The Analysis of Dreams
by Timothy Reilly
During the 1970s, Timothy Reilly was a professional tuba player in both the United States and Europe (in the latter, he was a member of the orchestra of the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy). He is presently a substitute elementary teacher, living in Southern California with his wife, Jo-Anne Cappeluti, a poet and scholar, who also teaches university English courses. His short stories have been published in Babel Fruit, Amarillo Bay, Riverbabble, Reflections Literary Journal, River Walk Journal, Slow Trains Literary Journal, The Seattle Review, Sidewalks, and The Small Pond Magazine.
After breakfast the husband and wife went out on the patio to finish their coffee. There was an uncomfortable silence between them. A scrub jay landed on a fence and used the jagged crest like a whetstone for its beak. It gave a loud squawk then flew off. The husband took this for a sign.
"You know," he said, "I'm not that guy in your dream." He was repeating, note for note, a comment he had made just before the silence took over.
"I heard you the first time," his wife said, staring at a cloud that reminded her of Michelangelo's Moses.
"Then why are you angry with me?" her husband asked.
"I'm not angry; I'm hurt. It opened up old wounds. You don't listen."
"Because that wasn't the real me," the husband continued. "I never drove off with any dyed-blonde dressed in a skimpy dirndl and fishnet stockings. I don't even know how to drive a Harley Davidson—or any other kind of motorcycle, for that matter. Why do I have to take the blame for some meaningless, neuronic noodling from your unconscious psyche?"
"Who said anything about fishnet stockings?" the wife said, with a gain of treble in her voice. "Who do you know who wears fishnet stockings?" She set down her coffee cup, decisively, as if moving a chess piece.
The husband rolled his eyes and caught a glimpse of the same cloud his wife had been musing over. The image he conjured was the detonation of a hydrogen bomb. "You said the woman in your dream was wearing fishnet stockings," the husband said.
"I said nothing of the kind."
"Okay: so she wasn't wearing fishnet stockings—who cares?"
"I don't care," said the wife. "I'm just curious why you put in that little detail . . . fishnet stockings. Where did you get that from?"
"I didn't get it from anywhere."
"Because the only person I can think of who wore fishnet stockings was that floozy at the Rankin's party."
The husband gave a pondering grimace. "That party was ages ago. I don't remember any floozy in fishnet stockings."
"And by the way," the wife said. "I don't appreciate that 'neurotic noodling' remark."
"Neuronic," the husband said. "Having to do with neurons—nerve cells. What floozy?"
"I know what neurons are. You should enunciate more clearly. Even so: my dreams are neither noodling nor are they meaningless. Dreams are not meaningless."
The husband looked above a gnarled eucalyptus and saw the first quarter moon peek through a break in the clouds. "Look," he said, pointing over his wife's shoulder. "The moon's out in the daytime." The wife had to turn her head halfway around and roll her eyes the rest of the way, to position the daytime moon in her field of vision. The husband was now staring into his coffee. He was holding his cup with both hands, sliding it in a repeated arc, as if consulting a Ouija board. "Who's this floozy you're talking about, anyway?" he said.
"The floozy married to the man who was old enough to be her father's older brother; the floozy who had your devoted attention for over an hour; the floozy in the fishnet stockings, who had every middle-aged man acting like a horny teenager, bucking to carry her books."
"I didn't talk to her for that long a time," said the husband.
"Then you do remember her."
"I remember talking to some guy's wife. But I don't remember any fishnet stockings. I was just being polite."
The wife looked for her Moses cloud, but found it had changed to a bust of Harpo Marx. "Polite," she mimicked. "That floozy was snaring anything in trousers."
The husband sat up straight and rigid, like a man refusing a blindfold from his executioner. "I did nothing wrong," he said defiantly.
A wind chime pealed, like a sacring bell, three of its five notes. The wife shifted in her chair, as if she were about to stand or speak, but settled instead for another stretch of silence. The husband noticed his hydrogen bomb cloud was now a mountain gorilla playing a sousaphone. It reminded him of his own dream from last night.
In his dream, he was standing backstage in a concert hall, waiting to perform a baroque concerto for an instrument with a strange name; a bizarre kind of oboe: an oboe de la . . . something-or-other. The instrument employed a double-reed, like a conventional oboe, but was considerably longer and shaped like the tusk of a mastodon, with an incomprehensible array of keys and finger-holes, reaching far beyond the span of human digits, in spite of its impressively complex silver linkage.
Moments before he was to join the orchestra on stage, a panic gripped him as he came to the realization that he not only was completely unfamiliar with the music he was about to perform, but was also incapable of playing as much as a tetra chord on the oboe de la . . .
"Let's talk about your dreams," the wife said suddenly, as if she had been reading the husband's mind. "What dreams did you have last night?"
The husband looked off in the direction of the neighbor's yard and watched a gray cat walk a length of fence like a circus performer.
"It was a frustrating dream," he said. "One of those dreams like having to take a test on a subject you know nothing about."
"You had a dream about taking a test?"
"No. But it was something like that."
The wife waited a reasonable time-span before urging her husband to elaborate. "Well . . .?" she said, her arms gesturing a welcome.
"I had to play this concerto I didn't know, on a musical instrument I had no idea how to play."
The wife put her hand to her chin. "What kind of musical instrument was it?"
"It was this giant, curved oboe. It had a ridiculously complex fingering system—impossible to figure out."
"Oh no you don't," the husband objected. "You're not going to make this into some phallic thing."
"Not at all," the wife said. "Quite the opposite, really. . . . Curved . . . complex . . ." she listed, as if summing up clues to a murder mystery.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It could represent your trouble understanding the complexity of a woman's feelings," the wife said with a certain air of confidence. "Was I in your dream?"
The husband saw this as a chance to clear his name. "No," he said. "You're never the villain in my dreams."
"So you didn't see me in your dream?"
"No. I just said so."
The wife nodded her head sadly.
"Well that's better than being the bad guy," the husband said. "I'm always the bad guy in your dreams."
"That's not true," the wife said without raising her voice. "It's just that my dream reminded me of something that was never resolved. It reminded me of the Rankin's party."
The husband puffed up. "I did nothing wrong at that party," he said. "You saw me the whole time. You tell me. What did I do wrong?"
"Did you see me?" the wife said.
"You were standing right there."
"But did you see me?"
The husband held his tongue, considering this to be a trick question.
The wife waited a minute for a response; then, getting none, picked up the coffee cups and went inside, leaving the door open.
"I'm not that guy in your dream," the husband shouted his feeble defense at the open door. He was going to tell his wife to close the door but thought that might make matters worse. He leaned back to calm himself, looking above the clouds to a silent high-flying commercial jet. The jet was leaving a vapor trail that seemed disproportionately large compared to the pinpoint speck of a jet that it was following. The husband tried to imagine the number of people on the jet. He wondered where they were going.
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