Got a call from none other than The Old Billionaire yesterday morning.
Yep, he interrupted his World Farewell Tour (as in, “It’s time to say hello-goodbye to all the places I’ve never been to before I go to my Final Destination) to wake me up with the ultimate weapon in the armory of everyone who has a child:
“Larry B, I’m very disappointed in you.”
“Huh? Wha …? That you, O.B.?”
“It’s not Sarah Palin,” the O.B. said. “Man, I leave the country and not only do you come close enough to death to shave the Good Lord’s whiskers, you hold out on me about it. And not just on me, on everybody who reads your words.”
I was still clouded by sleep, but finally, “What’re you talking about, O.B.? Where are you?” I managed to say.
“Netty and I were looking at some property in Costa Rica when the earthquake hit in Chile. Since then we’ve been in a tent in Valdivia, working with the Red Cross. Every day I wake up thinking it’s going to be my last, and every day I thank the creator in advance for letting me go out doing something better than making money.”
“Not like you to pay in advance,” I said.
“Well, you know what happens when you do that. You get cheated. So I keep on having to live and fear my end. A fear you might be able to ease if you’d come clean.”
“About what?” I said.
“You said that after your heart attack you had the big dream, the one we all want,” said the O.B. “You know, the Secret of the Universe dream. But you haven’t told us what it was, boy, and I need to know before it’s too late.”
He was right. I haven’t written about the dream. Not because I’ve been holding out but because, “Now that time has passed I don’t really think it was all that much,” I told the O.B.
“Let me be the judge,” the O.B. said. “How’s that?”
I shrugged. I knew he couldn’t see me, but I did it anyway. “I dreamed I was outside, in the middle of a ruined city…” I said.
“Uh-oh,” said the Old Billionaire.
“It looked like a bomb had hit. Or a hurricane.”
“Or an earthquake?”
“Um … maybe that too. People were standing all around, watching while I fought for my life.”
“Fought who? Out with it now!”
“A giant. He was the one who’d destroyed the city, and now he was determined to destroy me. He swung fists like bulldozers and pounded me and pounded me and pounded me. I was battered and bloody and didn’t know what to do.”
“Didn’t you hit him back?” the O.B. said.
“I wanted to, but I couldn’t. My arms weighed tons. I was sure I was going to die, and I was terrified. But you know me,” I said. “I was also curious. The giant’s face was all in shadow, and all I wanted, before the end, was to see it, to know who he was.”
The O.B. knows me indeed. He grunted.
I hurried on. “The giant bent down to pick me up and throw me to the ground one last time, and finally I could see his face. It was huge and twisted and purple and brown and black with rage, but I recognized him immediately.
“The giant who had destroyed everything around me and was about to let loose the final blow was me.”
“What happened then? When you saw him?” the Old Billionaire demanded.
“I escaped the only way I could. I woke up.”
My heart was racing. At the other end of the line, the O.B. was silent. Then:
“I’ve had that dream,” the O.B. said, “every night since we got here. Me, fighting myself. Sometimes I fight back. And sometimes I tell the other me, ‘I forgive you’ and deliberately do nothing.
“But no matter what, when I wake up the result’s the same. I’m in the middle of more suffering than I ever could imagine. Real suffering. Not a dream.
“I think your dream is ‘all that much,’ Larry B.,” the Old Billionaire continued. “You just have to be careful about the meaning. All the hell we find on earth isn’t our fault. We don’t have that much power.”
The O.B. hung up. But not until he’d passed the real Secret of the Universe on to me. “Only thing we can destroy,” he said, “is ourselves.”
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer . He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published March 19, 2010