Don’t Brake for Pandas

or Why Afternoon Naps are Evil

I’ve been tired, cranky and head-achy all day, and after the third call from my mother who was both kvetching about how she’s on dial up after five days of having the local geeks try to install TelMex’s brand of high speed internet access which is about a third the price of what she’s been paying, I simply couldn’t take it any more. I went into the bedroom, turned out all the lights, and curled up with a dog on either side of me. I felt that falling into sleep sensation almost instantly.

And then I dreamed:

I was in a car with Fuzzy, my mother, and Ira. We’d been at someone else’s house for a party, and now we were driving back home. As we drove the wind grew stronger and stronger until finally we noticed odd things flying through the air – real estate lawn signs with feature sheet boxes still attached, barbecue grills, sandwich boards from different businesses – stuff like that. Fuzzy was driving, and was dodging everything, but I could hear each item impact another car. Then we swerved into the trees, and back out, and there were two small animals in the middle of the road, crying piteously.

“Look!” shouted my mother. “Pandas!” And we all saw pandas. We didn’t even question the presence of pandas in California. Or Texas. I think it was Texas. But it might have been California. So we stopped, and rescued the pandas, wrapping them in beach towels – because there are always beach towels, and anyway, I know the rule from the Guide. Not “Don’t Panic,” though that’s a good general rule. The other one. “Always know where your towel is.”

But I digress.

So we rescued the pandas with beach towels, and then I looked at them and said, “Don’t they bite. And for that matter, don’t they come from China?”

Fuzzy said it didn’t matter, as long as we hadn’t hit them.

My step-father said, “Oh, they’re not really pandas, they’re fat raccoons. Too many Nutter Butters.”

“Don’t they carry rabies?” I asked.

“But they’re cute,” observed my mother.

As if offended by being called cute, one of them lashed out at me – apparently I was the most easily reached – with claw and tooth. My arm flared with pain. “Get rid of them!” I shouted.

My stepfather immediately hoisted them through the open window, using the beach towels as a sling. “Gone,” he said. “They landed on their tails – they’ll be fine.”

“They tore my shirt,” I complained. “And I’m bleeding.”

At that point, my hand and arm started swelling, the way rabies-infected bites and scratches do in a dream. Swelling and swelling, and hurting, and lots of blood. “Fuzzy,” I said. “Next exit. Hospital.”

So he took the next exit, and we ended up in a charming movie-perfect downtown, with many pedestrians, and we stopped at an intersection and asked for the hospital, just as white lines of pus started to race across my other arm (under the skin). But no one answered our plea for directions, in English, Spanish, or French.

Finally some woman with many braids, and lime green bullet-proof polyester clothing, came and said, “Hospital’s just around the corner on Zoolaloo Drive. Zoom now. Zoom to Zoolaloo.”

We pulled into the emergency room section and people rushed out, and I said I’d been bitten and they were about to inject me with a needle, when the claw marks on my hand started to bleed again, and my hand was so wet, and I woke up…


Now, normally I’d tell you that Zorro had been lying on my arm and licking it, or some such, but no. I woke, and he and Cleo were sitting exactly where they had been, just staring at me. The way dogs do.

No real pandas or raccoons were harmed in the making of this dream.