I don’t know know why my dreams are so full of story writing, but once again last night I dreamt that I was writing a story. This time the character of the dream was a little different. When my children were little I often told them and their cousins stories, especially when we were driving or camping and the like. I never planned them out ahead of time, but they often revolved around a gimmick of some sort. I think of a story-gimmick as a story-generating machine: with a good gimmick in hand I would spin a yarn filled with silly happenings. Usually the kids were in the story as well, as in our endless search for the McMurtry chocolate mine in the Sierra Nevada. One of these stories was about two little kids named Josie and Jessica. The gimmick was that Josie could turn himself into any animal he wanted but he coudld stay that animal for only 30 minutes, and if he did this trick too many times in one day, then he would be stuck as the animal for 24 hours. This story-gimmick opened up a vast array of funny stories. Those were the stories I concocted 30 years ago.
Well, I guess it was time to have a new story-generating gimmick for my grandchildren, and in my dream this is what I concocted. The gimmick revolved around a typology of witches (who in the dream were both male and female) — and yes, in the dream this was built around a 2x2 table: (1) are their powers strong or weak; (2) do their powers work at a distance or only by touch. Then there were two other types, not in the basic set: (3) witches who could confer powers for a short time on nonwitches, but themselves had no powers. These witches were especially useful on construction sites where they could confer superhuman strength on a worker for a few hours. (4) Witches who were called “duos” who had a very wide range of powers, but those powers were only active when they were holding the hand of another duo. Most duos never learned that they are in fact duos, for they only become aware of their powers once in physical contact with another duo.
The opening scene of the story in my dream: Safira was visiting Vernon. Vernon was four years old; Safira five months older. Little Ida was one and a half. Vernon proclaims enthusiastically: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fly?” “That would be fun,” Safira says and then hugs Vernon. Their hands touch and they rise from the floor.” And so the story begins.
Two other parts of the story-sketch. What to do with Ida? She needs to be part of this. This was my solution: Becky and Jenny soon learn that S&V have these powers. They go to the library to research the matter and find a very musty old book that talks about all of the different kinds of witches. In the chapter on duos, the book says that a person only becomes a duo on their fourth birthday. So, the big question is: does Ida have witch power? On Ida's fourth birthday Safira and Vernie hold hands, first just the two of them. They fly around the yard together. Then they land next to Ida, hold her hand and say "let's fly" and they shoot up into the sky like a rocket. They are the first Trio in the history of witches!
The other element in the story: I am the narrator of the story. I'm explaining various things about witch history and witch powers. I then say, "most witches are lovely people, trying to make life better for people. Sometimes they play tricks, but these are almost always playful. There are, however a few witches who do great harms. They are Evil Witches." Vernie then jumps up and yells, "No evil witches in my story." I explain that there are always bad guys in stories, that this is needed to give the story some conflict and tension. Vernon then says "My Daddy says that you don't need conflict in a story." [Adriano's most recent play, directed by Becky and still playing in Philly, is called "A Perfect Day." It is deliberately a story that is not built around conflict.]
So, there you have it. Once the kids are a little older -- four-ish I think -- I'll begin telling them the story of the three little witches and their adventures, with no evil witches.
2. Medical Update
I had my first outpatient clinic visit today, preceded by labs. The labs were super-annoying. I was scheduled for 10:20, but the lab had grossly overbooked appointments, so I wasn't seen until 11:05. Then the labs were drawn by a tech in training, so every step had to be checked by her supervisor. They had in their orders that my PICC line dressing needed to be changed, which was in fact an error since the nurse had changed it just before my discharge on Monday, which added another twenty minutes. And then they did not have in their orders that I needed blood drawn directly from my peripheral blood (rather than via the PICC line) to check the level of the anti-rejection drug in my blood. The tech-in-training first tried to get a blood draw from my left arm, but she couldn't get the blood to flow. She wiggled the needle around, trying to find a vein, but to no effect. So, her supervisor took over and took the blood from the back of my hand. She was also a little heavy handed -- no Etienne, alas.
Then I went to the clinic to see Dr. Hari, the head of my BMT team. Mostly excellent news: Hemoglobin jumped to 9.9, the highest it has been since March; 3,700 neutrophils per microliter; platelets only a little low. But also a slightly ominous number: 2% of my white cells were blasts. Blasts. The dreaded blasts. There are, however, two kinds of blasts: immature neutrophils that spilled out of the bone marrow because it's working in overdrive; and leukemia cells. It could be the case that these are all of the first kind of blast, but I suspect that they are the first reappearance of leukemia. We knew that the chemo and radiation I had in the run-up to the transplant was very unlikely to have obliterated completely my defective hematopoietic stems cells, so it was to be expected that we would have to contend with remnants producing leukemia. I suppose I had thought there would be a longer period before we had to contend with this, but as we say in cancerworld, it is what it is. I will have a bone marrow biopsy next Wednesday, which will definitively tell us what's going on. Dr. Hari said that we are in a very good position to fight this and that they have lots of options. The basic idea is to shift the levels of anti-rejection medications to allow the new neutrophils more room to maneuver in attacking these leukemia cells, to put me back on some oral chemo, and do some other things to strengthen the new donor cells. This is sobering, but I am not discouraged. And perhaps these will, in the end, be the happy blasts rather than the malign ones. No evil witches allowed!