When fear comes to visit, you usually have two choices—run away from it or bravely face the monster. However, there comes a time in life when “choice” is out of your control. The following true story describes an experience when I faced my fear.
Like most nine-year-old boys, I had certain chores I had to do around the house. One such chore was to take trash from the house and place it in a fifty-five-gallon drum located at the rear of our property. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it!?! Unfortunately, I usually didn’t think about the trash until my mama reminded me, which was usually sometime after dark-thirty.
Well, that drum I mentioned was located in our backyard about one-hundred feet from the house. A short distance from and to the right of the drum was my dad’s workshop. The front of the workshop had a car-size opening without a door. Everything about our backyard was fine during daylight hours, but when darkness came, things looked quite different.
I didn’t really have a fear of the darkness or things that go bump-in-the-night back then, but my fear level was about to take an elevator ride up to the top floor! It all started when I went to a movie with my uncle who was three-years older. The 1954 movie was Creature From the Black Lagoon—my first time to see a “monster” movie. I know what you’re thinking—I should have known better, right? Hey, I was only nine at the time—young and naïve.
I was okay during the first part of the movie. Some people were boating down a river in a jungle setting. They saw some cool sights along the way and I was really enjoying the experience. Then it happened! Some weird, creepy music started playing after a young woman jumped into the black lagoon and began swimming away from the boat. I thought, “Good golly Miss Molly, why did she do that?!?”
I quickly covered my face with my hands. It was all I could do to make myself peek between my fingers as the creature reached up to grab the woman’s leg. It didn’t help matters when most of the folks in the theater started screaming. The louder they screamed, the smaller the space between my fingers became. From that point on, it was an hour or so of pure-blood-curdling terror. I couldn’t wait to get my young behind back home and was happy when the movie finally ended.
That night after supper (okay, I’m from the south where super is the evening meal), Mama said six little words I didn’t want to hear, “Time to take the trash out.” I knew I couldn’t tell Mama how scared I was because she wouldn’t let me go see another monster movie. I don’t even know why I was worried about that at the time. It wasn’t as if I was ready to go see another monster flick, at least not until I reached the age of twenty-one.
I looked through the kitchen window and it was already pitch-black-dark outside. Mr. Fear jumped up and down in my little head as if he had just won the lottery. He knew there were no lights in the backyard and began shouting, “Scaredy-cat! Scaredy-cat! You have to take the trash out and it’s already DARRRK! The Creature From the Black Lagoon is gonna get you! He’s gonna eat you up!”
In a feeble attempt to delay the inevitable, I mumbled, “Mama, do I have too? I can do it before I go to school tomorrow morning.”
“No, son! You have to take it out tonight.”
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much fear I was experiencing, but just in case, my knees were knocking and my mouth felt as though I had eaten cotton-balls for super. When I stated, there are times in life when “choice” is out of your control—this is a prime example of one such time for me.
Having no self-elected choice, I picked up the trash bag, stepped onto the back porch, and looked toward the drum located at the far corner of the yard. It was so dark I couldn’t see a thing—not even dad’s huge workshop. Mr. Fear was laughing at me in an eerie tone of celebration. The crickets were chirping louder than normal and the croaking sounds of tree frogs reminded me of the slimy-reptile creature from the black lagoon.
I started taking baby-steps toward the drum. I would take a few steps and then pause. The bump-in-the-night sounds grew louder each time I paused. I wished I hadn’t seen that creature movie, but I continued my journey—no other choice. I began whistling—no specific tune—just whistling. “Jesus Loves the Little Children” would have been an appropriate tune at that moment, but I didn’t think to use it. I figured that if I whistled anything loud enough, I could drown out the eerie noises and pretend they didn’t exist.
A year of my life seemed to pass as I finally made my way to the workshop off to my right. I envisioned the big eyes of the creature staring back at me from deep within the dark workshop. My heart was trying to beat out of my chest, and all of a sudden, something started growling LOUDLY, as if ready to eat me alive. I yelled “Creature!” and ran to the drum. I threw the trash in and started a mad dash back to the porch—baby steps were now out of the question! I could sense the creature reaching for my head as I continued running for my life! The funny thing about this is I still have no idea what growled at me that night. I guess fear has a way of making you see, hear, and experience things that don’t exist.
Since you’ve read this far, I guess you’ve figured out by now that I made it back to the house safely. What you don’t know is that I set a world-class-speed record by making it back to the porch in less than one second—all one-hundred feet. I evaded my fear—the slimy claws of the Creature From the Black Lagoon. In a way, I faced Mr. Fear, albeit not by choice, and lived to share this story!
So, when do I take the household trash out to the drum these days? I’m pleased to inform you that I do it anytime during the day or night. I’m just more cautious at night. I do this not because of Mr. Fear, but because I learned a lesson by facing him.
What’s the point of this story? It’s to say that no matter how young or old one is, we all have fears of some type—some are silly like mine was, and others are more serious, even debilitating. Regardless of the fears you have, find the courage to face them. In the end, you’ll feel better for having done so—maybe even proud of yourself, assuming you live to tell your story.
Now, it’s your turn. Do you have any fears? Have you ever had to face Mr. Fear? What did you do?
Tom Tatum – Author – 2015
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