Aftermath of Dreaming: A Novel

Aftermath of Dreaming: A Novel

by DeLaune Michel


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060817343
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/03/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Raised in south Louisiana, DeLauné Michel has worked as an actor and is the founding producer of Spoken Interludes, a reading series in New York and Los Angeles. Her short fiction has won awards. This is her first novel.

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Aftermath of Dreaming

A Novel
By DeLaune Michel

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 DeLaune Michel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006081733X

Chapter One

I've been waking up screaming for the past three months. Not every night, God, no. Probably just three or four times a week. Three or four times a week in the middle of the night, I find myself sitting straight up in bed, eyes wide open, screaming from the depth of my being a sound so loud I never would have thought I could make, then suddenly it all stops. And a void is left, a hollow, like that vacuum thing they talk about nature abhorring, but here it is in my apartment, alive and full of air, sucking all the images and dreams out of me, and all I am left with is wondering what it is and why don't my neighbors ever do anything?

Because I really have been screaming -- out loud. I mean, I know how confusing it can be when you sleep -- there's that whole falling-down dream where you'd swear you're flying hard and fast through the air, then when you land, you've been in your bed the whole time, haven't moved at all. But these sounds are real. So real they wake me up every time.

I keep thinking I will mention it to my neighbors when I pass them in the courtyard or see them at the mailbox. "By the way," I could say. "Have you been hearing screams coming from my apartment on a regular basis for a fewmonths now? In case you've been wondering about it, maybe waiting to see if it continues before you do anything -- don't worry, it's only my dreams."

In the repeated fantasies I have of this exchange, it always ends in an empty, silent stare from them. Particularly from Gloria, the was-prostitute now-seamstress, whose apartment shares a staircase with mine. Not that she dresses like a prostitute, or that we live on or near Selma, the purportedly high-traffic street for that sort of thing in Hollywood, though I think her business was more a call-and-come-over kind. And I don't even know why she had to tell me about that part of her past. She's the last person I would have suspected, though she does keep her red hair Playboy-esque long, falling around her face and softening the lines around her eyes that are obvious when the sun hits her dead-on. Was-prostitute, near-fifty, now-alone. There's a terrifying denouement.

One afternoon last year right after I moved in, I accepted her invitation for a cup of coffee and that was when she immediately began confiding her long sordid tale. As I sat on her couch feeling rather trapped, frankly, and listening to her cataloguing of the men and their particular predilections, her apartment's girlish, old-fashioned floral decor shifted in my mind from kitschy pleasant to purely depressing, as if it were meant to protect her from remembering her past. Better protection would have been for her to not confide in me at all. Now that the knowledge rested also in me, it felt like my unfortunately spontaneous thoughts of it added even more ghosts to the memories she had of her "visitors" as she called them, the men who traipsed up and down the stairs before the landlord finally put a stop to it.

The other night after the screaming happened -- it was twice in a row this week, usually I get a night off in between -- I drank some water and was lying back down when it occurred to me that maybe I should worry. I mean, my life is wonderful. I'm twenty-nine, single, and living in L.A. I'm happy and all that stuff. I'm fine.

I'm just screaming on a regular basis with no discernible reason or effect.

Which is kind of like living in the South, actually, where there are lots of big, dramatic actions full of urgency and despair that finally may as well not have happened for all the consequence they have. You can exhibit all sorts of peculiar behavior where I'm from, just don't expect your neighbors to talk to you about it. Probably because they are all too busy being peculiar themselves to notice or even care.

I grew up on the Gulf Coast in Pass Christian, Mississippi (pronounced pass-chris-tchan-miss-sippy, with the syllables folding into and on top of each other. It's a slow-hurry sound like your first two sips of a good drink), just east of New Orleans, where both my parents grew up in families going back many generations in Louisiana. My grandfather's secretary, Miss Plauche, used to walk to work through the New Orleans business district every day facing backward and would return home the same way, just facing the other . . . You get the picture. No one ever said a word. Not to her, not to anybody. But as Momma always said, "Well, it's not like she's hurting anyone." Of course, it did give new meaning to the expression "You know, I bumped into Miss Plauche today."

One early summer morning when I was young, my grandfather, in a gesture weighted with importance for its rarity, let me accompany him to his office. We sat in the serious-business air-conditioned quiet, he at his massive desk solidly engaged in the Wall Street Journal, and I on the thick, plush carpet, stomach down, head resting on my hands, as close as I could get to peer out the floor-to-ceiling windows way high above the city. The people far below, so many dark-suited men among brightly clothed women, moved in chaotic order like a game of marbles expertly won, until the flow was broken and a parting occurred. Then I saw Miss Plauche walking backward toward the big bank building. Her silver-haired head bobbed along like a sleepwalker meandering undisturbed toward her dream's destination. As I lay there watching her peculiar backward stride, I wondered what it was she was leaving behind in her past that she still needed so badly to see. And why didn't anyone ever ask her?


Excerpted from Aftermath of Dreaming by DeLaune Michel Copyright © 2006 by DeLaune Michel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This

Jerry Stahl

DeLauné Michel writes with the voice of a troubled angel, at once painfully funny and devastatingly real.

Meghan Daum

DeLauné Michel makes a striking debut here, delivering a novel that is as emotionally earnest as it is socially astute.

Whitney Terrell

Michel’s fine a harrowing, bi-coastal meditation on unrequited love and fame from a writer schooledin southern humor.

Josh Getlin

...a promising novelist with a strong literary pedigree...DeLauné Michel’s Aftermath of Dreaming is rich in insights.

Christopher Rice

“Mesmerizing, compelling, and deeply moving. A real and rare accomplishment.”

Diane Leslie

A terrific read. One of the few great novels of the last two years. DeLauné Michel is a marvelous writer.

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