"Last night I awoke in the middle of the night and had a mild panic attack," I said.
Brillson sipped his coffee and fingered the smoldering cigarette in the ashtray. "Something in a dream get you?" he asked.
"Maybe. You know when you're still in the dream but you know you're in the dream? That few seconds of lucidity before you wake up and can distinguish between what's real and what's imaginary?"
"Sure," he said. "So it was a dream?" He picked up the cigarette, inhaled smoke, and held it in, awaiting my reply.
"Not exactly." I shoved my hands in my pockets and leaned back in my chair until it teetered on two legs. "After I awoke and lay there and tried to fall back asleep, but my mind drifted. Somehow it got to trying to think about what it was like the moments after someone dies."
"It's dividing by zero." He exhaled and tapped his forehead with his thumb. "Breaks the calculator."
"My legs were jellied at first, then it was as if they were filled with jittering ants. I get to the point where the lights go out and then there's a blank spot, like a missing film reel at the end of the movie, and then the credits roll."
Brillson pursed his lips and tapped ash. "Can you remember anything from the dream?"
"No." I sighed. "But after I calmed down the only thing on my mind was Jeff Bridges' in that remake of True Grit."
"Jeff Bridges," he said flatly, somewhere between confusion and indignation. "Go on."
"There's a scene in the movie where he's in an old hideout of a shack in a canyon deep in the Choctaw Nation interrogating a couple of bandits he's caught, one young and one older. Long story short, the older bandit turns on the younger, cuts off the younger one's fingers, and stabs him in the chest."
"I never saw it," Brillson admits. "His fingers?"
"Just one hand," I say. I put my chair back on all fours and motion to my lips. Brillson hands me one of his Seven Stars. "The younger bandit's barely a man, and he dies right there in that shack."
"What about the one who does the stabbing?"
I light the cigarette and breathe deeply. "He gets shot in the face by Jeff Bridges."