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Imagination House – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  November 25, 2017  /  19 Comments


Dream A Little Dream For Me

Thomas Calabrese… It was five am and time to go. Jim Halloran packed his 2006 Toyota Tacoma truck with some his personal belongings last night so that he would have very little to do now except eat breakfast, say goodbye to his parents and get on the road before  rush hour traffic started.

Jim had tried to explain to his mother and father why he felt compelled to leave his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, but could not quite articulate his position to either of their satisfaction, maybe because he wasn’t sure himself. He had been in the Marine Corps for ten years with five deployments to various combat zones and only managed to make it home once a year for a couple of weeks at a time during his military service. There was no logical reason for him to feel so restless, but feelings and emotions don’t fall into the realm of logic and reason

Once he was a few blocks from home with the entrance to Interstate I-70 in his sight, Jim pulled over and took a nickel from the ashtray, “Heads I go east, tails I go west,” then flipped the coin and entered the freeway with the sun to his back. He had no particular destination in mind and was in no hurry to get there and Jim kept looking for something that would stimulate his interest as he drove through the states of Kansas, Oklahoma  New Mexico and Texas  but after two days on the road, everything had just become a geographical blur.

Jim checked in to the Quality Inn in Kingman, Arizona just after sunset and the first thing he did was take a long hot shower, then call his parents to let them know where he was and that everything was fine. He fell asleep while watching the old police drama, Adam-12 on a local station and before long Jim was dreaming and half listening to the cop show at the same time. In his restless mind Jim had been accused of robbery and was being chased by Officers Malloy and Reed down the streets of his Kansas City neighborhood while his parents were yelling at him from their front porch to give up. When Jim was cornered in an alley, Martin Milner yelled out, “Freeze!”

“I’m innocent,” Jim responded.

“You might be not guilty, but no one is truly innocent,” Reed laughed

Malloy and Reed opened fire and Jim fell off the bed and banged his head against the nightstand and woke up. When he returned to reality, Jim looked at his wristwatch and saw that it was 1:30 am and as good a time as any to get back on the road. He couldn’t help but laugh when he thought what his life had become; memories from his past, excerpts from a 1960’s television show and an uncertain future blended into one indiscernible concoction.

When he exited Interstate Eight on to northbound five early Saturday morning, the sky was dark blue without a cloud in sight. Jim made a mental note to switch over to Highway One and take a leisurely drive up the coast and watch the sunrise over the ocean, when he saw the Del Mar racetrack in the distance. In less than a couple minutes the thought completely slipped his mind and before he knew it, he had driven all the way to Oceanside. Jim was in the slow lane as he approached the Mission Avenue exit when the work truck in front of him lost part of its load and he swerved on to the shoulder and had no other option but to exit the freeway to avoid an accident.

As he was driving east on Mission Avenue and looking for a place to turn around, Jim noticed an elderly man with a cane leaving the Veteran Resource Center. The man stumbled and caught himself by grabbing a street sign. Jim turned right on Barnes Street, parked, got out of his truck and rushed over to check on the man.

“Are you alright?” Jim asked.

“I got a little dizzy, I’ll be fine,” The elderly man answered, “I was just on my way to the bus stop.”

“I can give you a ride,” Jim offered.

“I don’t want to put you out,” The elderly man responded.

“It’s no problem, happy to do it,” Jim smiled.

“If you’re sure,”


Jim slowly walked with the man, prepared to offer a steady hand if he needed it. When they reached his truck; he opened the door and helped the man inside. In the process, Jim noticed a faded tattoo on the man’s forearm with the Marine Corps emblem and the words, The Chosin Few 27Nov 13 Dec 1950. Jim guessed that this man was one of the brave Marines who fought and survived the brutal 17 day battle of the Chosin Reservoir in freezing weather during the Korean War.

“You can drop me off right up here, the bus will be here in about fifteen minutes,” The elderly man pointed off to the side.

“I might as well take you home. Why don’t you give me directions,” Jim responded.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than give an old man a ride home?”

“I don’t see an old man anywhere, what I do see is one of the illustrious Chosin Few.”

“You noticed my tattoo, huh? the man said, “Marine?”

“Yeah, of course where I served was a hell of lot warmer than where you were. I always wondered how I would survive fighting in cold weather,” Jim said, “I went to Bridgeport once for cold weather training and the whole time that I was there, I never stopped shivering. I kept praying; please don’t send me anyplace cold.”

“As Marines we went where they sent us and did what we had to.  My instincts tell me that you would have done your duty wherever they sent you,” The old man surmised.

“Am I going the right way?”

“Just stay on Mission until you reach Douglas Drive then turn left.”

Jim felt pretty good for a change. He had driven all the way from Missouri to California and this was the first time that he actually had a destination. After turning on to Douglas Drive, Jim turned right on North River Road and then made a left onto Sleeping Indian Road. After driving to the top of the hill, the elderly man pointed to a private road with a large sign, NO ACCESS PAST THIS POINT. Jim followed the road until he came to a large metal gate and the elderly gentleman reached in his pocket and pressed his remote control and the gate swung open, but Jim hesitated.

“You came this far, aren’t you a little curious?”  The elderly man asked.

“Sure, like you said I came this far.”

Green lush landscape and bright flowers bursting in color surrounded Jim as soon as he drove under the arch and the scent of intoxicating jasmine floated through the air on a gentle breeze. A palatial structure of multi colored stone and wood rose up into the sky.

A fountain with adjoining ponds stretched for a hundred feet in front of the imposing structure and three dozen powerful jets sprayed water high into the air in various directions. The streams of waters danced to their own melody as rays of sunlight created a light show of a dozen rainbows.

“You live there?” Jim was dumbfounded.

“No, I live over there,” the elderly man pointed to a small cottage, shaded by a big oak tree.

“Who lives in that big mansion?” Jim inquired.

“Nobody, the elderly man smiled.

“Oh,” Jim was curious, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to pursue the issue.

“I own it, but it doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore,” the elderly man said.

“What kind of lifestyle is that?”

“One of simple pleasures,” the elderly man said, “I built that house many years ago when material possessions were a high priority for me and I needed to build monuments to my success.”

“You must have been pretty successful,” Jim surmised.

“Depends on your definition of successful, if you are talking about houses, cars, boats, planes, bank accounts then I was definitely a success, but if you are talking about happiness and contentment then I was a failure.”

Jim drove over to the cottage and helped the man out of his truck, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Would you like to see the property?” The elderly man asked.

“I would,” Jim smiled in anticipation.

There was a golf cart parked nearby and the elderly man got behind the wheel and waited for Jim get in, then drove down the path, “We haven’t introduced ourselves, Condor Lee.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I said Condor Lee, that’s my name,” The elderly man smiled.

“Jim Halloran,” the two men shook hands, “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone named Condor.”

“My parents were big into nature and were always studying wildlife. It was while our family was on of its many camping trips that my father happened upon an enormous gold deposit in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and the Lee family fortune was born. They named my older brother Bear and it turned out to be a good thing for him. He became the ultimate overachiever, didn’t have much choice with a name like Bear Lee. The only one who was unscathed in the name game was my sister Robin. So what do they call you?”

“Jim Halloran.”

Condor Lee stopped the golf cart at the top of the hill where they had an unobstructed view of the property. Every hedge and bush was meticulously cut into images of birds and animals, “Your gardeners are really good,” Jim commented.

“I call them landscape artists,” Condor Lee responded, “These are their masterpieces.”

Both men stepped out of the cart to get a closer look at a particularly interesting horticultural sculpture of an eagle when a pack of dogs that included a Pitbull, German Shepherd, Rhodesian Ridgeback and various mixed breeds came charging at them from behind a hedge. Instead of running for cover, Jim bent down to welcome the advancing horde and when they arrived, he began playing with the dogs in the grass.

“Most people would have been scared when a pack of dogs came running at them,” Condor Lee commented.

“Why would I be scared, they’re not vicious,” Jim smiled as he rubbed the stomach of the powerful Pitbull.

“And you made that decision in less than a second?” Condor Lee said.

“You learn to assess threats very quickly when you are in combat,” Jim answered.

“Dogs are excellent judges of character; the fact that they like you only reinforces my initial opinion of you.”

“If you Google unconditional love, a picture of a dog pops up,” Jim added.

As they drove back to the cottage, the dogs followed, “Why don’t you stay awhile?”

“You don’t want that to happen, I could get used to a place like this,” Jim said, “then you’ll be stuck with me.”

“So what’s wrong with that? Philosophers say it is all about the journey, but there is something to be said for reaching the destination.”

“Thanks anyway, Condor,” Jim said, “but I better be on my way.”

“Suit yourself, drive carefully,” Condor smiled.

When Jim tried to start his truck, all he heard was click, click, click, “I checked everything before I left.”

“You can’t always plan for the unexpected,” Condor said, “Sometimes things just happen  for a reason.”

“I’ve got AAA road service, I can get it towed to the nearest garage,” Jim pondered.

“It’s Saturday, you’re not going to get much done until Monday even if you do leave. My friend will be here on Monday and he is an excellent mechanic and he’ll know exactly what to do.”

Jim stared at his truck and rubbed his chin.

“I haven’t had company for dinner in a very long time, please join me,” Condor encouraged

After a dinner of rainbow trout, asparagus, mashed potatoes and a desert of pineapple upside down cake, Jim leaned back in the high chair in the large dining room, “I’m glad my mother isn’t here.”

“Why is that?” Condor asked.

“I wouldn’t want her to hear me say that was the best meal that I have ever eaten.”

“Maria, could you come out here?”

Maria Rivera was a middle aged Hispanic woman, “Yes Condor.”

‘”Jim wanted to tell you something.”

“Ma’am, that was a great meal, thank you very much.”

Maria smiled, “I’m so happy that you enjoyed it. We don’t get many guests here so it is nice to hear your kind words.”

Jim remembered what Condor said about his landscapers and re-phrased his compliment, “You are a true culinary artist and I just had the privilege of enjoying one of your masterpieces.”

Later that evening, Condor Lee and Jim took the elevator to the third floor where a massive suite with a panoramic view of the San Luis Rey Valley to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west overwhelmed Jim, “Every time I think I can’t be impressed or surprised any more than I already am, you get me again.”

“Remember these are only material things and their emotional value decreases dramatically over time,”

“Permission to speak freely?” Jim asked

“What’s on your mind?” Condor answered.

“I understand why you’re not into material things anymore. Who am I to dispute that feeling, Hell I’m living out of pick-up truck, but what about all the people working around here, seems contradictory…am I missing something?

“I judge people on the content of their character and the quality of their work. Everyone here is a friend first and an employee second. I’m in a position to give them job security and a place for their creativity. When I said I don’t need material possessions, that didn’t mean I don’t appreciate seeing a job well done…makes sense?” Condor asked.

“Makes complete sense,” Jim replied.

“Get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you in the morning,” Condor suggested, “Are you an early riser?”

“My dad used to tell me; if the sun rises before you do, then you’ve overslept.”

“I attend the sunrise service at the Mission on Sunday.You’re welcome to go with me,” Condor offered.

“Thanks for the offer, I’m not that religious,” Jim replied.

“Not everyone who goes to Church is religious. Some are just looking for something to believe in, others are hoping to hear something new and different. There are even a few who want to be in the same place with others with the same questions.”

“Which one are you?” Jim asked.

“It changes from week to week,” Condor smiled.

“I gratefully accept your invitation.”

The mattress was plush in the right places and firm in others and the sheets and pillowcases smelled of vanilla and lemongrass. In a few minutes, Jim’s body gratefully surrendered to a deep and restful sleep and he began to dream. He was home and his father was on the ladder above him, cleaning the gutter of leaves and debris.

“Hold it steady son,” Jim Sr. cautioned.

“I got you, don’t worry,” Jim responded.

One of the rungs on the ladder snapped and his father fell backward. Jim caught his father inches before his head slammed against the concrete patio and smiled, “I said, I got you and not to worry.”

“I love you son,”

“I love you too, dad.”

When it was time to go to Sunday service, Condor and Jim walked to a large building. Condor pressed a button on a keypad and a roll up door opened. The building was filled with classic and expensive automobiles.

“You never cease to amaze me,” Jim commented as he feasted his eyes on the vehicles, then walked over to one that was of particular interest, “1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 in Highland Green, commonly called the ‘Bullitt’ car.”

“Not the original, but an exact duplicate,” Condor reached into a lockbox and pulled out a set of keys and tossed them to Jim, “You drive.”

Jim was like a kid at an amusement park driving the iconic vehicle to the San Luis Rey Mission. After the services, Jim’s cellphone rang, “It’s my mom.”

“Take your time, I’ll wait by the car,” Condor said.

“Hello mom,” Jim said.

“Your father had an accident,” Mom said.

“Is it serious?” Jim was hesitant to hear her reply.

“We thought it was at first,” Mom started to explain, “Your father was cleaning the ladder and he fell…

Jim interrupted, “Did a rung break?”

“How did you know?”

“Lucky guess…how is he?”

“He was unconscious when I found him so I called the paramedics.” Mom was so emotional that she could hardly speak, “When they examined him in the emergency room, they found out he had a fractured skull with a brain bleed He also had a dislocated elbow, two cracked ribs and internal injuries so they put him in ICU.”

“I’m coming back,” Jim said nervously.

“He’s home now…don’t worry,” Mom said, “I’m going to put your dad on because I can’t explain it.”

“Hey son,” Jim Sr. said happily.

“You alright?”

“I’m feeling great and in perfect health.”

“I’m confused,” Jim responded, “What’s going on?”

“I remember lying in the hospital with doctors and nurses around me and I had this hallucination, but this time when I fell off the ladder, you were there to catch me before I hit the concrete, then you said…

Tears welled up in Jim’s eyes, “I said, don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

“That’s exactly what you said!” Jim Sr. exclaimed, “I love you son.”

“I love you too, dad.”

When Jim got back to the Mustang, he was more confused than ever. Condor commented, “Remember when I told you the reasons why I come to Sunday services?”

“Yeah, “

“I forgot to include, being thankful for miracles.”

That night, when Jim went to sleep, he had a dream about one of the Marines that he served with in Afghanistan, Corporal Sean Tucker. Sean was in his bedroom and holding a pistol in his hand, contemplating suicide. In the dream, Jim saw a phone number on the wall and when he awakened, he immediately dialed the number and for the next hour, Jim and Sean discussed their time in the Corps and their lives afterward.  Jim promised to stay in touch and left these words with Sean, “Hang in there, you can never tell which day is going to be the one where everything turns around for you.”

Later that day Sean received a phone call from the Pipefitters Local in Charlotte, North Carolina informing him that he had been accepted into the apprenticeship program. Soon after that his estranged wife, Katie returned home from her mother’s stating that she still wanted to save their marriage. In the afternoon, the bank that was holding their delinquent mortgage sent a certified letter stating that they had made an error that extended going back several years and he would be receiving a significant refund. Sean breathed a sigh of relief when he realized how close he came to not seeing this day and would have to thank Jim Halloran for the phone call, the next time they talked.

On Monday morning, Joe, the man in charge of restoring and maintaining the automobiles arrived on the property. After listening for a couple of seconds as Jim tried to start his truck, Joe stated without hesitation, “Ignition switch isn’t making contact, I can fix that.”

In a matter of minutes, Jim’s truck was running smoothly and Condor said, “You can get on the road now.”

Jim was less inclined to leave than he was the day before yesterday and didn’t quite know how to phrase his request to stay, “I don’t have any talents like the people already here, but if you have anything I can do, I’ll promise you a hard day’s work.”

Condor smiled,  “You have a very special talent, you are just not ready to accept it yet. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want.”

Jim alternated working with the landscapers and assisting Joe with the automobiles while he was on the property. He also went with Condor to the Veterans Center to volunteer his services as well, but it was when he fell asleep that things really happened for him. Sometimes his dreams actually changed reality and other times they just gave him enough information to make contact with a family member, friend or even a stranger who was going through a difficult or stressful time and those well timed calls had a profound and positive effect on the recipient. On rare occasions, Jim would foresee an accident in his sleep and get there before it actually happened, like the time, he saw a third floor balcony overloaded with partygoers collapse to the ground at an apartment complex in San Marcos.

Henry Albert Garmon was abused as a child and when he was in high school, he was diagnosed as seriously emotionally disturbed with violent tendencies. He was one of those individuals who should have been locked up for life, but Henry Garmon fell through the cracks of bureaucratic incompetency and was released after five years in Atascadero State Hospital. He returned to San Marcos where his alcoholic father allowed him to live in the garage. Henry quickly returned to his criminal ways burglarizing houses and doing strong armed robberies and when he stopped taking his anti –psychotic medications, the six foot eight, three hundred fifteen pound man became a killing machine.

Diane Sheridan usually ran the 4.9 mile loop around Calaveras Lake in Carlsbad at eight am with her dog Nolu, but today she had a seven thirty appointment at Toyota of Carlsbad to have an oil change and tire rotation on her RAV4 so she rearranged her schedule. Diane would run at six am then drop her vehicle off and catch a shuttle home. She would walk her dog, shower and a co-worker would pick her up at 10:30am for her shift at the Hilton Inn in South Carlsbad as an assistant manager. Diane had never come out this early so she was surprised with how dark it was when she drove into the parking lot. She took a small flashlight from her glove compartment and started off on her usual route.

Henry Albert Garmon saw the flickering light in the distance from his concealed position and eagerly waited for his potential victim to approach. When he saw that it was a woman running alone, Henry smiled in anticipation as he pulled the hunting knife from his scabbard. In a matter of seconds, he would have her.

Jim awakened, quickly got dressed, rushed to his truck and raced off the property. Condor smiled as he looked at his watch and saw that it was 5:40am. When Jim got to Calaveras Lake, he parked and raced off at a full sprint. Diane was happy that there was someone else on the trail when she saw someone running in her direction. When Jim got to Diane he literally dived over her and grabbed the wrist of Henry Albert Garmon  a split second before he could stab the young woman. Jim smashed his elbow into the face of the deranged killer while fighting for possession of the weapon while trying to plunge it into each other. Jim jammed the heel of his shoe into Garmon’s knee and the large man screamed out and slightly released his grip. Jim redirected the blade and stabbed the large man through the chest and held it firm until the violent predator stopped moving. Jim rolled over on his back and saw Diane staring down in disbelief, “Sorry about this, but he didn’t leave me much choice,”

After the police arrived and took Jim and Diane’s statements, she said, “I wanted to thank you for saving my life.”

“I’m just glad that I made it here in time”, Jim, quickly corrected himself, “I mean I’m glad I could help.”

Diane handed Jim her phone number written on a small piece of paper and held his hand for a few seconds, “Please call me.”

When Jim got back to the property on Sleeping Indian Road, Condor was waiting for him with a knowing smile on his face.

“What?” Jim asked.

“The time has come to accept your special talent, “Condor pointed to the mansion and it sparkled like a diamond in the background, “You are now an official resident of Imagination House.”

The End






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  • Published: 1 year ago on November 25, 2017
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  • Last Modified: November 27, 2017 @ 12:48 am
  • Filed Under: The Back Page

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  1. Robert says:

    Another enjoyable story. Keep them coming

  2. John Michels says:

    Great change of pace and a really nice story. I enjoyed it immensely.

  3. Tony says:

    An appropriate story for this time of the year of giving “Thanks” and giving to each other and what we have in our lives. Mr. Calabrese’s well written story of caring people that reach out and assist each other in the time of need is a great reminder for each of us to help those in need when we are in a position to do so.

  4. Joe says:

    How do you come up with these stories? Enjoyed it!

  5. Guy says:

    A great story about a man who while searching for his chosen path, finds it while helping others…very touching

  6. Tanya says:

    Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.. Good story.

  7. Kyle says:

    Fate and Faith…two key ingredients in this story. Thumbs up

  8. Mike says:

    I could easily visualize this story in my mind because I know so many of the locations…good job.

  9. Janet says:

    Another great story! The departure from KC sounded like an event straight from your life. Makes sense that all of the stories are pieces of your experiences as well as others. Condor Lee is awesome!!

  10. Mona says:

    Excellent story! I liked the characters and the heartfelt ending. Go forth and do good!

  11. Steve says:

    Another good one..really liked it

  12. Josh says:

    A great story for the holidays…we all have special gifts…we just have to find and use them properly

  13. Dan says:

    This would definitely qualify as a “feel good” story. I really liked the happy ending.

  14. Ron Pickett says:

    Great story! Different for you Tom.

  15. Clyde says:

    A fairy tale story for adults or Twilight Zone revisited.

  16. Cary says:

    This story really brought a smile to my face…thanks Tom

  17. Robert says:

    A change of pace for Tom, but what an excellent yarn. As I was reading it, I couldn’t figure out where it was going. That made it all the more captivating. A real ‘feel good’ story. I give it a 10 at least!

  18. Wolf says:

    Another great story. Tom has a little TWILIGHT ZONE , Rod Sterling style in this story. If they had turned left at the traffic light on Douglas they would have been at my house.

  19. Terry says:

    Thanks Tom. These are great stories. I really like the way you tie the stories to locations here in So Cal, especially North County. I know the location at Sleeping Indian since I’ve biked up that killer hill several times in the past!

    Keep up the good work!

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