Don Bruns

Stuff Dreams Are Made Of


I was fifteen years old when I found out my Uncle Buzz’s name was really Clarence. Not that it mattered that much. Despite the name Clarence, Buzz was a very cool uncle, ten years older than I was, and on my fifteenth birthday he picked me up in his 1987 Mustang convertible and promised to take me places I’d only dreamed about and show me things I’d never seen.

Dad had left home four years before, and my mother had pretty much washed her hands of any serious parental control, tending to be bitter about her lot in life and distant in her relationship with me. I waved to Mom and my little sister as we pulled out of the driveway, and Buzz burned rubber at the end of the street.

Leaving Carol City for the weekend was enough of a treat, the urban blight of that depressed area leaving real stains on my outlook on life, but Buzz had promised the excitement of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and maybe a trip down the Keys as an added bonus, and I was on a true emotional high.

I still remember the hot Florida sun washing over us as he cruised down I-95 and the sweet bite of Coke and Jack as we pulled from the silver flask he’d brought for this special occasion. Jack was my new best friend and my head was in the clouds.

“Gonna be a weekend to remember, Skip. Honest to God, a weekend to remember.”

We met with God that night, sitting on dew-damp grass on a slight rise watching a full-scale tent revival with a black preacher, gold Bible in hand, regaling his flock with stories loosely borrowed from the Bible. About three hundred parishioners swayed and chanted with the preacher and when they sang it was as if the sky had opened and the Lord had unleashed all of his unruly angels to shout his praises.

“People get worked up for a lot of reasons, Skip,” Buzz sipped his Jack and Coke, watching the proceeding with the eye of a skeptic. “I used to get worked up because of my name. Imagine. Upset about a little thing like that.”

“Buzz? What’s wrong with your name?”

He passed the flask to me. “That’s not my name, Skip. It’s Clarence.”

I smiled. There was no room to laugh. With the name Eugene haunting me for fifteen years, I knew the stigma.

“Clarence. Both of our moms had a sense of humor.”

Buzz laughed. “That show down there, those people when they get worked up could accomplish anything tonight. Do you believe that?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Right now, Skip. They could move a mountain. No, they could. They could go from here and raise a million dollars in the next hour. They could heal the sick and raise the dead. Raise the dead, nephew. They could do it. But when this show is over they go back to their miserable existence. They return to their drab, humble shacks, their cheating spouses, their screaming litter of kids, and their sham of a life. When it’s over, the only thing to look forward to is the next revival.”

I thought about that. I wasn’t quite sure why we were there, except he was fulfilling his promise. He was taking me places I’d never been.

“So what’s the point, Buzz?”

“It’s gonna be a weekend of revivals, Skip. The only thing we have in this world is looking forward to the next revival.”

He put a twenty in the collection box when the pretty little black girl stopped by our resting spot. Then, as we stood up and walked away from the thundering voice of the gospel choir, he offered me a cigar. We puffed away in the steamy night and in my foggy state of mind, the booze and the thick smoke swirling in my head, I realized Buzz may be onto something. Life was a constant search for the next adventure. My uncle was right.

But he was wrong about the capabilities of the faithful. If that crowd could have raised the dead, seventeen- year-old Cabrina Washington would be alive today. As it is, she’s in a grave, and the last adventure she had was the tent revival near Miami.


“T hink of it as an adventure, Skip.” James was into his selling mode. “Come on pal, it won’t interfere with work and we’ll make some good money. Tell me you couldn’t use a little extra scratch!”

The truth was, I could. And James had outfitted the truck with two gas grills, a small refrigerator, and a stove. He could cook, I’d sell and collect the money, and it would all happen after our regular working hours. The one-ton box truck was a regular kitchen of the road. He’d cut a window out of the side, where we could let the air and light in, and he’d cut a hole in the top to vent the greasy smoke. He’d fixed up a makeshift counter next to the small grill at the rear of the vehicle so I could sell the food and hand it down to the lines of hungry Christians. Adding an aluminum step-up to the rear of the truck so customers could “rise” to the occasion was the final modification. It wasn’t perfect. I would have to lean down to give the masses their meals, but it was doable. I stalled, taking a swallow of beer and gazing down the row of apartments with their postage-stamp concrete porches.

“Skip! Amigo! You know I can make this happen.”

I put my hand up, silencing him for a moment. “The last time you told me this truck would make us some money, we got ourselves in a world of shit and you almost got beaten to death!” There had been an international incident that we didn’t bring up very often.

“This is strictly selling food, Skip. No more terrorists or international plots.” The last idea he’d had, we’d both been in life-threatening situations. “We start at six p.m. and work until about eleven. There are supposed to be fifteen hundred to two thousand people at this tent revival every night. My God, we could make a fortune.” He tapped his cigarette, dropping ashes on the stained cement. Wine, beer, and some stains I can’t explain.

James was convinced we’d both be worth a fortune by the time we reached thirty. I had my doubts. As small children growing up, we had dreams. By the time we were seniors in high school, James had decided he would study culinary arts and I would major in business and we could open up the greatest restaurant on South Beach. It didn’t happen.

College loans, personal debt, family problems, and two dead-end jobs later we were struggling. James was a short-order cook at Cap’n Crab, a fast food restaurant, and I was selling home security systems in a community where no one had anything to secure. Carol City does not appear on the Miami Chamber of Commerce list of must- see places. It’s a secondhand city, urban and poor. We’ve got a couple of old run-down malls, one decent restaurant, and a handful of old stucco gas stations, which have been converted into nondenominational churches with names like Church of the Lamb, or Salvation Congregation. There’s Hallelujah Station (a converted grocery store) and a strange building a couple blocks from our apartment with a faded sign outside that simply says “Welcome Sinners.” James and I have often said that that’s the one we’d pick if we were to pick any of them.

But the revival was in a tent, at a fairgrounds outside of Miami, and this wasn’t Salvation Congregation. Nope. This was the reverend Preston Cashdollar who headed up the largest church in the Miami area and boasted a congregation of fifteen thousand members, growing every Sunday. I swear to you, that’s his name, Cashdollar. And to have fifteen thousand members in your congregation? I couldn’t even fathom that.

“What do you say, pard? I’m figuring we lay in a supply of ground beef, brats, corn on the cob, and potatoes and we’re good to go. There’s a chance we could take home two or three thousand a night, Skip.”

“Two thousand dollars a night? How do you figure?”

“Jeez, you’re the business guy. We get two hundred customers a night, sell ’em a meal for ten bucks and —

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