Tomás slept, and he dreamed of a better world. In his dreams, people were truly free, and they wanted for nothing. No one was hungry, no one was homeless, no one’s life was devoid of opportunities for meaning or joy and when anyone got sick, or other tragedy befell them, everyone organized help, with no questions asked or conditions demanded.
The village in his dreams was part of a vast community, encompassing millions across a wide swath of the globe. This community had built a world which Tomás, whose world was one of suffering and struggle, called a utopia.
He saw the town from the sky, his mind’s eye flying; a cluster of small, well-built brick houses nestled among rolling flowered fields and patches of deep green forest. The sun was rising on the village, and people were awakening on comfortable beds from full nights of sleep. They rose and ate, consuming the bounty of the earth as they went out to work the earth once more.
It was harvest time, and harvest was the most important time of the year. It was during the harvest that food, the lifeblood of the community, was gathered, pooled, distributed and stored to be eaten and shared throughout the year. Though food could be gathered year-round from the agroforests and permaculture gardens, it was at harvest time that the majority of the community’s food was stockpiled.
They gathered fruits, mushrooms, and berries from the forest, where seeds were planted many centuries ago. Wheat, rice, beans, squash, potatoes, and leafy greens were harvested from the fields, rotated and re-planted every spring.
It was hard work, but everyone did their part. Clerks and craftspeople left their desks and their workshops for the fields, while teachers led children from their classrooms into the forests, for the kids to pick fruit from the ancient bounty trees.
Those who could not bend their bodies to the gathering assisted in the collecting and counting, and by the end of the day, all were tired, but none were exhausted, with enough energy left to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Much food would be stored for winter, and some sent away on trains, to the people in the cities. But the cities in return would send all kinds of tools and mechanical devices, anything anybody asked, and all were content.
Food and drink was gathered in the town square, and the celebration began.
They have indoor plumbing, wow. Thought Tomás.
Suddenly, he saw himself. He was as himself, looking at himself in the mirror. He wore an easy smile. He was washing his hands. He finished and exited the bathroom.
“Hey, Tomás!” Said someone with a smile and a wave.
“Hi!” Said Tomás, waving back.
He loved these dreams, dreams about this world. This was the third such dream he had experienced.
He walked down the gravel-paved street towards the center of town. He could hear music, growing louder as he walked.
The center of town was all set up with dozens of tables and chairs, the long, food-laden feast tables, and the band on a wooden stage. Strings of little lanterns were strung between the trees, and the harvest festival was bathed in their warm light.
“Tomás!” Said a friend. “Where’d you harvest today? How was it?”
“Uhhh…” Tomás mumbled. “I…”
“Let’s get you some food!” Said the fried.
Tomás nodded enthusiastically.
The two friends weaved their way through the crowd to the feast table.
The long wooden table was laid out with all the fruits of the earth. Innumerable loaves of bread, enormous platters of chopped roasted vegetables and grilled vegetable skewers, pots of rice, dumplings, vats of soup, beans, and stew.
There were many foods which Tomás had never seen before; strange-looking fried plants, intimidating spiky fruits, and plants that looked like huge potatoes in an array of colors.
“What’s that?” Asked Tomás, pointing at a large slab of reddish grilled something. “I want that!”
“Oh, beetsteak, hell yes.” Said the friend.
They took plates bearing thick slices of a tuberous root crop called beetsteak, seasoned and grilled to perfection.
Tomás cut some steak with his combination fork-knife device and ate a bite, chewing slowly. It was delicious. Its surface was charred and crispy from the grill. Its flesh tasted rich, substantial, with a full savory flavor and a texture somewhere between an actual steak and a potato.
“Wow.” Tomás said softy.
“Here have some bounty fruit!” Said his friend.
The friend handed Tomás a large fruit, about the size of a melon. Tomás gasped upon touching its skin, soft like an apple or a pear, golden-yellow with hints of green. He took a big, juicy bite.
Wow, that’s good, thought Tomás.
“Let’s go see the others.” Said Tomás’s friend, gesturing with towards the tables.
“Wait!” Said Tomás. “I want another drink!”
“Are you sure?” Asked Tomás’s friend.
“Definitely.” Tomás answered with a grin.
Tomás saw a man with a strange-looking drink in a long-stemmed blue glass.
“Where can I get me one of those?” Asked Tomás.
“Right over there!” Said the man.
A woman stood at the table mixing drinks for any who asked.
“Can I have one of those things in the blue glass?” Asked Tomás.
“Of course!” Said the woman, handing Tomás his drink.
Tomás took a sip.
“Wow, that’s strong.” He said under his breath. “How much?” He asked the woman, patting his pockets. “Shit, I can’t find my wallet.”
“What did you ask?” The woman asked, confusion scrawled across her face. “Wait, what’s a wallet?”
“Uhhh…I mean…” Tomás stammered in confusion. “What’s the price?”
The woman’s brow furrowed, one eyebrow lowered in apprehension. She looked at Tomás’s friend.
“Your friend has a strange sense of humor.” She stated.
“I think maybe he’s had enough to drink.” Said the friend, looking at Tomás. “You alright?”
“I’m fine!” Tomás declared, knocking back his drink in a few quick gulps. “Let’s dance!”
They went and joined the people dancing in the town square, almost a hundred of them, shaking, swinging, and swaying to the music.
Tomás danced and danced, spinning around and around until he was dizzy. He felt himself spinning and spinning, with no end, until finally he collapsed into soft grass.
“Tomás.” Said a voice. “Tomás.”
He opened his eyes, and saw that the festival had died down. All the food was eaten, the drinks had been drunk, and the town square was all but deserted.
The grass was soft and cool. He closed his eyes to sleep again.
“Tomás!” The voice repeated, louder this time. “Tomás!”
Tomás opened his eyes.
“Tomás, wake up!” Shouted Joe. “Wake up, pal, wake up!”
“Ha ha, there he is!” Joe exclaimed sarcastically. “Get up champ, we’ve got some fish waiting for us!”
“Alright, alright..” Grumbled Tomás as he sat up on the bed. “I’m up.” He added, reaching to rub the lingering traces of sleep from his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Oh shit.” He said, pulling himself out of bed and onto his feet.
“Christ, you look hungover.” Said Joe.
“It’s cause’ I am, Joe.” Replied Tomás.
Joe handed Tomás a tin mug full of steaming black coffee.
“Ahhh.” Said Tomás, after taking a long sip.
“Get dressed.” Urged Joe. “Mcgeehan’s gonna beat us again if we’re late.”
“Sorry Joe.” Said Tomás, pulling on his work coveralls, stained with blood and guts from the fish-packing plant where the two old friends worked. It was a terrible place, but they had no choice in the matter. Mr. Mcgeehan, who owned the plant, also owned Joe and Tomás.
Tomás and Joe’s work contracts were “77s”, compelling them to perform 77 hours of work per week. They could choose each week between seven eleven-hour days, or six twelve-hour days and a five hour day on Sunday. Failing to perform that work was a crime, punishable by hefty fines and jail time.
Joe and Tomás’s indenture here would last fifteen years, a contract period typical for able-bodied people their age. Indentured Americans typically worked three to five contracts in their lifetime, including the contracts they were born into. The length of birth contracts, along with other specifics of indenture-related law, such as voting rights and legal protections, varied by state.
When Joe and Tomás’s birth contracts were up, they signed fifteen year contracts with a logging company in Maine. But the price of timber plummeted in 1936, and their contracts were sold to Mcgeehan’s Fish Processing Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts. They were paid 31 cents an hour.
Joe was familiar with the look Tomás now wore on his face; eyes staring into the distance, mouth set in a line.
“Did you have one of those dreams again?” He asked.
“Yeah.” Answered Tomás.
“How was it?” Joe followed up with a grin.
“Amazing.” Said Tomás. “It was harvest, and there was so much food, you could have as much as you want! And I didn’t feel tired or stressed-out at all, I just didn’t have a care in the world. I felt totally serene. It was perfect.”
“Like the other ones.” Said Joe.
“Just like the other ones.” Said Tomás. “Every time I have those dreams I feel that way. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing in the dream, I just feel…at peace.”
“Man, that sounds great.” Said Joe. “I wish I could dream like that.”
“You do.” Tomás stated. “All that stuff about the end of the world as we know it, the messianic age and all that? What do ya call that?”
“I mean the Rabbis say that, I didn’t come up with it.”
“But you believe it, right?” Asked Tomás. “You feel it?”
“Of course.” Said Joe. “The world can’t sustain itself on suffering like this.”
“Then you can dream like that.” Said Tomás with a smile.
Joe smiled back. “You’re right, Tomás.” He looked up at the clock. “Shit, we’ve gotta go!”
“Wait, Joe, what day is it?” Tomás asked offhandedly.
“September 8th, 1940.” Joe answered quickly. “Why do you ask?”
“I meant the day of the week.” Said Tomás. “Come on man, I know what year it is!”
“It’s Monday.” Joe said as they walked out the door. “Fuckin’ Monday.”