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by Fred Vogel


Bill was set in his ways. He needed to follow routines for his life to make sense. His late parents were stern, unhappy Germans who had stressed the importance of having order in one's life.

Now fifty-two, Bill knew time was running out for him to produce a child. He wanted someone he could call his own, someone he could leave his money and his wisdom to. He thought of adopting. He thought of not adopting. He thought of placing an ad for someone to conceive a child with him. He thought of not placing the ad. He wasn't sure what to do, so he did nothing.

Bill's diet hadn't wavered for the past thirty years. He was a huge believer in the lunch for breakfast, dinner for lunch, and breakfast for dinner routine, a program he believed he had invented.

Breakfast was always a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on raisin bread, carrot sticks, and a Coca-Cola. Lunch was a grilled chicken breast and a green salad with avocado and dried cranberries, along with a bottle of beer. His afternoon snack consisted of mixed nuts, hard cheeses, and a glass of white wine. Dinner was a generous bowl of Rice Krispies with whole milk, a teaspoon of sugar, and half a banana, washed down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. His evening snack was a handful of Peanut M&M's, enjoyed one at a time while watching reruns of "Friends" from his recliner.

At night, he hopped into bed at nine-fifteen sharp, read for forty-five minutes, then dozed off at ten.

It was during these sleeping hours that Bill allowed himself to run wild, to throw caution and routine out the window. He experienced crazy, wonderful adventures while dreaming - speeding down dark, winding roads in a sporty convertible, drinking with dubious strangers in smoky bars, kissing the most beautiful woman in the room, and swimming far off the coastline without fear of the multitude of sea creatures lurking below.

He dreamt of watching his parents frolicking in their backyard pool, showing affection to one another like they never had allowed themselves to do while alive. Those were his favorite dreams.

Bill often dreamt of a beautiful dark-haired woman, sitting on a park bench, reading a paperback. Being it was but a dream, Bill had the courage of Don Juan and would saunter up and ask her point blank if she would have his baby. But before he could hear her response, he would wake in a cold sweat and lie in bed for hours, thinking of nothing but the woman.

Bill loved Amazon. He could order whatever he so desired and have it delivered within a few days. He was constantly on the lookout for new things to buy - a live John Prine CD, the complete works of O. Henry, organic strawberry soap, an underwater flashlight.

One item that grabbed his immediate attention was something called The Voyager Dream Machine, which proclaimed to measure brain activities and record detailed information about any dreams the dreamer may be dreaming. Bill realized such a product could be the key to his knowing what the woman in the park was about to say to him.

When the dream machine arrived two days later, Bill couldn't contain himself and tore into the cardboard box like a child on Christmas morning. He assembled the machine in no time and had it hooked up and ready for action by nine-fifteen that evening.

Although the woman didn't appear the first few nights, Bill was satisfied this new gadget accurately described what had taken place while he was asleep. He discovered that his parents had been acting in such a playful manner because they had smoked marijuana. And that the most beautiful woman in the room he had been kissing was none other than his grade school teacher, Miss Lomax, which came as a complete shock to his system and sensibilities.

The night Bill had a dream about the woman, he awoke in a cold sweat, rolled onto his side, and flicked on the dream machine.

Hey there, good lookin'. How'd you like to have my baby?

Listen, buddy, you really need to stop bugging me with that stupid question. I've told you over and over again, I don't want to have your baby. I have two children of my own and a husband who would murder you if he ever found out you were harassing me like this. I come here every Friday to sit on this bench and read my book. It's one of my routines and I wish you would be respectful of that and just leave me the hell alone.

After breakfast, Bill placed a call to the sperm bank and asked for their next available appointment.


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