Short Stories

The Dream Catcher

In 1865 Dry Creek was home to one of the west’s biggest mining booms for about two weeks.  Some of the world’s richest silver ore was found there in a vein that disappeared into the earth.  News of the strike circulated through the old west like smoke blown through a forest of trees in a high wind.  Miners flocked into the area by the thousands but within a few days the silver in the vein disappeared.  Miners continued living there for a while hoping to rediscover more silver but it never happened.  Eventually everyone but a few stragglers left Dry Creek leaving it to the Indians who had lived there before.  Today it is a rundown paint peeling ghost town existing on summer tourists and winter skiing enthusiasts who stop on their way to and from Snow Mountain.

I am Art Nobel an attorney living in Salt Lake City out for a Sunday drive with my girl friend Amy Summers.  Amy considers herself a home décor specialist who decorates houses for the wealthy.  She has absolutely no training or schooling but impeccable taste.  I guess that’s really all it takes as her customers seem satisfied and she actually makes more money decorating for the rich than I do writing wills and doing estate planning.

I’ll tell you what I can of my story.  Unfortunately, others will have to write the ending.

Escaping the inversion layer hanging over Salt Lake valley we found ourselves at the Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville, the oldest bar in Utah.  Florence, our gregarious redneck bar tender entertained us for hours with tales of the saloon, the town and Herbert the large dog head hanging on the wall.  Eventually she got around to telling us about Dry Creek, just up the road.

“It ain’t much now,” she drawled, “but she sure was som’en in her day.”

“Oh yeah;” I said just to keep her talking.

“There wus over five thousand miners liven up there fer a while.  Mostly just tents and such, but some built cabins that are still standen.”

“What happened to the Indians who lived there when the miners came?” Amy asked.  Florence told us earlier that the Huntsville area was once used by several Indian nations as trading grounds.

“Oh, they kind of drifted off inter the mountens or som’en.   Some cum back after the miners left, but most didn’t.   There is one nice place up there tho, The Traden Post owned by a bunch of Apaches.   You folks aught ter drive on up and check er out.”

And that is how we found ourselves in Dry Creek in the middle of April.  Florence didn’t lie, the town wasn’t much to look at, but the old weathered Trading Post looked intriguing.  It was a large knotty pine log structure with decorated Indian blankets hanging in the window and colorful beaded baskets standing and lying on display shelves just behind the window.  A hitching pole stretched all across the front flanked by worn wooden stairs on each end leading to a broad wooden porch.  Grooves from decades of visitors had been worn into the thick porch boards making tracks from both sets of stairs to the wide double doors that were standing open.  We found ourselves drawn in by the exotic sights inside and the sounds of a wooden flute backed by chants and soft drumming that floated out on the scent of burning sage.

“I just love this place,” Amy said practically cooing.  “The sights, the sounds, and the smell; I really feel like I’m stepping back in time.”

“Yeah, I know.  I feel the same way.  I think it’s the combination of smells and the Indian chanting.” I said.

We began walking up and down the aisles ooing and ahing over the beautiful merchandise.  Here were display cases full of silver and turquoise fashioned into rings, bracelets and some fabulous squash blossom necklaces.  An entire aisle featured blankets and ponchos of every color imaginable.  We had to try on a few for effect and found ourselves wishing we had lived in another era when such wear was fashionable.

I was still mesmerized by one particular light blue poncho with a white buffalo artfully woven into a pattern and trying to figure out how I could explain this to my law partners when Amy Called me over to the next aisle.

She had discovered the moccasins. “Look at these,” she swooned holding up a pair of beautiful white moccasins with a colorful beaded fringe and a blue turquoise sewn into toe of each slipper.  “I just have to have these,” she said.

“They’re really lovely,” I said truthfully.  “I bet you’ll look great in them.  Do they have a pair your size?”

“Oh, you betcha,” she said with a knockout smile.  “I already slipped them on just to be sure.  Would you like a pair for yourself?”

“I don’t think so honey.  I really don’t need any footwear just now.  Maybe we’ll come back this fall,” I said hastily to soften the disappointment I saw in her eyes.

With Amy holding her moccasins we moved on down the aisle and were about to go into the next row of pottery shelves when we saw an open door leading to a small back room.  I would have just kept walking except hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room was a stunning dream catcher of the most exquisite design I have ever seen.

The center threads appeared to be brilliant gold and silver wires interlaced in a complex weave.  Woven into the design were semi-precious stones arranged in a geometrical pattern that seemed familiar yet strangely different.  The pattern reminded me of those medicine man sand paintings used in healing ceremonies.  Sunlight streaming in from a skylight made the gems sparkle and glow as though they were living embers of fire.  I stood mesmerized until Amy jabbed her elbow into my side bringing me back into the present and I realized I’d been holding my breath.   Gulping in air I asked, “Do you see that?”

“Of course, I do,” she replied.  “How could I miss it?  Although it doesn’t make me unconscious as it is apparently doing to you.”

Without responding I entered the room for a closer look.  It was only when I got inside that I saw this very old Indian gentlemen sitting quietly in a corner seemingly half asleep.  He was wearing faded blue jeans with patches on the knees and a pair of well worn cowboy boots with run down heels.  A faded yellow western shirt with a red lightening pattern running up the sides decorated his torso and on his head was a tattered straw cowboy hat.  His dark wrinkled copper colored skin looked as weathered and worn as the boots.  Tufts of long gray hair sprouted out from under the hat.  When I was fully into the room he looked up and gazing into his eyes was like looking into two endless dark tunnels.

“Excuse me,” I said.  “I didn’t realize anyone was here.  I just wanted to take a look at this dream catcher.”

“Only for shaman,” he said.

His voice was soft and low but there was no mistaking the seriousness in his expression.

“I was just wondering if it was for sale and how much it costs.” I responded as though I didn’t understand what the old Indian had said.  “I’ve always dreamed of having a really nice dream catcher although I never expected to see one this beautiful.”

“Only for shaman,” repeated the old Indian softly.

Hanging from the sides of the dark circular wooden frame were lengths of red and green beaded gems strung on gold wires mixed with turquoise stones fastened with silver wire.  Colored feathers dangled from the ends of each long strand of gems.  This dream catcher held my fancy like nothing I had ever experienced.  As I studied the intricate pattern woven into the web of silver and gold threads I was struck with the idea that this had been exclusively made for me and that I was destined to own this beautiful creation.

“Look,” I said using my lawyer voice, “I have to have this dream catcher.  How much?”

“Only for shaman.”

This repetition was getting tiresome.

“Okay, I’ll give you three hundred dollars,” I said offering what I thought was a reasonable price.

The old Indian said nothing.

Amy was standing by my side with wonder in her eyes.  At the time I believed she was in awe over the dream catcher but later I decided she thought I had lost my mind.  At that point, I really didn’t know what Amy felt.

“Maybe three hundred is too cheap for this workmanship,” I said to the Indian.  “How about five hundred dollars?” I suggested.  That still seemed like a fair price in my mind.

The old Indian again said nothing and Amy was looking worried.

“Okay,” I said firmly.  “I’ll give you one thousand dollars.  I must have it.”

Looking into those endless dark pits I couldn’t be sure but the old Indian seemed to have a sad look in his eyes as he slowly stood up and walked over to where I was standing.  To show you how wrong a man can be I just thought he was sorry to see the dream catcher being sold.

Reaching up he unhooked my prize from the ceiling and handed it to me without a word while slowly shaking his head sidewise as if saying ‘no, no, no’.  I glanced over at Amy who was silent although her disapproval was very evident.

“I have to have this,” I tried explaining although the words seemed empty.  “I’ve always dreamed of owning one of these things,” I said.  I sounded like someone trying to justify doing something that they knew was inherently wrong.  Amy just shook her head in the same sad slow negative pattern as the old Indian.

Without speaking to each other we paid for our purchases at the front counter and were in the car heading home when she finally spoke.

“I don’t feel good about your dream catcher,” she said.  It’s beautiful and I know you love it, but it doesn’t seem right.”

Thinking she was referring to the money I responded.

“Yeah, I paid too much, but this piece speaks to me.  It will really look great hanging in my front window.”

“It isn’t that,” she said.  “You probably did pay too much but you can afford it.  I mean – it doesn’t feel right.  It’s just wrong somehow.  I can’t explain it.”

I didn’t know how to respond to her comments so I didn’t say anything for a few minutes driving down Weber Canyon enjoying the scenery.  After brooding over her comments for a few minutes I broke the silence.

“I’m sorry if you don’t like my dream catcher,” I said trying to break the mood.  “If you still feel this way after we’re married I’ll find someone to take it off my hands.  Finding a new home shouldn’t be too difficult.”

“Oh Art.  I like your dream catcher.  It’s really beautiful.  I can’t explain my feelings.  Somehow it just seems wrong but I’m sure I’ll get over it.  Let’s just enjoy our day together.”

We dropped the subject and later ate dinner at the India Palace.  The strange coincidence of two different Indian cultures on the same day passed right over our heads.  I dropped Amy off at her apartment rather late and as we both had an early morning schedule we separated with just a brief kiss goodbye.  I didn’t know that this was the last time we would see each other.

I had to hang my dream catcher up in the front window before going to bed.  Once it was hanging from a cup hook the outside street light made the woven gemstone pattern and bright metal threads glisten and shimmer.  I was drawn into the pattern and felt myself going into some distant part of the universe.  It was strange but not frightening.  Glancing at my watch I was surprised that I had been staring into the pattern for over thirty minutes.  I quickly got ready for bed and was almost instantly asleep once my head hit the pillow.

I don’t know how much time passed before I found myself asleep in a dream in which I woke up looking at a beautiful voluptuous Indian maiden.  She was wearing an all-white leather skirt and blouse with a delicate colored beaded pattern resembling the design in my dream catcher.  The white leather made a nice contrast with her smooth brown skin while complementing soft gentle features.  Obsidian black hair made the contrasting blouse and beaded pattern even more striking.  On her feet were Amy’s white leather moccasins with turquoise stones in the toes.  She handed me a device resembling a TV remote control unit and flashing a seductive smile vanished.

There were labeled buttons on the small control device.  On one label were the words ‘night mares’.  Another was labeled ‘erotic dreams’.  There was a button called ‘great fantasies’ and then a button with just one word, ‘other’.

At this point, I’m not sure if I was dreaming or awake.  I thought I was awake in my dream, but I have had some dreams that seemed so real that when I did wake up I was surprised that I had actually been in a dream.  Was I dreaming that I was awake or was I really awake afraid that this was only a dream?  I couldn’t be sure and my usual tricks for waking up or finding out my true status like pinching my arm didn’t seem to work.  In any event I decided to experiment so I pushed the ‘erotic dreams’ button.

Oh my!  I’ll spare you the embarrassing details; however, nothing in my life had prepared me for this level of eroticism.  I think I was blushing when I woke up from one of these erotic dreams and before getting sucked back into another even more graphic dream I punched the button called ‘nightmares.  I was still not sure whether I was dreaming in a dream or actually awake and then dreaming.

I haven’t really been frightened since childhood but I woke up from my nightmare dream scared to death.  I got up and made coffee trying to shake the jitters and calm my nerves.  Again, I don’t know if this happened only in my dream or if I actually got up and made coffee.  After drinking several cups and getting my nerves under control I decided to try a different button.  This time I pushed the button labeled ‘other.’

I was back into a dream and found myself in an endless meadow of golden yellow daffodils intermingled with small patches of blue lupine that made the whole world smile.  There was a winding path through the meadow and sitting on a stone bench beside the path was the beautiful exotic Indian maiden who had given me the dream control box.  She smiled at me as I approached and stood up offering her hand.  Her skin was soft and warm and as she took my hand an electric shock went through my entire body.  Leading the way she began walking along the path through the endless field of flowers up a small hill.  The hill was not high but I couldn’t see what was on the other side.  At the summit, everything seemed to disappear, which didn’t make any sense.  With winsome smiling eyes, the Indian maiden led to the mountain top.  I was hypnotized looking into those mysteriously beautiful eyes as we stepped over the summit – where we both vanished.

Early the next morning an old battered pickup with rusty fenders and dented body pulled up in front of Art’s house.  If someone had been looking they would have seen an elderly Indian gentleman looking as banged up as his truck get out of the driver’s seat and hobble towards the house.  He was wearing a faded yellow tattered straw cowboy hat full of holes and pair of old worn cowboy boots run down at the heels. After slowly making his way onto the porch the front door swung open just as the old man approached but no one else was visible.  He went inside and anyone watching would have seen him remove a very unusual dream catcher from the front window.

He slowly carried it out to the pickup carefully placing it on the passenger’s seat before driving away.

Salt Lake Tribune – Monday April 22

Prominent Local Lawyer Missing

Art Nobel, a prominent local attorney, is reported missing by his law office after having failed to report for work on Monday.    Repeated calls have gone unanswered.  The police accompanied by his law partner Bruce McDermott and Art’s girlfriend Amy Summers visited his fashionable Victorian house in the Avenues late Monday afternoon to find his front door wide open.  Nothing appears to be missing except for Mr. Nobel.  There was no sign of a struggle although the bed was unmade which according to Amy is very unusual as Art is very particular about his house always looking neat.

Worried and half out of her mind with grief Amy forgot all about the dream catcher.  It would be many weeks before she realized that it had been missing when she visited Art’s house.  She thought about it briefly but concluded that some thief, seeing the front door open, had entered and stolen the beautiful eye-catching dream catcher.

The old lady living next to Art was walking by on the sidewalk the morning after he disappeared and was nearly past when something caught her eye.  Glancing over at the house she saw a lonely brass cup hook screwed into the top of the front window frame glistening in the bright morning sun.

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