looked the dreamseller from head to toe, saw his ragged clothes and empty pockets and snickered. He thought about that treasure of knowledge and understood nothing. And he started to stutter again.
“What . . . tre . . . treasure do you mean? What mo . . . money?” he asked suspiciously.
Without offering an explanation, the dreamseller merely stated confidently, “You’ll find out.”
And he walked away without saying another word. The crook followed us. Initially, he followed out of curiosity. Maybe he thought the dreamseller was an eccentric millionaire. The fact is that the dreamseller’s ideas attracted people, especially those on the edge of society, like a moth to a flame.
Bartholomew, many years ago when he had money, had undergone psychotherapy, but it didn’t work. In fact, it had left him worse off. He had driven some of his therapists crazy, and they needed therapy themselves after they began to treat him. The guy was hopeless but brilliant. He discovered that pridefulness was my weakness. When we made our first trek toward the bridge, after the San Pablo dance, he nicknamed me Superego, unknowingly misusing Freud’s term. He now called me aside and whispered in my ear:
“Superego, putting up with you isn’t easy, but having to deal with this crook is impossible.”
“Look who’s talking,” I started to say, but then I thought he might be right. This new member of our family could be dangerous. I had never imagined myself associating with a common criminal.
Even more quietly, I told Bartholomew, “Putting up with an alcoholic like you is complicated, but that crook’s too much. Count me out of this.”
I thought about abandoning the sociological experiment for the second time. But then I remembered that I, too, had been lost and was found. I looked at the dreamseller’s calm expression and decided to hold out a while longer. I, too, was curious about where this journey would lead me. It could surely be the subject of many future theses.
The dreamseller’s new disciple had a disarming voice, but he was an expert in taking advantage of others. He sold counterfeit winning lottery tickets. He stole women’s credit cards and snatched purses from little old ladies after graciously helping themcross the street. The problem is that every schemer is overconfident. Dimas thought he could never be caught—until he encountered someone wilier than him. He didn’t realize that by accompanying the dreamseller he would be entering the biggest ambush of his life.
We sat down on a bench in the square to rest. The dreamseller suggested that Bartholomew and I explain the project to Dimas. Not an easy task. The young man didn’t look very smart and I thought it might be just the right time to scare him off. Bartholomew exaggerated everything that had happened to us.
“Dude, the chief is a genius. I think he’s from another planet. He hypnotizes people. He’s called on us to set people on fire with dreams.”
Drunk, Bartholomew hallucinated about monsters; sober, he had delusions of grandeur. Unfortunately Dimas liked what he was hearing. These two, living at the edge of society, they spoke the same language. I thought to myself, “Now I’m living at the edge of society
I’m alone. I’m worse off than both of these wretches.”
We knew whatever explanation we gave Dimas about this journey wouldn’t satisfy him—we were as confused as he was. But to someone lost in the desert, a mirage of an oasis brings hope. I was hoping to scare off this con man, but he was now determined to follow us. Thus, our band of misfits was born.
The Brave Little Swallows
L ATER THAT DAY, WE PASSED BY A NEWSSTAND IN THE square and saw our photo on the front page of the newspaper under the headline “A Small Band of Misfits Stirs Up the City.” In the foreground was the dreamseller with Bartholomew and me at his side. I bought the paper with the few coins in my pocket.
I was shaken, perplexed. I knew I