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About the Author
Peter Reich, son of the controversial Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who died in a US jail in 1957, was born in New York in 1944. After his father’s death, he left the USA to study French at Grenoble, eventually returning to take degrees at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and at Boston University School of Public Health. He has been a VISTA volunteer in Oregon, has worked with drug addicts in Boston and also as a journalist in New York, and for the past thirty years has worked at Boston University School of Medicine. He lives in Massachusetts.
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A Book of Dreams
The Book that Inspired Kate Bush's Hit Song 'Cloudbusting'
By Peter Reich
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2015 Peter Reich
All rights reserved.
I, the dreamer clinging yet to the dream as the patient clings to the last thin unbearable ecstatic instant of agony in order to sharpen the savor of the pain's surcease, waking into the reality, the more than reality, not to the unchanged and unaltered old time but into a time altered to fit the dream which, conjunctive with the dreamer, becomes immolated and apotheosized. WILLIAM FAULKNER, Absalom! Absalom!
Half a deer walked up to my house and rattled at the door. When I didn't answer, the deer went away and I watched him turn into a whole deer. He walked away into trees where the wind was watery voices of people I did not know.
Strange watery voices were all I could hear. I could not see because I was my eyes, my eyes were crying so hard because I was so afraid.
In the voices they were talking about the deer. I went out of the house when the deer was gone. The lawn was soggy long grass that lay in thick strands like washed hair. I was surprised that the lake had climbed the hill to the cabin. The water, rising up the hill, was cloudy and bright yellow as if the sun were caught beneath it.
As I ranged up and down the shores of the swollen lake I saw a man's feet floating beneath the surface. The bottoms of his feet were near the surface and sometimes small waves broke over them. The rest of the man disappeared beneath the water.
WHEN I OPENED my eyes, doctors and nurses were moving around me talking in a strange language. A white sheet was over me. Oh, Jesus Christ, I've been in a dream and suddenly I'm waking up in a strange place. I don't know who I am or where I am or what is happening. What is that language?
I closed my eyes but all there was to see was water so I opened them again. But I didn't see differently or know more. Sometime, a long time ago, something must have happened and I got amnesia, and now I am waking up in this hospital – is it a mental hospital? There was a mental hospital somewhere....
My arm began to hurt so I lay back on the table and tried to relax and remember as much as I could:
I was born in New York City on 3 April 1944. My mother and father, Ilse Ollendorff and Wilhelm Reich, lived at 9906 Sixty-ninth Avenue in Forest Hills. The telephone number was Boulevard 8–5997. We lived there for a long time and then we moved to Maine. My father was a psychiatrist. When we moved to Maine he bought a big tract of land and called it Orgonon. He discovered Orgone Energy, which was Life Energy. He did a lot of experiments with it and lots of other doctors and scientists came to help. The big thing was the accumulator. It was like a box and you sat in it and it made you feel better. I was happy then. A lot of people said my father was a quack. A lot of bad things happened I can't remember....
The doctor came over and spoke to me in a funny language. He said something about gas....
Wait. My parents were separated. My father died. I went to a Quaker boarding school. Then I went to college in Maine and took my junior year abroad. ... Yes, that was it, I was remembering. I was in France. Those people were speaking French.
I was in France, now, in 1963, and there had been an accident. I had gone to Geneva with a friend who had a motorcycle. We stayed overnight in a youth hostel and went to visit the United Nations palace the next day. Then we started back to Grenoble and coming around a hairpin curve we went off the road. That was why my shoulder hurt: I had dislocated my shoulder.
That was why there was pain and why I was in the hospital, afraid to close my eyes because of the water. There was a dream in the gas.
The doctor came back again and smiled. He said they had not been able to get my shoulder back in its socket and would have to give me gas again. Again? Had I already been through some dream? The mask came over my face slowly and it was sickening and familiar. This has happened before and before. There is another dream. There was an incredible dream I had that no one would ever believe. The gas was sweet as I tried to remember and already one had passed and two was coming because I was a soldier in a war long ago but no one would ever believe three or four and already it was racing down a purple corridor with neon numbers clicking on and off in the trillions spinning all the way through the purple ribbon until out of it a thin black ribbon bent around the side of my head, encircled it, grew wider and wider and because no one would believe what happened was all black.
* * *
So I finally made sergeant. It was 1954.
Tightening the white plastic Sam Browne belt around my waist and over my chest, I adjusted the shiny new sergeant's badge over my heart and looked down the road. A car was coming so I blew the whistle.
On either side of me, a few yards down the road, privates swung their wrists, leaning two stop signs out into the road. The car stopped.
I lifted my white sergeant's pole, swung it around in front of me and looked at the third-grader standing next to me. 'Okay,' I said.
We walked to the other side. I swung the pole around and let the third- grader walk up the asphalt pathway to Edward L. Wetmore School. Beyond the low school building, children were playing on a large dusty playfield.
I walked back across the road and blew the whistle again. The two stop signs swung back and the car drove past.
As soon as he got his sign up, Rudy yelled at me. 'Hey, stupid, you're not supposed to hold the white pole in front of you. It is supposed to be in the direction you're going!'
Rudy was mad at me because I made sergeant before he did. But he didn't try as hard as I did. Ray Urbelejo made lieutenant. He's my friend.
'I'll do it any way I want to.'
Actually, I was a sergeant before, but nobody knew about that. Ray and Rudy wouldn't understand. I'm a lieutenant too, in the cavalry, and my scout is named Toreano, but they wouldn't understand that either. I'm a lieutenant when I wear the Stetson and a sergeant when I wear the pith helmet. As soon as we got to Tucson, Bill and I called Daddy, because he was still coming in his car with Eva. I asked him if I could buy a real cowboy hat and he said okay. So we went to Jacome's and bought a real Stetson for $12. It's a real cowboy hat. Then when Daddy arrived and our expedition began, he bought pith helmets for all of us and I got a red crayon and painted sergeant's stripes on it. Bill Moise, my brother-in-law, is a lieutenant and we're cosmic engineers. But Ray and Rudy wouldn't understand.
'Hey, stupid, there's a car coming!' Rudy looked at me impatiently as I blew the whistle.
As soon as we were relieved, I went back up to the locker room to hang up my belt and go out to look for popsicle sticks before the bell rang. Ray had finished checking off the white belts so we went outside together to look for popsicle sticks. We walked to the jungle jim where most of the kids ate their popsicles and started picking them up. Ray was asking me about Maine because I told him that was where I came from.
'Do you really get a lot of snow up there?'
'Yeah, once it was up to my waist. We used to have great snowball fights in school.'
I sat down and started to jam the first bunch of sticks into my engineer boots. Ray sat down next to me.
'Gee, I've never seen snow. Can you eat it?'
I shifted the popsicle sticks so they were all even, all the way around my leg. 'Yeah, you can when you get thirsty, but actually, it just makes you more thirsty. It's not good to eat too much of it.'
'Wow, someday I'd like to get up there and see it. My dad, uh, travels and maybe we could get up there sometime.' He jiggled his boot to let the popsicle sticks settle. He wore cowboy boots. They were higher and he could get more sticks in his.
We got up and started looking around for more sticks. We walked over to the swings, where kids dropped their feet into the dust on the downswing and made puffs of smoke. We picked up popsicle sticks until our boots were stuffed up to the top and then we took out our yo-yos. Ray did some around-the-horns and I just let mine sleep for a while. We yo-yoed for a while, watching dust devils sweep across the playground.
'Hey,' said Ray, 'I thought you had one of these glow-in-the-dark yo-yos.' He swung his red glow-in-the-darker around the world and dropped into a baby's cradle.
My black diamond Duncan flipped back into my hand after a double around-the-horn.
'Yeah, well, you see, my dad said I had to get rid of it on account of the glow-in-the-dark stuff.'
'Well, you see, he works with some radioactive stuff and he told me that the glow-in-the-dark on the yo-yo and his radioactive stuff don't mix. It might make me sick or something.'
'Wow, that sounds eerie. What kind of stuff does your dad do?' He dropped his yo-yo into a long sleep. I swung my yo-yo around the world and when it got back, walked the doggy.
'Well, actually, we're on an atmospheric research expedition.' 'An expedition? Wow!' He flipped his yo-yo back into his hand.
'Yeah, and you see we've got this machine called a cloudbuster – but it really isn't a machine – and we use it to make rain. My dad, he decided to come down here and break the drought.' Daddy always said not to brag, but I was just telling. A lump of popsicle sticks dropped around my ankles. I stopped to hike them up and Ray swung around the world.
'You mean, you can really make it rain?'
'Sure. Last year when we were back East, in Maine, there was a drought, and all the blueberries were drying up. You know, that's where they grow blueberries.'
'Yeah?' He palmed his yo-yo and listened.
'Yeah. So these blueberry growers heard about the cloudbuster and called my dad up. They said they'd give him ten thousand dollars to make it rain.'
'Wowee,' said Ray, shaking his head. 'Ten thousand bucks is a lot of money. Did you make it rain?'
I swung around the horn. It wasn't bragging, it was just telling the truth. Besides, I'd never tell him about the flying saucers.
'Yup, twenty-four hours after we worked the cloudbuster, it started the rain. The weather bureau had said there wouldn't be any rain for a couple of days and then, wham.' The yo-yo slapped back into my hand just as the bell rang and we started back towards the school building.
'Well, gee, your dad must be pretty rich then, if he can go around making rain for money, especially out here.' He grinned.
'Well, we're not really rich. You see, there's a problem with the government.'
'Yeah. They don't believe it works, so they're giving my dad a hard time about it ... it's kind of complicated.'
'Wow! Well, do you think I could come over sometime and look at the cloudthing?'
'Yeah, I guess so.'
Swarms of kids walked past us as we went down the outside corridor that ran past the classrooms. Little dunes of dust had gathered in front of the doors.
'What does your dad do?' I asked.
Ray's face turned a little red. 'Aaw, he just works on farms and stuff.'
I started wheeling in my yo-yo. 'But there aren't that many farms around here, are there? What kind of farms?'
Ray shoved his yo-yo into his jeans pocket. 'Well, you see, we actually kind of, well, go out on the road, you know? Like probably before the end of school my dad will take me and my brothers and sisters and we'll probably go up to California or Washington and pick stuff up there.'
'You mean you are going to have to leave school in order to help your dad work?'
'Yeah. See, you notice how I'm kind of older than the rest of the kids in the class?'
'Well, see, we got to leave every year because there's no work around here. So I miss a lot of school. Then when I get back, well, I'm behind a grade. Actually I should be in eighth grade.'
'Wow.' I didn't know what to say. The schools were so much easier in Tucson that as soon as I started, I had skipped a grade, so I was in fifth grade now.
'Well, gee, Ray, maybe if my dad's cloudbuster works, it'll rain down here and then there'll be crops and you won't have to leave.'
He grinned and with a hand on the doorknob, ready to go into class, he said, 'Yeah, yeah, that'd be all right.'
And I thought that if we stayed friends, maybe I could tell him about the flying saucers.
We sat on the last seat of the school bus going home, playing tic-tac-toe in the suede on the back of my cowboy jacket with the fringes on it. I stretched the jacket over my books and smoothed it one way with my hand so we could make a tic-tac-toe cross going the other way. Ray heaped his denim jacket over his knee and made an 'x'. Then I made an 'o' and he made another 'x'. I made an 'o' and he beat me with the next 'x'.
'That sure is a nice jacket,' he said, smoothing out the suede and making another tic-tac-toe cross.
'Yeah, some friends gave it to me before I came out West. I got a horse too....' I stopped. That was bragging. Ray didn't say anything; he just beat me at another game of tic-tac-toe.
I looked at his faded denim jacket. It had army patches on it, with all different colours and designs. I wanted to get some of those too. Sometimes Daddy and I talked about a flag and insignia for the Cosmic Engineers. Someday we might even get uniforms.
'Hey, Ray, where'd you get all the patches?'
'Well, I got the first ones when my brother was in the army. Then there's a kid who sells 'em at school real cheap.'
'I'd like to get some.'
'Yeah, but you couldn't put them on your suede jacket, could you?'
'Oh yeah.' Maybe I could get Daddy to buy me a denim jacket like Ray's. After letting Ray off, the bus made a few more stops and then swung back onto the main road for a while before it turned onto our road. I got my jacket and boots together and walked up to the front of the bus when we got near our ranch.
The bus driver was a big strong man with curly blond hair. He looked like the kind of musclemen they showed at the end of comic books, and the muscles in his arms rippled as he steered around the last corner before our place. I leaned down and saw the cluster of pipes from the cloudbuster sticking up between the hard green Palo Verde leaves. The bus stopped right by the gate and instead of opening the door, the driver turned around and looked at me.
'Hey,' he said, 'I've been meaning to ask you. What is that thing with the pipes?' The lines around his nose dropped into a sneer around his mouth.
'We call it a cloudbuster,' I said, starting down the steps to get off.
'A clodbuster?' He grinned. There was a black space between two of his teeth. He turned away, leaned forward on the steering wheel and looked back at the cloudbuster. From where the bus was he could see the whole truck with the platform on the back, the black square base, the cables leading up to the pipes and the spinning wave on the side of the truck. He nodded. 'A clodbuster, huh?'
'No,' I said, 'a cloudbuster.'
'Well, uh, what do they use this clodbuster for?' He held one hand on the door-opening lever like he wouldn't open until I told him.
'Uh, we use it for atmospheric research. Can I get out, please?' 'Atmospheric research? Ha! What's that?' He grinned.
'Well, uh, it is for an experiment in weather control.' I stepped down until I was right in front of the door.
He nodded and grinned again. 'Oh, I see. That there clodbuster controls the weather, huh? Well, just don't bust any of my clods. Ha ha!' His big hand pulled back on the lever and the door swung open. I stepped down into the dust. He held the door open and looked at me with his mouth open. Then he said, 'Well, take it easy, clodbuster,' and slammed the door.
The bus started down the road in a cloud of dust and I watched it get smaller and smaller. He made me feel bad. That was why I had to be brave. It was emotional plague.
When the bus was gone, I turned and walked across the rail fence and down the driveway to the ranch. Daddy called it 'Little Orgonon' but I didn't like it as much as Orgonon. The cloudbuster was off to the side of the driveway. Painted on the door was the big red spinning wave that Daddy always talked about. I didn't understand it but he said it was the key to how the flying saucers worked.
Hobbling on account of the popsicle sticks in my boots, I walked down the driveway towards the house. When I got to the Palo Verde tree next to the kitchen I pulled off my boots and spilled the popsicle sticks into two piles on the ground. Daddy's car wasn't there so I'd have time to work before he got back.
Excerpted from A Book of Dreams by Peter Reich. Copyright © 2015 Peter Reich. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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