By: Benji Gutsin
At last, the Dream Peddler dropped Loraine off at school then turned around to return to their shop. When they arrived they walked back over to the front counter and plucked the nightmare jar from the countertop; turning it in the palm of their hand while looking it over with a critical eye. “Well, you certainly are going to be a project, but I think I can turn you into something someone will like,” they said heading into the back of their shop. The nightmare growled and thrashed about in the jar like a savage animal.
The Dream Peddler went to work. They dipped their hands in their vat of apathy; its baby blue slime created a thin shiny protective barrier over their hands so they wouldn’t be affected by any of the emotions they were about to handle, good or bad.
They went back over to the nightmare. First, came the hate press. They placed the jar in a compression chamber and compressed all the hate out of the nightmare. A greenish black slime oozed out through little puncture holes within the bottom of the glass jar. The Dream Peddler then settled into a jar below it, which they would clean later. They were always surprised how much hate such little minds could bear.
Children were stronger than adults gave them credit for. Once all the hatred was squeezed and compressed out of the dream they poured it out into the fear juicer and crushed every ounce of fear out of it. The ingredients were prepared and the recipe was set. They opened the jar of joy and— wait.
What was that noise? They looked up, ready to shout at whoever was disturbing their work. Didn’t they make it clear with the sign out the window how delicate dream peddling was?
“Dream Peddler! Get out here,” a wiry, stern man called, his baton rapping on the glass panes. He had a stern gaze; the aura of a man who didn’t like being turned down or talked back to.
The Dream Peddler swallowed everything they were about to say. “Chief Officer Purcell! Yes, of course I would love to. Just give me a moment to close up shop and take care of a few things. I promise I’ll be right out.” Without missing a beat, they closed the jar of joy tight. They put everything away neat and tidy, got out a jar and labeled it, then set it in their special cabinet where they stored all of their works in progress.
Purcell waved his hand leaning against the side of their shop. “It’s about to be Warden Purcell when I’m done with you,”
They locked it up tight tugging on the handle thrice over to be absolutely sure it was locked then turned to face Purcell. “Sorry for the wait, you should have told me you were coming, I would have prepared something for– wait… what?”
“Don’t give me that smarmy fluff! You know damn well what you did!” He barked.
“What I… did, sir? I’m sorry I don’t follow.”
Purcell’s face began to get red as a beet. It would have been comical if the Dream Peddler was not the one getting the short end of his rage. “This morning! Earlier this morning! You assaulted me!”
The Dream Peddler looked at the man with a vacant stare unsure if he was making it up or just plain mad, that was until they remembered that they had accidentally collided with someone earlier in the morning when they were running down the street to make Loraine’s dream. “Oh! Oh sir, I am so sorry! If I knew it was you I would have apologized a bit better but I was in a rush and….” The Dream Peddler trailed off.
Purcell looked them over then let out a stern huff as if he was a bull. “See that it doesn’t happen again or I’ll cuff you right where you stand you got me?”
“Yes, sir. Of course,”
Purcell looked down and fixated on the Dream Peddler’s hands. “Why are your hands glittery?”
The Dream Peddler chuckled. “Oh! Sorry, I forgot to wipe off the apathy,” they said wiping their hands on their apron.
“So, what are you doing here?” Purcell gave them a look over.
The Dream Peddler hesitated for a moment. “Well sir, I’ve been traveling for quite some time now moving from town to town because I’m looking for something dear to me that I’ve lost. And I’d like much to get it back.”
“Is that so?” Purcell raised an eyebrow.
“Yes. It’s very important and I’ve missed it for a very long time, but I’m not sure where it’s gone.”
“What exactly is this thing you’re looking for then?” he asked.
“Nothing you would find very much importance in sir,” Peddler said.
The officer chuckled, “You think I’m some kind of idiot?”
“Of course not sir, I don’t think that of you at all.”
“Then, you’ll have no problem telling me why you showed up out of nowhere and started messing with my town. Isn’t that right? You think I’m the kind of man that will just let freaks let you just come in and messing up my town?”
The Dream Peddler fidgeted. “Well you see––”
“Finally! Dream Peddler! Please, I need your services!” a tearful voice cried from around the corner.
“Oh dear, if you’ll please excuse me, I’m needed. Please come by some time though, I always love the company,” they said, trying to be as polite as they could. They walked over to the man in tears placing a calm hand on his shoulder in reassurance. “It’ll be all right sir, let’s go into my shop and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you Dream Peddler.”
The Dream Peddler unlocked his shop door and held it open for the man to step inside. “Now then, why don’t you tell me what seems to be the matter?”
“I tried to catch you this morning, but you ran off before I could get you, then later I came back but you were out and–– please, please I need help.” He begged.
The Dream peddler took the man’s hands in their own. “It’s alright. I’m here now. Take a deep breath.”
The man nodded and did as he was told. He pulled his hands away then reached into his wallet to pull out a dream. The poor thing looked like it was decaying right before both their eyes into a fine light powder, like it would disappear at any moment.
“Oh no…” The Dream Peddler took the dream into their hand and cradled it like one would a dying child. “What happened?”
The man looked down with tears in his eyes. “Last week, I lost my wife to an accident just outside of town and the only part of her I managed to save was her dream.”
“You have no one else? No one to fall back on?” The Dream Peddler asked.
The man looked down at his shoes. “My son has a friend, a little girl his age that lives down the street from us. He likes to play with her, but she doesn’t like me much for some reason. And well, now it’s just myself and my son. Ever since that day, her dream has been getting worse and worse. Please, Dream Peddler, this might be all I have left of her. I don’t know what to do. I miss her every day, this is all I have left of her, I can’t bear to lose her again.” Tears were welling up in his eyes. He looked like a broken man.
The Dream Peddler placed a hand on the man’s shoulder in reassurance. “I’ll see what I can do, please just stay put for a bit.”
They ran into their workshop to get started. They threw their apron on as fast as they could and placed the poor dream on their work table to flip through their dream recipe book.
“Okay, let’s see… two parts happiness to one-part nostalgia…a week…light coating of bittersweet-ness…make sure bittersweet-ness does not come in contact with the dream or it will disintegrate into regret. Right. Easy enough. I can do this.” They smoothed down their apron to stop their hands from shaking so much taking in a deep breath. The man in their shop seemed so utterly lost, and frantic. It was nerve wracking to think so many aspirations and hopes rested on their shoulders. They took a deep breath and stepped back for a moment, they could do this. They could do it. The Dream Peddler mixed the ingredients together until it turned into glittery cookie dough-glop. Without sparing another second, they grabbed an empty jar hanging from the ceiling and set the dream inside. They poured the mixture over top the dream. Then, they sealed it tight and put it in the sun to absorb. They couldn’t shake the poor thing or it could have very well died right then and there.
The Dream Peddler walked out of their workshop and looked at the almost ruined man. “I did everything I could, now all we can do is wait and hope the dream takes the positive emotions in,” they said.
“Thank you, thank you so much Dream Peddler,” the man wrote down his name, number, and address down and handed it to them. “If there is anything I can do, anything at all, please call.”
The Dream peddler took the man’s card looking it over. “I will. Thank you, Mr. Achard.”
“Please, call me Claud.”
“Claud then, I’ll do my best to look after her dream, I’ll keep it alive. I promise to not give up on it.”
“Thank you, thank you so much,” Claud said. “Have a good night sir. Dream well.”
“You too,” they said as the man left their store.