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Dream Logic

Barbara A. Barnett is a writer, musician, orchestra librarian, Odyssey Writing Workshop alum, coffee addict, wine lover, bad movie mocker, and all-around geek. In addition to Daily Science Fiction, her short stories have appeared in publications such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Shimmer, and Flash Fiction Online. Barbara lives with her husband in southern New Jersey and frequently bursts into song. You can find her online at babarnett.com, or babbling as a member of the Star-Dusted Sirens writing group at stardustedsirens.wordpress.com.

Keith touches a hand to his nose, and I'm not sure what surprises him more: the blood my left hook drew, or the fact that his boxing gloves have suddenly disappeared.
"How did you--"
I slug Keith again. Keith doesn't get dream logic, which is why he shouldn't be narco-boxing. But it's the latest fad so he just has to get on board with it, a badge of cool to add to his generically perfect looks and the girlfriend he cheats on and that big fat promotion because he's got leadership potential, while I'm just bossy and shrill.
Only narco-boxing is my thing, not his. Jab, jab, one-two combo. A twig of a girl like me shouldn't be able to take a guy Keith's size, but that's how dream logic works--suddenly the boxing ring becomes your grandmother's living room and instead of gloves you're decking someone with a loaf of bread while that weird freckled kid from the sixth grade is cheering you on from the sidelines even though you can't remember his name.
Keith takes a swing but misses my face because suddenly I'm about a foot taller. His glove--'cause his mitts are back on now--bounces off my chest the way those two kids are bouncing on that trampoline in the corner where the ref was standing a second ago.
Billy Brown. That was the freckled kid's name. He's standing next to the trampoline looking exactly like he did in the sixth grade, hair sticking straight up and his striped shirt hanging half-untucked from his pants. The kind of kid Keith probably once shoved in lockers.
Keith takes another swing at me. I duck and suddenly we're in this huge freight elevator, only it's raining and there's Billy Brown again holding an enormous stuffed chicken.
Keith slips in a puddle, and I punch him while he's down. Jab, jab, gut, gut, face, face. He grunts and he bleeds and a couple of his teeth fall out, but he doesn't get wet despite the rain.
Billy Brown giggles. "It's like Ingrid Bergman playing the violin in a hot-air balloon."
"Exactly," I say. I yank Keith to his feet and suddenly we're in a car, and I don't know how I'm driving with boxing gloves on, but that's how it works. We're heading downhill and the wheel's shaking like the car's about to spin out of control and Keith is screaming because the brakes don't work and there's a brick wall at the bottom of the hill. Keith starts pummeling me, telling me to stop the car, but I'm laughing because here comes the wall and I can hear Billy Brown cheering me on.
"Ingrid Bergman, baby! Ingrid Frickin' Bergman!"
And then suddenly I'm awake, and for a moment I wonder if we really did hit that wall 'cause my head is pounding, but of course we didn't because it was a dream and I'm alive and I just haven't had my coffee yet. So I eat my breakfast and I go to work and later Keith's about to hound me about who knows what, but he hesitates. His shoulders droop and he gives me an I-would-never-really-hit-a-girl look of contrition, only he did and he knows it and I wonder how he likes his badge of narco-boxing cool now.
"I know I said I didn't need that report until Tuesday, but, um..." Keith runs his tongue over his teeth. The fact that they're still there seems to reassure him because he puffs himself up all big and peacock-like. "I'm going to need you to finish that report before you leave today."
Friday. 5:15 p.m. I should be gone already, but I say "no problem" with the biggest smile I can muster even though I know Keith will be off to happy hour any second because I overheard his latest fling talking about it by the copier.
Keith nods, but his eyes widen in a way that makes me think he's a little bit scared of me now. And he should be, because he still doesn't get dream logic, and there'll be a rematch tonight.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 8th, 2014

Author Comments

I can't remember the full context, but a friend and I were having a conversation that somehow involved fighting in dreams (I think she may have accidentally hit herself for real in her sleep), which led to her throwing out the term "narco-boxing." I decided that had to be a story. First drafts are usually a slog for me, but this one came quite easily, probably because of the stream-of-consciousness style. The challenge, particularly in revision, was capturing the randomness of a dream while still trying to find images that carried meaning for the protagonist and the story.

- Barbara A. Barnett
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