be thirteen or fourteen, but when I reached those numbers, I knew I was wrong. I simply didn't know what she was saying.

Nevertheless, even though the lady derided me so, I was glad she was talking in French, and I wanted to stay there with her. However it was unclear whether I would be able to stay.

Finally I noticed that someone else was sitting at the table: a beautiful, blonde-haired girl (16-17 years old). She was robed in a short dress which revealed her shapely legs. As I looked at her, she looked straight back into my eyes. I realized the girl was a protégé of the lady. It was instantly clear to me that if I remained and worked for the lady, the girl and I would end up having a relationship. It was inevitable. I liked the idea, and now more than ever I wanted to stay and work for the woman. I didn't know whether the lady would frown on my having a relationship with the girl, but I knew if I stayed, the relationship would happen.

Dream of: 02 November 1997 "Kissing Fire"

I felt as if I were a character in a novel written by Charles Dickens. Dressed in the garb of mid-1800s England, I was involved in some legal controversy, a serious affair. Another man, who was my adversary, and I were reviewing a document, a document which seemed to have been written in the mid 1800s.

The document seemed to be written in story form, and as I read, vivid images formed in my mind. In one part of the story I could see a man and a woman walking. The woman was carrying a burning candle. Suddenly the husband slipped and fell. The next words which I read were, "She bent over her husband's hand with the fire. Then she kissed it."

The images in my mind became confused. At first, I had an image of the woman bending over and actually kissing the fire at the top of the candle. But then I thought that the sentence must mean that the woman had bent over and kissed the husband's hand. I realized I was looking at an example of faulty writing. It was unclear to what the phrase "kissed it" referred. "It" could refer to either the "hand" or the "fire."

I realized that if this passage later became an issue in the controversy between my adversary and me, it would be difficult to argue that "it" referred to the "fire", because most people wouldn't think that a fire could be kissed. But I thought that a fire could be kissed, and I could form an image in my mind of the woman holding the candle close to her mouth and kissing the fire at the top. She might even make a little smacking sound as she did so. It could definitely be argued that the "it" did refer to the fire.

Actually my adversary and I were reviewing two different documents, one of which was supposed to be an exact copy of the other. However as we compared the copy and the original, we began to see the two weren't exactly alike. Since I had previously had access to one of the documents, I saw that the other fellow might suspect that I had changed parts of the document for my benefit. I even joked with him that I had done so. But I hadn't changed the document in any way. I was as uncertain of how the changes had occurred as the other fellow was.

I didn't even know if the changes were to my advantage. All I knew was that I must prevail over the other fellow concerning the documents. That was extremely important. It was nothing personal with the fellow. In fact I even liked him. I told him so, saying, "You know, I like you. I've got to beat you, but I like you."

The word is "inspiration." In my cowardly despair, Dickens inspires me to complete my work, to inspire others.

Dream of: 15 December 1997 "Coincidence"

While my father and another man were receiving a haircut in a barber shop, I walked around the nearby area (which seemed to be in a mall), and strolled into a library, thinking I might pick up a book, perhaps a book by Charles Dickens, perhaps Little Dorrit. It seemed as if I had already seen a movie based on the book and now I thought I would like to actually read it.

Instead of the book, however, I saw some record albums and began flipping through them. If I were going to listen to some music, I would like something with poetic lyrics; so I went straight to the bob Dylan albums, where I found several albums which I might like to hear. It seemed I already owned copies of the same albums, but I had stored them somewhere and I didn't have access to them any more.

I was surprised to discover an album by Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan – I hadn't known they had ever collaborated. Examining the album more closely, I saw it only contained a couple songs on each side. Although I thought I might like to listen to it, I was afraid it might be all instrumental, and I wanted something with lyrics.

Buying an album, however, presented a problem: listening to albums wouldn't be practical for me right now because I was living with my father and my mother in the upstairs of a house. Since we all lived so close together, playing music without disturbing anyone would be difficult. So finally I abandoned the whole idea and walked out of the place without any albums.

I continued my promenade through the mall-like area until I walked into a clothing store, where I picked up a short-sleeved light-blue button-down shirt and put it on. I walked out, and was still buttoning up the shirt when I arrived back at the barber shop where my father and the other man were just coming out. I had been thinking of getting a haircut myself, but realized that they were ready to leave and that there was no time for another haircut. Besides, I hadn't realized how late it was. The barber looked at his watch and said it was ten to seven.

***

As my father, the other man and I headed by car to our destination, my father's Farm (in hilly Gallia County, Ohio, the county of my birth), I realized the entire episode at the barber shop and the mall had been a dream. As we rode along I began recounting the dream to my father. It took me a moment to remember the identity of the other man with my father in the barber shop, but finally I recalled he had been my maternal grandfather Liston. As we finally pulled up to the rear door of the Farmhouse, my father mentioned it was ten till seven. I told him that was an amazing coincidence, because it had been exactly ten to seven in the dream when I had left the barber shop.

So many doubts. I have so many doubts about what I am doing. How did he have the courage to pick up his pen and create those worlds?

Dream of: 30 November 2005 "Wife Of Charles Dickens"

I was standing in the front yard of a house, talking with an elderly woman whom I slowly realized was the wife of Charles Dickens. She was working on several artistic projects in the yard. I began to realize she was having financial problems and I wondered if I might employ her to paint a picture for me. Surely a painting by the wife of Charles Dickens would be valuable. She had done so many paintings -- but they were just scraps and on wood or something else. I would need to buy a canvas for the painting.

Fortunately an art supply house was just across the street. I hurried over to the store and walked in. A man behind the counter began waiting on me. I told him I wanted to know the prices of canvasses. He first pulled out a canvass about two meters high and a meter wide, but it already had a painting on it. He said the painting was by Mark Twain and that he would sell it to me for $200. I wasn't interested because I wanted a blank canvass. But when he told me a blank canvass would cost $200, I wondered if my idea were a good one. After all, if a painting by Mark Twain was only worth $200 and I had to pay $200 for a blank canvass for the wife of Charles Dickens to paint, maybe I wouldn't be able to make any money after all.

Maybe I needed a small canvass. I asked for one and he handed me a canvass only about a meter tall which he said was only $100. I held it in my hands, trying to calculate if this project was going to be worthwhile.

I am an American writer of dreams. I thank God for the task he has given me. I pray for the courage to inspire with what I write. And thank you, too, Charles Dickens.

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