More turned out for the experimental feast than expected. Fats Hugo was consistently told to shut up about his dreams, he could drone on and on about every detail he could remember, and his memory was agile. While his culinary partner, Chubb Champo, was down in the bayou, scouting new ingredients, Fats decided to host the party he’d been stewing on for years; a supreme celebration of dreams. They were both larger men, the product of their ample tastings and re-tastings and devouring of a dish so good, so artful, that cravings couldn’t be suppressed; but oftentimes it was the size of their egos and competitive compulsions that boxed each other out.
In the expanse of a warehouse-turned-arts-gallery-and-party-space in a rundown industrial corridor on Chicago’s west side, Fats had some breathing room for the weekend. He could relax, with a little less judgment in the air, could fully commit to doing his own “thang.” He told his friends, and friends of friends, to bring their sleeping bags, and their appetites. Some even pitched pup tents on the concrete floor where they were surrounded by a canopy of exposed brick and cracked skylights.
Fats Hugo had spent the afternoon boiling up his oyster stew. He veered from tried and true recipes, mixing in crushed melatonin, loose Valerian root, and shiitake mushrooms for their B6 vitamins. He hovered over the vat like a witch, ready to influence a seeker’s visions. He’d occasionally sneak a sip. He was pleased by the warm cream and the gristle. The concoction oozed with hints of a tidal pool heated by a summer sun, thickened by the squirts of a rum-rosy, aggressive masturbator; the seaman’s semen. This made Fats laugh each time he pictured it; his attendees would be a mix of those who’d never minded the texture of cum on the tongue, and those naive enough, to not make the association.
As the few dozen guests arrived, Fats moved the vat from an old, tucked away kitchen in the corner of the building, and onto a hot plate that was arranged on a wobbly wooden table, in the middle of the large open floor plan of the warehouse. Behind him were the two wheeless food trucks he and Chubb normally served from, but this evening, he didn’t want to be serving from inside a window. Even though he never had a problem with projecting and thinking of things to say, he took advantage of the long afternoon to think up a clear set of directions. He wanted to exert an element of control, so that the partaking could ultimately, be more freeing.
He cupped his hands and bellowed to quiet their chatter. “For those of you who’ve never made it out to one of my suppers, welcome to The Belly. I’ve requested ahead of time not to bring beer, not to bring weed, even to take a few days off from toking. You all didn’t listen, some of you did, those that took me seriously will enjoy better results of my call to dream your ass off.”
Many laughed. The few who had brought their own beers, cheered and whooped. He pointed at them. “You black out, this is pointless, know that.”
“If you know me, you know I firmly believe that intense dreams are a way of life. Sometimes I’m a pothead, sometimes I’ll cut that shit out for awhile. When I do, something bizarre is unleashed when I go night night. Sometimes you gotta do that, it’s a proven cycle. THC inhibits REM sleep. When you start to get it out of your system, the REM stage gets a little stickier.”
“Dreaming, for me, it’s my church. It’s where I commune with what’s really propping this world up. My own ad hoc religion centers on dreams. Because they reflect what nature continues to tell us, that vast and unpredictable differentiations should be celebrated and explored.”
“I look forward to it every night, like one looks forward to their TV shows. Only dreams aren’t so predictable, and are ultimately more informative. It’s a liquid mash-up of sensory storage that spontaneously curates its own broadcast. If you get good at it, you’ll find yourself able to lucid dream, check out that nether terrain, you’ll realize it’s better than video games.”
“I myself am a little concerned when my dreams pick up a mundane streak, as if the core of my soul is resigning itself to a lack of magic in the world. Dreams can be a refuge where the delightfully unexpected should thrive.”
“A few Christmases ago my aunt made oyster stew, and I had the wildest, most colorful dreams I’ve ever had. I dreamed that I descended down into a spiral shaped city of the future, and I had this red, bushy beard that beautiful women stroked, and they called me their Gingerio with voices that could make you melt. I’ve had a longing to repeat that, to even enhance it. Oysters are known to make one dream like crazy, so does Bleu Stilton cheese. If you’re adventurous, please, sprinkle some crumbles in your bowl.”
“I know I bore most when I talk about my dreams. But I know the feeling, it can be pretty tedious to hear it from someone else. I do try to sell it though. I’ve gotten good at remembering mine. The key is to keep a fluid narrative. When you stutter and reach for details, that’s when it’s like, c’mon, wrap it up dude.”
“I hope you’ll chow down, and sleep over. Some of you seem pretty prepared for that. Thank you for indulging me. And check out this bro over here, in full on slumber party mode. Cool pajamas. Are those crickets? Yeah, yeah, they’re crickets. I’m gonna pretend he’s Jiminy Cricket. Sharp choice, bro.”
The fellow in pajamas tugged at the fabric, spun for all to see, and bowed to scattered applause.
“Make yourselves cozy. I hope you’ll hang around for a bit in the morning, share the gnarly places you went to, maybe clue us in on some kinky secrets – no judgments – over sticky buns and espresso, the sweet and the bitter to reorient. Get you talking about your dreams, start gaining some fluency in a language of images and impressions. It’ll be like campfire tales, only the ambiance will be dawn and dew and ashes.”
He motioned for all to come closer, to pick up a bowl so he could begin serving. Some were quick to comply, others were slow to drift on over. Some formed a tight circle around Fats, hesitant to grab a dish and spoon. They wanted to familiarize themselves with the scent, as Fats lifted the lid and steam escaped. Fats’ own nostrils flared as he inhaled, and began ladling the stew for a petite brunette who was the first in line.
“Please make me happy with the sound of slurping. This is my medicine for your mind. If you want to consider anything a magical being, don’t look far from the oyster. Little solid mollusks live their whole life and develop, so they can perk up the subconscious display during our shuteye. Maybe they have other purposes. They taste good. Supposedly, they make you frisky. Some like the pearl. I like what they do to dreams, and I’ve been itching to share that with you. I was itching so bad I snuck into this old restaurant I used to work at, put on the cook’s garb, walked right in the back door, washed my hands like I was starting a shift, marched into the walk-in freezer, picked up a sealed styrofoam case that was just shipped in from the Atlantic, walked back out, kept walking. My heart beat hard to remind myself of the risk I put myself in being an oyster pirate. These would cost you $3.00 a half shell at this fucking place. No one called me back as I hustled out the door and into the alley, though he blood flushing my ears convinced me of a holler or two.”
It was Jiminy Cricket’s turn. After his bowl was two-thirds full he nodded to Fats, that he might fill it up a little more. Fats smiled and gave him a thumbs up with his free hand.
“Put a cartoon oyster shell on your jammies next time. Slumber hard, my friend, like your brain is taking a gigantic shit.”
The story above is an inspired spin-off of the novella “Probiotic Hot Sauce” by the same author, published in Zizobotchi Papers: volume 1, winter, 2015. To read more about the culinary warehouse world of Fats Hugo and Chubb Champo, please visit the link below to order a paperback or Kindle copy of the publication: