I was parallel parking my Honda Accord in Birmingham, AL. Normally, I could just whip in a parking space, but this one was quite tight, and I was having to do it the old fashioned way. Just as I was making the last move to fit in the little mouse's ear of a space, I saw her walking down the street towards me. I hadn't seen her for days, and I stopped breathing long enough to feel light headed. The combination of beauty and vulnerability was so evident, even in the way she walked. She didn't look either straight ahead with confidence, nor did she look down at her feet as she walked. Her gaze was somewhere in the middle and at nothing at all; just enough concentration to make sure she didn't run into things. God, she was lovely: A red tank top and a pair of cutoff blue jeans covering up a girl I'd cherished for what seemed like a lifetime now.

I jumped out of the car and intercepted her just as she passed the parking meter. She looked up at me and our lips were locked immediately. We waltzed around a bit as we made out right there in broad daylight. I reached down behind me to open the door to my silver Honda and we fell into the passenger side bucket seat.

Within seconds, a young man opened the driver's side door and put keys into the ignition. My head was jumbled already, but I gained enough clarity of thought to realize that we'd gotten into the wrong car; one that looked exactly like mine. I profusely apologized to the young man and got out of his car, holding the door open for my lady to follow me out onto the sidewalk. That's when the kid started the car and I realized he was going to drive off with her still in the car.

I panicked and gripped the door tightly as I held it wide open while running alongside the now moving car. He couldn't drive fast enough in the downtown traffic to lose me, but within half a block a fairly large tree planted in the sidewalk came between me and the car body. The door was crumpled in half like a folded piece of cardboard as I lost my grip and watched as the car turned the corner at the next block.

Why didn't she jump out during all of this? The car was not moving fast enough to do her any real damage had she done so. She was always docile that way. I suppose she felt as if she could talk sense to the guy and he'd let her out when she explained the situation. I knew she was wrong. I realized now that she'd been stolen, and I assumed the intentions were not honorable.

I retraced the steps from where it had all began, and I found a yellow cap lying on the sidewalk. I assumed it had fallen out of the car, and I examined it to try and find clues as to who this guy was. There seemed to be nothing of any consequence until I folded down the sweat band inside. Out fell a rolled up sheet of paper, and on that paper was a series of thumbnail photos of the abductor as well as a dozen more young men his age. There was scribbled the word "Equestrians" underneath the photos. I realized then that these guys were part of a fraternity of some sort, and when I looked around, there seemed to be some sort of parade being formed a couple of blocks down the street. All of the participants were in bright yellow cowboy outfits, like a club made up of Roy Rogers clones on Easter.

I walked toward the forming parade, and the first group was a melange of very young kids with broomstick horses. They were entering a large children's hospital, and I followed. It seemed as if they were making an attempt to cheer up the sick kids in the hospital by marching down the hallways. I assumed that the parade would include older groups of kids as it went along, and would probably wind up with adults on real horses. That must be why my kidnapper was downtown to begin with.

As I followed the little kids in the winding hallways of the huge hospital, I wound up at an exit door and turned around to see the kid who'd stolen my girl, along with three of his buddies. They had me cornered, and the only other person there was a middle-aged black woman sitting on a bench in the hallway. I turned to her and said,

"I think something very bad is about to happen here. I really need your help to be a witness to this."

She looked afraid and said, "I'm sorry, but I can't get involved," as she hurriedly went back into the main part of the hospital. It didn't take Dionne Warwick to tell me that I was about to get seriously hurt by these four guys. My fear was that they were going to take me back to wherever they had my girl and make me watch whatever they intended to do to her. I asked them where they had taken her.

The guy who had been driving the car said, "We're going to make some money off of her, of course. She's going to be busy all day and night with our frat brothers, dude. I hope you'll still find her attractive after she's done."

Just as I was trying to figure out how to MacGyver my way out of this situation, an old Buick jumped the sidewalk and slammed into the exit doors at the end of the hallway where I was trapped. Inside the Buick, two mullet-headed rednecks were beating the shit out of each other. The guy in the passenger seat had the driver in a headlock and was pounding him on top of the mullet as hard as he could. A small light bulb went off over my head and I yelled, "Darryl and Larry! It's about goddamned time y'all got here!" And I ran to the door.

The frat boys were confused and backed away. I ran out the door and hauled ass as fast as I could away from the scene. I found some cops who were standing around getting ready to martial the parade and told them the story. One of them used his radio to call headquarters, and since I was rambling pretty hard, he just handed me the radio and told me to tell the story to the desk sergeant.

As I was rambling on about the whole ordeal on the police radio, a young female cop tapped me on the shoulder. She pointed behind her, and there was my little girl. I ran to her and she started crying on my shoulder. I pushed her light brown hair out of her eyes and she looked up at me with those tear-stained bluest eyes on earth. She assured me that nothing bad had happened to her by the time the cops found her. I couldn't have been happier, and I woke up feeling blessed and relieved.

For those who say that dreams only last around 20 seconds, I'd like for you to tell me how that's possible with something as involved as this.

Last night I dreamed of living in another world, and the most vivid memory I have from that world was my last before waking.

I was on a stone wall, watching festivities in the meadow. There was a burst of confetti, and some of it drifted over and fell near me. Then a girl came, one of those annoying, peppy, helpful, Martha Stewart types. She gave me a piece of the confetti - it was made of dark green cardstock folded over, and inside it was printed "Jesus has saved you." I didn't want it, so I threw it away from me.

As I walked along the wall I thought of this new mode of witnessing that forced others to accept or reject Christian beliefs symbolically with the acceptance or rejection of a slip of paper. I came upon a bush with similar folded-over papers either growing out of or tucked into it among its leaves. I knew there was only a matter of time before my parents gave me a paper and I had to reject it. What would I tell them?

I thought of primitive people's need for a god to explain the unexplainable. But with our technology, we do amazing things. We give life to the dying, and animate structures of metal and gears and wires. We are powerful! One day we may invent artificial intelligence, or learn to bring the dead back to life - we are well on our way to becoming gods ourselves. And suddenly, in the dream, the world made perfect sense to me. Until I woke up.

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