I dreamed I was running last night. This is not unusual. I often dream that I am running, especially when I haven't been running for a while. (I always wonder if I burn more calories when I dream that I'm running, as opposed to, say, flying.) What was unusual about the dream was that I was running from a sniper.
I haven't been paying much attention to the news lately. I've been working on a screenplay and basically shutting out as much of the outside world as possible. That way I can create a fictional world where things happen that I can understand. But the news tends to seep in no matter what you do to stop it. Like mildew.
I know that we are still planning to invade Iraq, even though we still haven't come up with a really good excuse. I know that the terrorists attacked Bali, which just seemed so remote until I learned about the local surfer who was there for his 41st birthday and got killed in the blast. His friends are wearing t-shirts that say "Terrorists Don't Surf."
And I keep hearing about this sniper in Maryland.
In my dream I was running through a park and I remember thinking that I should keep zig-zagging so that he couldn't get a bead on me. I learned that from a movie called The In-Laws. Peter Falk plays a CIA agent who gets dentist Alan Arkin involved in a dangerous mission. At one point, Arkin has to run past a sniper while Falk coaches him from the sidelines: "Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!"
It was clear in the dream that the reason I was running was to provide a target for the sniper, hoping to draw his fire so the FBI could catch him. I was even wearing red. I had been thinking before I went to bed that I wished there was something I could do to help. Apparently this was the brilliant idea I came up with. The beauty of the imagination is that it is always trying to make sense out of things that make no sense.
They showed a guy on TV filling up at a local Maryland gas station. He looked nervous. Two or three of the sniper's victims were shot while at gas stations. Naturally I thought of a scene from The Jerk where a sniper is trying to shoot Steve Martin and instead keeps puncturing oil cans. Martin sees what's happening and shouts "He hates the cans! Stay away from the cans!" I remembered reading about one of the Rangers who was pinned down by enemy fire in Mogadishu when the two Black Hawk helicopters went down. He and his buddy watched as the Somali gunfire riddled the tail section of the wrecked chopper with bullet holes. The Ranger turned to his buddy and yelled, "They hate the cans! Stay away from the cans!"
Making jokes seems inappropriate, and yet we can't stop them. If you can't make sense out of something, maybe the next best thing to do is make fun of it.
I was watching West Wing last week and President Bartlett was talking to Sam about how no one seems to be able to come up with a solution to the big mess we've gotten ourselves into and so we just keep killing each other. Later Sam tells the President that he, for one, hasn't given up trying to come up with a solution. If things become too overwhelming, sometimes it seems like giving up is the only option. But if we can make a joke, take a step back, be imaginative, maybe we can come up with something that no one has ever tried before.
Who knows, maybe running around with a big red target painted on your ass will help catch a sniper. Just remember: Serpentine! Serpentine!