My grandmother sawed the tree that fell on me. We were cleaning her yard after Pops died. She never gave a warning, like she wanted me dead so I couldn’t get the Corvette he’d willed me. I slept a couple days in the hospital, woke happy and generous and gave her the car.
The dreams started then, continuing like TV episodes. I was helping a guy named Dave build his house. It was a masterwork on the side of the mountain. He had a New York architect named Hans. Hans used dynamite carefully. A few tumbling rocks on the road below, where I stood waving a red flag. Gram drove expertly around the stones. Each time she passed she wore a different bright scarf.
Footers were piped the first night, and I woke up and went to my hospital delivery job. I passed Gram working in her garden. I waved. She looked old and sore.
The next night they said: grab a hammer and nail what Hans says.
I stopped at Gram’s for lunch, so sore I could barely walk. I explained I was laboring at night in dreams. My fingers were bruised. She confessed to night driving.
The house was climbing the hill. It was breathtaking. Giant plate glass windows came with cranes. I wasn’t allowed on the installation. They made me wash them, since it was my grandmother taking the hairpin curves below and raising the dust. I swung in a harness far above the earth. I yelled until I remembered it was a dream.
I was fucking up my day job, delivering to wrong places. I left truck doors open and critical stuff flew out. I was fired but said, “Hans needs me anyway!”
Hans and his flying buttresses! His vaulted ceilings! I was rolled in plaster and sawdust; hung from beams, baptized in waterfalls and brass fit showers. And the stairs, the circular stairs.
Gram drove up with sandwiches.
With no day job I stayed on my pill and at Dave’s house all the time. I wanted to think my presence helped. I was allowed to paint, on my back on giant scaffolds like Michelangelo. I and the lone brush as the others laughed around me with their rollers. In the bathrooms I painted fish on the walls. I had talent, finally; I signed each one.
Gram brought fresh fish from market, steamed in open patios by the cooks, served with fresh lime and herbs from the hanging gardens and Mexican beer.
It was never clear where we were, but the weather was moderate and a calm bay could be seen miles away. When I asked Dave he said, “Paradise.”
It was almost finished. Gram and I strolled the catwalks. The topmost room was a widow’s walk, with a telescope out to sea. Gram could see Pop coming, first by boat and then by car. Finally, he climbed the hundreds of steps to where we were. He was in the body of a young man, and they kissed.
I left them there to make love.
Gram died shortly after that, in her sleep, of course. I stayed awake for the funeral, but then nodded off driving home. The bag hit me hard, and the dreams stopped.
I looked for the house for a long time. Did it exist outside my dreams? Probably not. But I kept on, driving the Corvette up any familiar mountain, scanning all directions.
I drove up and down the coast.
One day I noticed the glint of windows way up within the trees. Through binoculars I spied the catwalk, the widow’s walk. I drove up until I came to the gate. I pressed a button. A few seconds later a woman spoke. I recognized her accent. “Mercalia! It’s Joel! I helped Dave build the house!”
Silence on the other end, until Dave got on. “Joel, huh? There were a lot of guys working. I don’t recall names.”
“I did the fish.”
“I could use some more of those. I have this big house, and now it’s just me, lonely.”
“I know what you mean. I lived for this house.”
He buzzed me into the hairpin driveway. It went on and on. Low clouds drifted across. I finally reached the house, twenty levels rising precariously, waterfalls trickling. A parrot landed on my fender. “Give it to me, Pops,’ it said, in Gram’s voice, and I blushed.
I shook Dave’s hand and we went on a tour. “Came out great,” I said. I planned out my fish in great detail, but then wondered if I could do them awake.
“I hope you can stay a while,” Dave said. “I could use the company.”
But I didn’t know if I could do anything that wasn’t in a dream.
Gary Moshimer has stories in Frigg, Pank, Word Riot, Night Train, and many other places. He lives in Pennsylvania.