by Linda Rodriguez
For the past several months, I have battled an infection of lungs, sinuses, and tonsils, which also triggered my asthma. That meant coughing, lots of big, loud coughing spasms. I mean, coughing that rattles the windows in my house and those of my neighbors. (I have been known to break ribs from coughing before.)
Multiple rounds of antibiotics had the infections under control eventually, but the asthma—and the coughing—has been another matter. Consequently, I’m still inhaling and nebulizing as I try to shake the last of it, and in order to sleep at night without hacking my lungs out, I’m taking codeine cough medicine.
This means weird dreams. That phrase seems redundant. Dreams are, by nature, non-rational, of course. But these drugged dreams are something else. Much more vivid and bizarre. The dead walk and talk again in my dreams right now. My children, the youngest of whom just turned thirty-five, are babes in arms and toddlers again in these dreams, even as I’m still a child myself, a sibling to my own kids. Every morning I wake in wonder at the strange, technicolor movies I’ve just experienced.
Since I’m a writer, I write them down in my journal. Each morning I sit with my cup of tea and record another outlandish dream—a house suddenly filled with feral cats and I can’t figure out how they’re getting in or how to keep them out, a strange conference at an unknown university where I’m responsible for one of the programs when hundreds of ninjas attack, a ballroom dancing scene where I’m Ginger Rogers in chiffon and stilettos and only my unknown partner’s hand keeps me from floating off to join all the other people living on big multicolored clouds.
Last night, I had a dream in which an editor from Random House visited me in Kansas City to tell me that Random House had published a book in my Skeet Bannion series written by someone else, the first of many, and had sold it for a television series, leaving me protesting that they couldn’t do that since Random House is not my publisher and crying to my agent and my actual editor at my actual publisher, “What can we do? They’re stealing my books!”
I’m a writer, so you’d think some of these dreams would spark stories or books. I have had the germs of stories and books come to me in my dreams before, but not in medicated dreams like these. I know from sad experience that none of these will offer me anything more than a moment’s entertainment and wonder. I suppose that, if I wrote literary short fiction in the surreal school of writing, I might find them useful, but for someone who writes mystery novels and thrillers that must make sense to the average reader, these dreams are a waste of my unconscious’s creative skills.
What they do for me as a writer, however, is remind me that I have at my disposal an incredibly creative partner in that very unconscious. I simply have to find ways to guide its creativity and to ground it in the details of reality. That inventive part of my mind works constantly coming up with all kinds of stories, good, bad, bizarre, and humdrum. It’s up to me to harness and channel all that imaginative energy. Still, it would be nice if it could just toss up a nice, usable, Academy-Award-worthy story now and then.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my nightly excursion into the world of flying cars and dogs and Nazi storm troopers chasing me at a writers conference and other exciting adventures.
Linda Rodriguez's book, Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, is based on her popular workshop. Her newest anthology, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, co-edited with Diane Glancy, was published in February 2017. Her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, is due in 2019. Her three earlier novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film. Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, a poetry anthology she edited, received an International Latino Book Award.
Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writer’s Caucus, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community.