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Broken Glass

Dreamed 1948 by Nancy Price

Source: Acquainted with the Night by Nancy Price (1949), selections from an experimental dream journal she kept for one year.

I was in a lane which I know well at my old home and just by the gate that led into our tennis court was a line of broken glass stretching across the track; it had obviously been piled as a blockade so that no one could pass it. Along the lane came a tired old horse drawing a cart. A panting dog followed it.

"You can't come this way, you will have to go back two and a half miles," something said.

"So far round and I am utterly weary," said the horse. The man swore. "Why wasn't there a notice put at the crossroads. Always the same, too much trouble, look what it would have saved."

"It should be done," I said, "but it is nothing to do with me, I can't do anything about it. I only just happened to be here."

"The same old excuse," said the man. "Nobody ever can do anything about anything, it's never anybody's particular business as far as I can see."

"Oh, I am so tired," said the horse.

"And I am hot and thirsty," panted the dog.

"I tell you what," I said. "I will move all the glass if you will help and then I will put it back myself. They will never come to repair this lane or whatever it is they want to do with it, at any rate not for weeks."

"That's something like," said the man. "Set to it."

The horse and dog waited patiently and I laboriously removed every bit of glass and piled it at the side of the road while the man sat down and watched. He spoke again:

"I have got a lot of work to do," he said. "You can sit down and watch when I go on."

At last the horse, cart, dog and man passed over. The horse looked at me and the dog jumped up and wagged his tail. I felt a tremendous thrill that something had been accomplished.

"You see you might as well do something useful," said the man. "It's no good watching. Now you must put it all back."

"Yes," I sighed. "I will..."

"And I shall go on and do some work." Then he stopped. "Before you put it back you must take a noticeboard to the crossroads, you will have others coming up this way for nothing."

"I'll do my best," I said. "But I am very tired and my head aches, I haven't the energy I once had."

"It is the same with most people," said the man, "I have got an old horse and an old dog, but they have got to go on same as if they were young. Don't make excuses."

"You see you cannot go on further as we must," said the dog. "You must wait or go back so it is better to do something."

I watched them out of sight then I fetched cardboard, paint brush and ink from a cupboard in the hedge and I painted the board. My head ached intolerably but I carried the board back the two and a half miles to the crossroads and fixed it on a tree, then I toiled back again knowing all the glass still had to be replaced. The sweat poured off me, my fingers were bleeding, would it never end, this pile of glass?

I looked up and saw a bird building a nest.

"You don't work fast enough," he said. "Watch me, watch me, watch me. Get on, get on, get on."

At last the job was done, I was replacing the final piece when I fell on the top of the jagged edges. I felt intolerable torture of body and I was alone, no-one would come this way. I myself had fixed the board to prevent them.

"Yes, you fixed the board, fixed the board," chirped the bird. "I think you have only yourself to blame, to blame."

Then suddenly I saw the dog who had been following the cart returning. He looked at me wagging his tail.

"You will die," he said, "but I'll lick you, it won't be so bad, you know what they say about a dog's lick--a dog's lick always--"

I heard no more but felt his warm rather rough tongue, the pain abated and I woke.


One of the things I like best about dreaming is the fact that I can understand the Ianguage of animals appearing in them. All vegetation too has a voice--a fact which registers no surprise.

--Nancy Price


What I notice here is the frustrated exhaustion--and Price's stoicism. Here and in her other dreams, Price seems to take the fatigue for granted. The world's exhausting and then you die.

To me the dream seems a warning--not that Price is lazy (as the man and the bird both accuse), but about work and taking responsibility! Her journal's so full of this theme, it made me wonder if she was dying. Nope. Price lived decades more--to age 90, in fact. Up to the time of the dream, she'd led an extremely busy life in theatre, film and TV; my best guess is the dreams warn of career burnout, not a giving-up on life itself--though it sounds like it. But being in drama, the frustration comes out... well, dramatically.

--Chris Wayan

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