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Dreams of a Third Arm. Essay by Tom Greenwood


Dreams of a Third Arm

By Tom Greenwood

In my dreams I am a man named Pierre and have three arms. My third arm is not a tentative genetic aberration like a flipper or feeler or wimpy ghost of an ancestral tail. It’s as arm-like as my other two, both of which are quite arm-like. It is a thing to behold, this third arm, an evolutionary leap forward in the human chain, thrusting mankind far beyond his (and her) potential as a two-armed beast. Yes, it’s a decisive third arm, a dominant trait with a subliminal animal musk that has women everywhere overtaken by instinctual urges to unite their ova with my spermatozoa.

Confusingly, I am several different three-armed men named Pierre in these dreams. In one, I’m a pro wrestler in the WWF known professionally as The Blender™. This name derives from my signature move of putting my three arms straight out and spinning around, pummeling my opponents into submission. Depending on the situation, The Blender™ has different speeds, ranging from a simple yet brutal blend, to a pulverizing purée, a ferocious frappe, and in dire circumstances, a lethal liquefy. These settings are listed with corresponding buttons on the enormous buckle of a broad belt I wear over the top of my briefs. The buttons, of course, are all show but make for classic WWF drama in the ring. As my catchphrase goes, when it’s Blender Time™ you’d better look out, because some serious Blendering™ is gonna go down!

When not fake-wrestling in my Blender Belt™, Blender Briefs™, and Blender Boots™, I’m wearing a nondescript button-down shirt and chinos, working as a mild-mannered, self-motivated executive with a can-do attitude in a fast-paced office environment. What exactly the company I work for does is a bit hazy, but I have a hunch it’s something so boring that my subconscious has simply left it out of the dream. Multitasking is a skill central to this office job, and as you might imagine, my three arms enable me to multitask with the best of them. Indeed, I achieve measurable, breakthrough results by adeptly handling any number of responsibilities simultaneously. My white-collar coworkers have no idea about my second career as a wrassler, and my wrassling fans have no idea about my life as a proactive team-player juggling multiple tasks in a bustling, generic place of business.

When this hive of mysterious commerce is less bustling, I secretly manage the image and brand of The Blender™. The career of any pro wrestler is brief, and I don’t want The Blender™ to be a relative flash in the pan. So, in corporate downtime I design some pie charts and graphs about maximizing my capabilities and stuff, and a Powerpoint presentation about making The Blender™ a sustainable commodity yielding long-term dividends on different levels. I call these levels The Three P’s: Performance, Product, and Personal appearances. With three hands, this presentation fortunately doesn’t take long to put together. Out of these findings I discover a core value of Contemplation inherent to The Blender™ brand, and arrange for contemplative publicity photos of me in The Blender™ outfit, simultaneously scratching my temple while deep in thought, stroking my beard pensively, and resting my head on my fist à la Rodin’s Thinker. I also develop a Blender Time™ clock, with my three arms registering hours, minutes, and seconds.

A couple paragraphs back I mentioned my ability to juggle multiple tasks, which is ironic because in another dream series I’m incredible at juggling. After a difficult childhood—my name bastardized to “3ierre”—I spend my awkward adolescent years locked in my room, quietly becoming a dazzling juggler. Eventually debuting my skills in the school yard, I wow the same kids who have ostracized me, by juggling whatever I can get my hands on— sandwiches, roadkill, marching band instruments, you name it, sucka. I develop a reputation for keeping up to a dozen items in the air, and word of this young three-armed juggler spreads fast. I am approached to go pro but the power system governing the two-armed circuit is jealous of my juggling virtuosity, and the NJA refuses to recognize me as legitimate and denies me a license. Heartbroken, and a three-armed outcast in a two-armed world, I fall into a life of crime. Engaging unsuspecting strangers in meaningless conversation, I mesmerize them with crazy juggling pyrotechnics (some stuff is on fire) then rob them silly. I start small, with old ladies on uncrowded streets, and soon become more brazen, graduating to multiple victims of any age, anywhere. After 10 or so strikes, news of “The Muggler” hits the papers and I become infamous, an overnight cult hero to some, an overnight menace to most.

I live a life on the run, a misunderstood fugitive with a penchant for ponchos and pungent cheese, on a reckless quest for something I never find. An outlaw with a complicated worldview, I develop a unique value system with my own notions of right and wrong. Authorities trail me all across the south and southwest, led by Agent T. Everett Warner, who takes the only known photo of me, a grainy phone-snap à la Loch Ness Monster. Shepard Fairey designs a street mural based on this photo, and American Apparel sells T-shirts with the same image to disaffected youth and their moms. Agent Warner, secretly sympathetic to my plight and envious of my id-driven existence, comes close to capturing me once in Reno but himself falls prey to my hypnotic juggling prowess to the tune of 40 bucks and a K car. After years on the lam, I die as a result of a freak allergic reaction to some cheese that I eat but don’t juggle, and am survived by Agent Warner, who cashes in on a book deal about our escapades and retires in Santa Fe, comfortable, yet forever haunted by a vision of me laughing diabolically while juggling several copies of his book, all on fire.

In another dream series, I am an incredible musician, still named Pierre. I play the guitar with such amazing, blazing virtuosity that listeners assume I have a third hand. Which, of course, I do. Whenever I pick up an instrument, serious musical pyrotechnics ensue (some stuff is on fire). But what really blows people’s minds is that everything I play on guitar I simultaneously play on air guitar! This feat is a first, of course, and secures me a prominent position in the annals of rock. In 2033 I am inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the Jonas Brothers, who are perpetually on the road as part of an oldies package tour. At the induction ceremony I give the three brothers hi-fives at the same time.

In my dreams I gloss over the downsides of having three arms. And there are downsides. For starters, people everywhere look at me like I have three arms. Kids ask their moms loudly why that man has three arms. Some people even call me Octopus, even though I have three arms, not eight. Practically speaking, I have to get my shirts and jackets custom-made. This isn’t an issue for me as The Blender™ or guitar god, as I get crazy endorsement deals that give me all my custom shirts and robes and jackets for free. But for Pierre the renegade juggler, it’s not so easy, which is why in that dream I favor ponchos.

Every time I wake up, I’m happy to have two arms. I’m also happy not to be named Pierre. My real life might not be as exciting as that of a professional wrestler or rock star or juggling outlaw with three arms. But I’m ok with that. Because that’s what dreams are for.

Tom Greenwood writes stuff about various things, and vice versa. He’s co-written a cookbook, contributes to a variety of magazines, and has collaborated on a series of projects with artist Ryan McGinness. When not writing about himself in the third person, Tom plays caveman drums and maintains a deadly aquarium. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife.