Lifejacket


by Robert Kaye

As a child of five, I dreamt I could fly by donning the big orange lifejacket my father took fishing. Flight initiated by clipping a corroded steel spring hook on the collar of the life preserver over a strand of backyard clothesline. An unexplained force launched me skyward over the splayed Technicolor candyland of houses and yards, fed by a network of streets and alleys. The lifejacket cinched tight across my chest, buoying me in the air the same as floating in the community pool on a summer day. Leaning left or right determined direction. Outstretched hands pointed the way, Superman style. In the dream, the experience felt simple, natural and more vivid than anything lit by day.

I awoke at the far edge of the dream and rushed to retrieve the lifejacket from the closet, pulling it on over my flannel pajama top. The sky outside the back door remained winter, the same misty half-light as my room. I dragged a metal trashcan and scaled it with some difficulty, crouching in position beneath the clothesline.

My cold fingers fumbled with the back of the collar, unable to find the clip�the only obstacle between open sky and myself. My knees quivered atop the bolo board of the wobbly trash can. I jumped down to the cement slab, the impact stinging my shins. Frantic fingers unfastened the lifejacket, suddenly far too loose around my skinny frame. I inspected the canvas and found no evidence of a nylon-webbed tab that could have anchored a metal clip. The cold morning puckered my skin into goose flesh, but I did not put the lifejacket back on, convinced I had done something wrong to invalidate the promise of the dream.

I do not know whatever became of the lifejacket, but suppose my mother threw it out with the rest of his things. Nobody ever took me fishing again. I did not grow up to be Superman. That morning I discovered the difference between waking and dreaming, and have never since trusted the waking world.




BIO: Robert Kaye has published short fiction in Green Mountains Review, Cicada, Snake Nation Review, Bryant Literary Review, Pindeldyboz, The Rose and Thorn, The Legendary, and elsewhere.  His novel entitled Taking Candy from the Devil � about coffee, Sasquatch fakery, software and family deception�still seeks a good publisher if you happen to know one.  He enjoys writing about himself in the third person and thinks this internet fad may stick.