Sometimes a bow and arrow is just a bow and arrow

I remembered a small chunk of a dream where I was with my family some kind of kid’s activity place. There were a few parents around, and lots of kids running around in vague groups. I was sitting on a bench near a little outdoor cafe with round tables and parents drinking coffee and using their phones and fussing with expensive looking oversized aviator sunglasses.

The location was not very modern or impressively maintained, but it felt safe and just kind of crowded and comfortably disorganized. It felt a lot like when my kid was in first or second grade and I was a chaperone on a trip to the pumpkin patch and several schools of kids were all in one place, that kind of thing.

My wife was with a group of people near the cafe’s counter. When she came back over to me with a lidded paper cup of coffee in one hand, she said she had volunteered me to help when she overheard that someone was needed to oversee some indoor archery with the kids because she thought it sounded like it would be fun for me. I groaned a complaint but decided not to argue about it. That was the last I saw of my family in the dream.

In the back of my dream-mind, I recalled that I’d only ever done archery for maybe a week when I was a senior in high school several hundred years ago. I wasn’t especially good at it then and hadn’t touched it since, but I pushed that back and decided I could still use my shallow pool of archery knowledge to help some kids out.

I walked over to a rustic looking stone staircase behind the cafe and headed up and inside. It was a big open space painted a long time ago with a kind of coffee with cream color, not very tall and enough old lighting fixtures on the ceiling to prevent it from feeling dark. Not a cramped space, but the low ceilings kept it from feeling spacious.

There were some small groups of kids in the room and a few adult chaperones doing various things, like little activity tables on one side and something like a ring toss game in another corner, and there were scattered toys and stuffed animals and big pillows and overturned boxes of games here and there. Again, not super structured or immaculately clean, just a place with a lot of kids doing kid stuff and it was comfortable and fine. Even if most of the people in there were interested in the archery it couldn’t be too big of a deal.

I surveyed the room and saw just three small archery targets, very close together in a little enclosure in the middle of a wall between some cabinets. I took a breath and put my hand up in the air and in a loud, confident voice, said, “Anyone who was waiting to do archery, come on over here and line up and we’ll get going!” A few people looked up to see what I was saying, and I turned around to rummage around the nearby shelves and tables to see if there was actually any archery gear available.

When I turned back around, there was a gigantic crowd of kids of all ages and sizes crowded between me and the archery targets and everything else in the room had been mostly abandoned, and they’d coalesced into one big cloud of restless, archery-hungry kids. Everyone was suddenly in coveralls and boots that were suspiciously like Ghostbusters uniforms, probably a nod to the Stranger Days Season II episodes that I’d been watching in recent days. The room was filled with the same kind of sound and energy you’d find 60 seconds after grade school kids had been released outside for lunch.

Someone had found three or four aged red fiberglass bows and there was a constant wrestling for control of them. There were no arrows in sight and there were more kids than I could count waiting for a turn.

I felt my dream-hands go up to my head to rub my dream-temples and I took a deep breath. Hands still on temples, I scanned the room again. When things went into slow motion, I realized that pretty much everything in there was an ideal archery target; my eyes landed on some helium balloons over there, then a couple adults with literal Target t-shirts over there, then a small pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game in progress in another spot, a kid with a deer mask on hammering some blocks at a little round table, and so on. (When I saw the dear mask, I thought, “Oh, come on!”)

Every single thing in the room was something a certain kind of kid would want to shoot with an arrow, and for all I knew, everyone in front of me was a certain kind of kid.

I realized things were about to get crazy, but I was briefly relieved that at least no arrows had shown up yet.

I raised my hand again and said, “OK – before we get going, who knows the ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING we need to know about archery?” I don’t know the exact rule or words I was looking for, but the gist was going to be “never, ever aim arrows anywhere near people, that would be bad.” I knew this was important, but a deep, unspoken doubt filled my gut.

My yelling resulted in a bunch of shouting back that had nothing to do with the question, like “he cut in line” and “I was here first” and “this is boring” and so on.

I tried it again. “This is important! If we’re going to get started, we’ve got to agree to the Most Important Rule. Who can tell me the rule?”

More chaotic shouting.

I was determined not to just pass out arrows to people who hadn’t agreed to the Most Important Rule, whatever it exactly was, so I looked down once again, took a big breath and was really going to belt it out.

When I felt my body completely filled with life-giving breath and abuzz with power, I raised my eyes to meet the crowd. I opened my mouth and prepared to unleash an Odin-like mandate to the room to gain control. All eyes were on me, calmly waiting to submit to my booming authority.

All that came out was MMRRRMMBB MMFSFFMMGGG KKFMVMMMMNG PFFFFTTNNG buzzing out from my lips. I started to panic because not only was only gibberish coming out, my dream-mouth wasn’t even opening up to let me shout it. I wondered briefly if my mouth was sealing itself up like Neo’s did early in the first Matrix movie, but I was too distracted to really examine this idea. Chaos erupted in the room.

An intense fight-or-flight rush instantly descended on me and my rapidly pounding heart started to wake me up. In the brief transition to wakefulness, I realized that I had been so intent on shouting and being heard in the dream that I actually had engaged my body in real life.

Back here, in reality, I had been trying to speak the dream’s words aloud but my mouth was mostly glued shut with sleep goo and my jaws were also stiff from grinding my teeth all night and it never was going to happen. Instead of unleashing a lungful of power, I was buzzing out muffled groan-yells through my mostly sealed lips and stiff jaws, and I caught myself in the middle of some “phrase” as I woke up. I froze for a moment and cut off whatever I was saying mid-syllable. It gave me a moment to figure out where I was and what was happening, and I collapsed back onto the bed.

I peeled my mouth the rest of the way open and massaged the ol’ TMJ joints for a minute so I could maybe move my jaws a little better and took a breath.

I caught myself still grinding my teeth and with some effort, flipped my legs over the side of the bed. The day had begun.