He dreamed of grass last night, the old man did. It was the greenest he had ever seen. He could feel it under his feet, smell the cuttings. He dreamed of sun, so warm, so bright it hurt his eyes. It was the color and taste of lemon, at once solid enough to walk on its rays, and yet so liquid he could almost wash his face in it.

Somewhere in the deep snow-packed darkness of the night, he dreamed of the young days, the old man did, of the golden beaches and the very, very blue Pacific that lapped at the beach like a dog happy to be home. They were all there in his dream, they were, the beautiful young women strolling by without looking to the left or the right.

He recognized some of the faces even thought he knew they were old now like him, perhaps sitting in their personal sunsets, holding their grandchildren in their laps, telling them stories, telling them over and over again. In his dream he knew that they probably did not remember him, perhaps those one or two who always paid for the wine. They would remember.

He dreamed of those girls and the golden sand, the old man did, of the way the hot wind burned up the coast from Mexico. He remembered the tastes, oh yes, he did, the tastes, even in his sleep in this winter darkness he could taste.

He dreamed of the tastes of tequila and limes and plates of tacos in the Monkey Bar in El Paso, of scotch and bourbon and steak tartare in New Orleans, martinis and caviar behind rain washed windows in San Francisco, sake and soba noodles in Tokyo and fried shrimp in Hong Kong.

He dreamed of her, the red haired girl with snow in her hair as he shared his street vendor hot dog with her on a corner where the wet streets were flooded with the glow of neon lights and cold bursts of wind.

He could see so clearly the mustard on her lips that he kissed away. And then he woke up and saw that it was still dark and still snowing. These dreams, this is what happens when the dark cold hangs around too long, when it gets behind the eyes and clouds the mind. Maybe it was too much wine. No, he thought. It’s the long cold that won’t go away.

He could remember in this dream how he always compared the great snows to the ghost buffalos, the way the Lakota Sioux did. All the white ghost buffalos that were the many storms and how when he was younger he would fight them with his shovel sword, swinging and stabbing, holding his own against their fierce wind as She, who always applauded him from behind frosted glass, applauded and waved.

But these were different, these ghost buffalos. They came not one at a time but in thundering herds. They were giants these buffalo, fiercer than when he was young, hungrier for revenge, unforgiving, unrelenting. They seemed to remember how he had fought them and won. Now it seemed, they had come to take him out.

So the old man, his eyes still full of sleep, his mind echoing the memories of the great days, stood by the window watching these white ghost buffalos roar down from the north, whipping and lashing, breaking the trees and making the fiercest dogs cower by the stoves.

He had his old sword, the weathered shovel, but now instead of wielding it, he simply leaned on it for support.

When dawn came the white buffalos vanished like magic. But he knew they would be back. The old man went back to bed and pulled the covers over his head. He hoped those sweet dreams would come back as well.

Yes, he thought, this is what happens when you grow old and yes, it was the wine.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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