Back in her pueblo, down south of the capital, Carlotta had woven the most splendid dreams of water rising up through slat floor and civilizations that came away as sugar in the mouth. Cane sugar. She could do humans dancing, the scent of desire and ajo in the oil, a little mouse scrabbling in and out of seams in a mountaintop. She had learned the craft from her abuelita, how to keep steady with the shuttle and introduce the vision through the colors brought to the loom. All through the night, she would stay awake practicing, sending dreams first out to her papi, then to her little sisters, then to her first novio. They were unrefined acts of love, textured if not always flawless. Yet, her abuelita would scold her as they sat blinking around the kitchen table in the mornings.
“Who will pay for the cow, muñeca, when they get the milk for free?”
Carlotta took the job at the dream-making factory when it seemed the two little boys she’d had she would continue to have alone. It offered dental, paid vacations, and a nursery for the niño — not that the nursery was much, Carlotta thought, in the way of child care. All the woman in charge did was watch the cariños sleep, occasionally sing, pat until sleep was again dispatched. The dreams they gave the factory babies were of the lowest quality, ones too flimsy to be sent out.
Occasionally, during her break, Carlotta would sneak her own dreams off to her children — ripe, red ones that tanged turquoise inside.
When she was called one Tuesday to the jefe’s office, she figured that could be what the trouble was about because, sure enough, there was trouble. Señor Matito Suarez had the employee manual out on his desk.
“Do you know why I have called you here?” he asked her.
Pues. Carlotta decided it was the best to stay quiet and wait.
Señor Matito Suarez opened up the manual to a certain page and pushed it to his employee. “Maybe this will help refresh your memory.”
Carlotta scanned down the tidy black print.
ARTICLE 17: The language of all exported dreams shall be American English.
That didn’t apply to Carlotta because she worked on sleep spindles and only the first moments of REM, so images.
ARTICLE 18: the factory prohibits the expression of any religious or political opinions in dreams.
Okay, so occasionally she showed poverty. They all did — it was natural to use some autobiography — but she hadn’t pulled any stunts like Rosario, who had sent out a whole batch of Virgen visions last Easter Sunday, all saying, You have killed my son. Repent. Repent. I do not know if he shall rise again.
ARTICLE 19: no dream shall contain deeper meaning.
“Have you found the problem?” Señor Matito Suarez asked, and when Carlotta nodded, he continued not unkindly, “Our customers” (Americans) “do not want significance to their dreams — no voodoo, no signs, no symbolism. Subconscious garble, that’s what they want. Entertainment that they’ll soon forget.”
Before Carlotta could explain, Señor Matito Suarez persisted, “The repetition of the white horse coming through the bedroom window, for instance, and that river that circles back on itself, those things have simply got to stop.”
“But it’s impossible to make a dream without meaning,” Carlotta protested.
In a way, when she’d made the horse that came to nestle aside the alarm clock of the sleeper, she’d only meant to show a creature that she loved.
Señor Matito Suarez, trying to joke, tells Carlotta she should watch more TV.
“Why would I make a dream like a TV program when we already have TV?” Carlotta demands. “Dreams are meant to do another thing.”
Her abuelita had never told her that outright, but that was because she’d never had to explain something so essential.
Señor Matito Suarez puts her on probation: Her job as a dream maker will be over by daybreak if they don’t see an improvement in her manufacturing.
Carlotta returns to her loom, the word job turning over as a plastic geometry in her head.
They want dreams without sense?
Because she’s already behind quota, Carlotta starts them all as fall sequences — just void and gravity. Except, instead of letting them end, she keeps the dreams going through the impact so that the sleepers will rip through nothing to land
on trash piles with gummy ketchup packets
on the dust that billows up to reveal lost women’s shallow graves
two legs, broken beneath you
a girl staking threads to splint your estrellado bones against her own rib cage
the purple yellow keen of the world that comes for her dark, deft hands