Ponch, Jon & Orca
I was perhaps six or seven years old, and CHiPs was at the height of its popularity. Orca must have been on TV around the same time. My subconscious decided to combine the two and what I remember goes something like this.
Ponch, Jon, and I were hanging out at the top of a cliff with an ocean view. We sat on the roof of a sweet custom van. It came complete with an airbrushed tri-tone brown paint job, a bubble window, and chrome details (including the requisite ladder to the roof). I’m pretty sure it looked just like a toy ERTL van I had as a kid. It was a sunny day.1
For some reason I climbed down from the van, and walked toward the ocean. There was grass right up to the edge of the cliff. When I was a couple feet from the precipice, the ground beneath my feet gave way. I fell what seemed like a couple of hundred feet to my child’s mind into the water, but I wasn’t hurt.
I found myself lying on my back underwater. The seafloor was completely flat and featureless, save for a network of cracks like parched earth. The water was a crystal-clear blue, like a swimming pool. The surface was only inches from my face; the water was shallow. I realized that if I sat up, I’d be able to breathe.
I couldn’t sit up.
I tried and tried and tried to sit up. I failed.
Then I noticed Orca, the killer whale. Despite the shallow depth of the ocean, Orca was swimming easily. He approached me with an easy side-to-side rhythm much like a shark hunting its prey.2 I was terrified and desperate for breath. Either I would drown, or Orca would eat me. Or both, I guess. This was the end; I was panicking and convinced I was going to die.
I realized the reason I couldn’t sit up was the red shop rag, one of coarse cloth like my dad kept in his toolbox, gripped tightly in my hand. It was embedded in the seafloor. I couldn’t let go, and I couldn’t sit up unless I pulled it free.
Orca was getting closer. I couldn’t breathe. I was going to die. I pulled harder.
Orca was closer. I pulled.
I need air. PLEASE. LET ME SIT UP.
I pulled. I CAN’T BREATHE.
I woke up.
I’m sure I was tangled in the sheets; I usually was when waking from a nightmare. Perhaps one was gripped tightly in my hand. I don’t remember one way or the other. I can still conjure some of the fear when remembering this dream, and one thing puzzles me.
As I lay in deadly peril on the ocean floor, where were Ponch and Jon?