Homophobia

Homophobia

(Fear of homosexuals)

It was a chilly night in February when the plan came into Travis Glick’s head. He thought about it and when he had almost every bit of it worked out, he decided to discuss it with his cousin. Glick’s cousin, Tommy McConnell, was an 18-year man-child who would do anything that his cousin asked of him, as long as you had enough patience to explain it to him. Travis also got together with five other friends who he had known from high school and who could also be easily manipulated. Their names were: Jimmy Logan, a 6’3”, brown-haired guy who had played football in high school and who, when he wasn’t playing football, would sit at home or with his buddies, get drunk, and get in his pickup truck and look for a fight; Eddie Farraday, a 5’7” guy who had a “Napoleon complex”, lifted weights, and liked to shoot guns at defenseless animals; Gus Deavers, a 22-year old who worked as a bartender and who would not check IDs when his underage friends came in; Douglas McGlennis, another relative of Travis’ who knew who to talk to for anything considered “illegal”; and, finally, John Withers, a too frequent resident of juvenile court since the age of seven. It was a Friday night when they all got together at The Cattle Drive bar where Gus worked.

“So, Travis, what’s on your mind?” Eddie asked. “You know that I’m not much for drinkin’.”

“OK, listen, guys, I been thinking about this for a while and I think that we should do it. Have you read in the paper about the Supreme Court deciding about “fag marriages”?”

“Yeah, what about it?” Jimmy asked.

“Well, I think that we all should go up to Washington DC and let them know that we ain’t going to stand for it. Shoot, the way things is going they’re going to make sure good Christians are going to have to marry ’em in church without any say so from the pastor. Hell, for all we know, they could force us to get gay married.”

“I understand what you’re sayin’, but why are you so concerned about it?” Gus asked as he took a big sip of beer.

“Cuz, I don’t like faggots and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand for the government tellin’ me who I got to marry!”

“I got ya, but what do you have in mind?”

“Doug, do you know someone who can get us some C-4? Or Semtex?”

“I think so, Travis. When do you need it and how much?”

“I know the guy that is head of security at the Court; he’s my brother-in-law. I already called him and asked him if he’d be willing to help us. He said that he would. Now, listen up! Here’s what I was thinking.”

Travis lowered his voice so that the others would have to lean in to hear him. The sound of The Oak Ridge Boys was playing through the barroom speakers. By the time that the bar was ready to close, the six friends were all in agreement.

Travis had only had two beers during the meeting, because he didn’t want the police to stop him for drunk-driving. In fact, he told the others that they were all to do nothing which would draw attention to them. He had also decided that there would be absolutely no discussing of their plans either on the phone or through any wireless media. They were not even to mention the plan with either their girlfriends or members of their families. Travis was mainly concerned about Tommy and John; Tommy, because he sometimes tended to blurt things out, and John, because of his criminal record. He even considered having Tommy stay with him, since he had his own apartment, and having Jimmy stick around with John, but he eventually decided that, since he had emphasized the importance of the plan, they could be trusted.

Travis got home and went to his kitchen and tossed a frozen burrito into the microwave. When it was done, he put it on a plate, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, and turned on the television. He just happened to catch a news story about the Westboro Church members picketing a soldier’s funeral. Travis was split in how he felt about the picketing; on one hand, he agreed with the church being at “fag” rallies, but, on the other hand, as a patriotic American, he felt that protesting was uncalled for, unless they knew that the soldier was a “fag”. He looked at his watch and saw that it was time for Hannity’s program and changed the channel. Travis was an avid admirer of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity because, during the times that they had a liberal “wonk” on their shows, they managed to slaughter the opposition. By the end of the program, Travis had finished his dinner and decided to go to bed.

“Travis, come on over here! I wanna show ya something.”

Mike Quincy was a friend of Travis’ who he had met earlier in the year at elementary school. He was nine years old, and so that made him a year older than Travis. When Mike called him, they had been playing “Soldiers” and Mike told him that he had to pee. Travis had a small bathroom in his bedroom that Mike was using, so Travis jumped up from the floor to see what Mike wanted to show him.

“Take yours out and we’ll play “Swords””.

“”Swords? What’s that?” Travis was a bit shy about being in a bathroom with another boy, but he trusted his friend.

“It’s when we both pee at the same time and then we fight each other with our wieners.”

“I don’t know; that sounds weird.” Travis looked towards his bedroom door and saw that it was closed. He decided to take a chance. He walked into the bathroom, unzipped his pants, and stood next to Mike and peed. When they were both done, they took their “weiners” in hand and started to fight. They were really getting into it so they didn’t notice when Travis’ step-father came into the room.

“Travis, it’s time…What are you perverts doing!!! Oh, Jesus, help me! Mike, zip up and go home! Travis! Come with me!”

Both boys closed their zippers and Mike Quincy ran out of the room and down the stairs. Travis’ step-father, a man of the cloth, was boiling with anger! He grabbed Travis by his shoulders and step-marched him down the stairs towards the basement. He yanked the basement door open, pulled the boy down the stairs, and then let him go, but told him to grab hold of one of the cement columns in the basement.

“Son, I’m going to beat the sin out of you! I will NOT have perverts in my house!”

“Yes, sir.”

Having said this, his step-father took off his leather belt which had a big bronze buckle engraved with a crucifix on it and proceeded to start swinging. He started on Travis’ back and then on the back of his thighs. He continued belting him until Travis fell to his knees and passed out. He was revived when his step-father poured a glass of water on his face. The man’s belt was looped back through his pants and, through the fog of pain, Travis heard:

“Get yourself up to your room! You are strictly forbidden to see or talk to that sodomite ever again, you understand me, boy?!?”

“Yes, sir” Travis weakly replied and slowly walked up the stairs. He blushed when he saw his mother sitting at the kitchen table with her head lowered. Travis saw tears dripping from her eyes and thought, “Mom! Aren’t you going to do anything?” But Travis knew that it was useless; his step-father ruled this roost and he had probably told her that she was not suppose to say anything to her son. As always happened, this was the moment that Travis woke up and wiped away a tear. He got out of bed, looked in the mirror, and said quietly, “Ain’t going to be no more perverts here!”

The next day, Doug McGinness came into the grocery store that Travis worked at and called him to the side.

“Travis, I thought that I’d let ya know that my contact might be able to get half a kilo of C-4, do you think that that will be enough? He wants $200 for it.”

“That’s not too bad a deal, Doug. Tell you what, Gus works tomorrow night, so why don’t we all go down to The Drive and discuss it. By that time, I should be able to get some more information on the building and we’ll go from there.”

“You got it, Travis. I’ll let Eddie, Jimmy, and Johnny know about the meeting and you can talk to Tommy and Gus about it.”

“Good deal. See ya later.”

The next night, everyone was at The Drive. They got there before the place got busy, so that they could speak without being overheard. There were only two customers sitting at the bar and they were more interested in the basketball game on the television. Once Gus brought them their beers and sat down in a chair which positioned him to keep an eye on the bar, Travis got started.

“Here’s what I’m thinkin’. We go up to DC the day before the Court meets. We’ll all be able to stay at my brother-in-law’s place because my sister will be working the night shift. We’ll take three cars; I’ll take Tommy; Jimmy and Eddie, you go with Doug; and Gus, you bring Johnny with ya. Each vehicle will be carrying a portion of the C-4 in case the cops stop any of us, the rest will be able to get away. I do suggest, however, that no one does anything to get stopped by the cops. Once we get to Randy’s place, I’ll go over the layout of the building with everyone. Is all that clear?”

The rest of the conspirators silently nodded their heads. Gus got up from the group and drew a beer for one of the men sitting at the bar.

Since Tommy would be traveling with Travis, Travis thought that it would be a good idea to have Tommy stay over at his apartment the night before they left for Washington. Tommy liked his cousin and he was excited to be spending some alone time with him. The main reason for this was that he wanted to ask Travis about some things and he would have felt awkward asking in front of the others. Both men had just finished dinner and were washing the dishes, when Tommy shyly said:

“Travis, exactly what is a homo…homosex-ual?”

“Tommy, it’s when a guy has sex with another guy; it’s against God and Nature.”

“But why do we gotta blow up the Court?”

“Tommy, listen. The Supreme Court is going to decide whether homos can get married. If they say it’s OK, then the next thing you know, they’ll let those perverts marry sheep or molest little kids. We live in a Christian country and if we let them get away with this, God will punish us.”

“How will God punish us?”

“I’m not rightly sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the government makes preachers marry these perverts and take away those that refuse to a camp.”

“A camp? Like summer camp?”

“No. These camps would make the preachers start teaching socialism to little kids and if they refuse, then the government will have them killed.”

“So, what’s socialism?”

Travis was used to explaining things to Tommy, but sometimes…. Travis put the drying cloth down on the counter, went to the refrigerator, took out two beers, and told Tommy to have a seat at the table. This gave Travis a little time to think of an answer to Tommy’s question.

“Socialism, as I understand it, is like Communism. It’s when the government takes away your right to carry a gun, when people who are too lazy to get a job, just wait for the government to give ’em food stamps, so that they’ll vote for ’em. It all started when that man, Obummer, stole the election. And you know, don’t cha, that when a foreigner who’s a Muslim steals your country, then you got to stand up and fight!”

“Yeah, I guess so. Can I ask one more question?”

“Sure, then we’ll go watch TV.”

“Well, when my step-daddy aboosed, ah, abuse-ed me, did that make me a pervert?”

Travis got silent. He never did know why his father had gotten Tommy out of his foster home when he was eleven, so he was unsure how to answer him. His father had only said that he had been abused, but not how. Travis was twelve when Tommy came to live with him and his family and Tommy never spoke about what had happened. Travis was surprised that Tommy had brought the subject up after being quiet about it.

“Well, what do you mean? How did he abuse you, if you don’t mind me askin’?”

Tommy’s face turned red, he stammered a little, and then he said:

“The reason I ask is ’cause your daddy said I was never to mention it while he was alive, but…well, it seems to me, with all your talk ’bout homos…”

Travis braced himself for what his cousin was trying to say. Tommy’s step-dad was dead (killed in a drunk-driving accident), so Travis calmed himself down and quietly said to Tommy:

“Now if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s alright. That man is dead and he cain’t hurt ya anymore.”

“I know. I just want to make sure that I’m not a pervert.”

“OK then. Tell me what he done.”

“Well, I think I was eight years old when he married my mom. My mom was working, one day, at the department store and I had just got home from school. Ray was sittin’ on the couch with a beer in his hand and watching TV. I was hungry and asked him if I could have some milk and cookies. Ray slowly got up from the couch, walked into the kitchen and looked in the fridge. He said that we didn’t have any milk, but if I really had to have some, then he would give me some of his milk. He told me to close my eyes and open my mouth. I was afraid, but I did it anyway. My eyes were shut tight, then I heard a zipper noise, then he grabbed my head and put his dingus in my mouth. He told me to suck on it or he would beat the hell outta me, so I sucked. After a couple minutes, his dingus got hard, I could hardly breathe, and some salty stuff went in my mouth. When he was done, he told me to swallow it. I did and he told me that if I ever told anyone, he would kill me and my mama. Does that make me a pervert?”

Travis was shocked when Tommy finished his story and some tears came out of his eyes. He clutched the edge of the table, then got up, walked over to Tommy and hugged him.

“No, that don’t make you a pervert. Only if you liked it.”

Tommy patted Travis on the shoulder and said:

“No, I didn’t like it.”

Travis broke away from Tommy and said:

“Come on, let’s go watch some TV. I think “Mama’s Family” is on; you like that, right?”

Johnny Withers and Eddie Farraday were sitting around Johnny’s apartment drinking beer and smoking some weed. They tended to hang around with each other because they both had spent time in juvie. Eddie hadn’t been in the same joint as Johnny had been because he lived in another state at the time. Johnny had gone to juvie when he was twelve years old for selling weed; Eddie was incarcerated for beating up a kid at school and almost killing him when he was thirteen. They had both spent two years in confinement.

“Hey, Johnny, what…ah, what do you think really got Travis going on about this plan?”

Eddie, who usually was a quiet guy except when he was high, thought about the question and said, “Oh, you know how his daddy is. The old man prob’ly knocked all sorts of shit into his head.”

“Yeah, you may be right, but the reason I ask is because that can’t be the only reason. Do you think something might have happened to him as a kid?”

“Dude, why are you so…ah, concerned about it? Don’t tell me you’re a fag!”

“Hell, no! They may have tried to get me into that shit in the Hall, but I wasn’t goin’ for it. I didn’t even beat off until I got out of there and, believe me, that was bad enough.”

“Yeah, I know. When I first got in, this guy…I don’t know…was maybe a year older than me and about six inches taller, and when he thought that no one was lookin’, said to me, ‘Boy, you gonna be my bitch! Yeah, I can feel your mouth now.’ “

“So, what’d you do?”

“I didn’t say anything; I just jumped him and beat the hell out of him. Course, I get solitary for it, but I tell you what, that guy ended up as my bitch!”

“Wait, wait, you mean that you…you know.”

“Yeah, well, it only took once for the other kids to get the message. But, I wasn’t a fag. It was a matter of, what’d they call it? Oh, yeah, GURD, gay until release date.”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Yeah, I heard ’bout that. Well, I guess if you wasn’t the one takin’ it up the butt, that don’t count.”

“You better believe it don’t! So, how’d you avoid that?”

Johnny’s cheeks got red before he said, “Well…I guess you could say that I got blessed. I didn’t hit puberty until two months before I got out. They saw that I was worth hittin’ on since I didn’t have my pubes, plus I told ’em that I had connections on the outside that could get them anything they wanted, so the Main Boy (as they called him) told the others that I was “off limits”.”

“Well, good for you. Speaking of getting things, you got any more beer?”

The day for their departure for Washington DC had finally arrived with no one being arrested. The C-4 had been evenly distributed and safely stored away. Travis gave the other two groups a map and the address to Randy’s place.

“Now, you all remember to drive within the speed limit and don’t do anything to get yourselves noticed. If any of you need to pull over for gas, food, or to use a restroom, flash your lights two times. Everybody got that?”

The others nodded their heads and then headed to their cars. It was a bright sunny morning in July and the summer humidity had not started yet. The three cars pulled away from the curb in front of Travis’ apartment and, looking like a metal caravan, made their way out of the suburbs. It would take them the better part of the day to get to Washington DC from their medium-sized town in West Virginia, but everyone had come prepared. Most of the guys had brought some CDs with them while those who hadn’t, turned on the radio. Travis had brought some CDs, which Tommy had asked if he could bring, but in the beginning, Travis told Tommy that he wanted to listen to the radio. Travis always kept his radio tuned to his favorite country-western station, but early in the morning the station had a preacher on who always gave Travis “inspiration”. Travis thought of it as a good sign that the preacher was talking about God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, but, if he had really thought about it, he would have realized that this wasn’t so much of a good sign as it was a planned political statement. The preacher, of course, quoted the more frequently used verses from Leviticus with cross references to Revelations. While driving, Travis would nod his head and occasionally come out with an “amen!”, but Tommy, who was getting bored, just looked out side of his window and hoped that the preacher would quit talking so that he could ask Travis to play his Dolly Parton CD.

Tommy was infatuated with the buxom singer and, when he was alone at home listening to her, he would sometimes stare at her picture in the case and play with himself. When he finished, he would sometimes say to the picture “I’m sorry, ma’am” as if the singer was in the room with him. Tommy also liked to play video games even when he lost. He just liked to imagine himself inside the game, playing a role. He especially liked the “Nascar” game, since he was ineligible to get a driver’s license or own a car, it gave him a sense of normalcy. Travis had helped show him how to play video games and Tommy had been grateful to Travis ever since. That was why Tommy was going to Washington DC with Travis; Travis had told Tommy to think of this as a video game that they were going to win. Tommy liked that idea, since every other way that Travis had tried to explain it to him still did not make sense.

Gus drove about three car lengths behind Travis. Even though he had never been in trouble with the law, just having Johnny in the car with him was a good enough reason to be cautious, let alone the C-4 sitting wrapped in a towel on the back seat floor. Johnny wasn’t too bad of a guy to have around, but Gus knew that if the police stopped them for any reason, Johnny would be the one who the cops would take away and if they insisted on checking the car, they would probably find the C-4. Gus glanced over at Johnny, who was sitting quietly smoking a cigarette. Neither one of them were really big on chit-chat, but Gus decided that the long trip would be less boring if he could think of a topic that the both of them liked. Finally, he said, “Johnny! Why don’t you turn on the radio and see if you can find a basketball game.” Johnny shrugged his shoulders, put his cigarette on the lip of the ashtray, and turned on the radio. He slowly and methodically turned the dial but all that he could pick up was a couple of country-western stations out of Charleston, an oldies station, and a fire-and-brimstone preacher. “Nothin’ good on. How ’bout a CD?” “Sure, what’d ya bring?” “I got Johnny Cash, Madonna, Metallica, and Def Leppard.” “Why the hell do you have Madonna? That bitch is a fag singer!” “Maybe so, but the way she dresses gives me a stiffy!” Gus laughed out loud and said, “Just make sure that Travis don’t see it! He hates any group or person that is gay-friendly. Hell! He just about had a fit when he came into The Drive one night and someone played “Candle in the Wind.” Johnny just chuckled, shook his head, and said, “What are you goin’ to do with him?” After that, Johnny lit another cigarette, then offered one to Gus, who took it. Johnny lit it for him so that Gus wouldn’t be distracted from his driving. After a while, Johnny asked Gus, “So why did you decide to get involved in this plan?” Gus thought about it for a moment, then said, “Two reasons. First off, I don’t want to see our country turned into a Sodom and Gomorrah and secondly, you guys are some of my best customers, so I got to keep an eye out on y’all.” Johnny laughed and then put in a Metallica CD, but he kept the volume down to a decent level because he had promised Travis that he would not attract any unwanted attention.

After two hours of driving, Jimmy Logan asked Douglas to pull into the next comfort station so he could use the restroom. Jimmy finally realized that it had probably not been a good idea to bring a litre bottle of cola with him, but he tended to get dry-mouth when traveling. Douglas flashed his lights twice to let the others know that he would be turning off the highway at the next exit, which was about a mile away. Finally, when all three vehicles pulled into the rest area, Jimmy made a quick beeline for the bathroom. When he entered, he didn’t even pay attention to his surroundings or the odor. Jimmy walked up to the urinal, unzipped his fly, released his joint (as he liked to call it), and let loose. Due to his family’s religious background, he closed his eyes and pulled back his head while he urinated. When he was halfway finished, he heard the restroom door open, so he assumed that it was another one of the guys coming to take care of their business. Jimmy had just finished when he heard a gruff voice next to him.

“So, where you headed?”

Jimmy saw a man who looked like he was in his mid-forties with salt-and-pepper hair color and a beard and mustache. The stranger was dressed in a red plaid shirt and jeans with leather chaps. Jimmy told the man that he was with some friends and that they were heading for Washington DC. The man unzipped his pants and took out his penis as if he was going to use the urinal next to Jimmy’s, but then he said,

“So, you’re a good-looking kid, you want to party?”

“What do you mean?”

The stranger nodded down towards his penis and said, “How about you play with me and I’ll play with you.”

The light bulb finally flashed over Jimmy’s head when he realized what the man was asking him to do. Jimmy’s whole body stiffened and he saw red. Jimmy grabbed the man by his shirt collar, pushed him against the wall, and said, “You fucking faggots sicken me!” and, without saying another word, Jimmy swung his fist and smashed the man’s nose. He continued to pummel the man and was finally prevented from killing him, when Eddie and Travis entered the bathroom when they heard Jimmy yell. They grabbed Jimmy by the shoulders and pulled him away from the bleeding man who appeared to be unconscious.

“God damn it, Jimmy! I told you not to do anything to attract attention to us! Get in the god-damn car and let’s go.”

“But, Travis, he asked me to…”

“I don’t want to know, you idiot! Now, GO!!!”

Jimmy glared at Travis for a few seconds, but then stomped over to Doug’s car.

It was 10:00 PM by the time the caravan of plotters arrived at Travis’ brother-in-law’s place. Travis knocked on the door and Randy Boudean let the tired men in. The apartment had two bedrooms; Randy would sleep in his own bedroom, while Travis and Tommy would share the other room. One of the remaining men would sleep on the couch, while the others would have to be satisfied with the floor.

“Are you guys hungry? Amy made a large lasagna for you. Anyone want a beer?” Randy asked his guests. Despite their tiredness, all of the men were happy to help themselves to Amy’s generosity. Some of the men ate at the kitchen table, while the others either set their plates on a coffee table or their laps. When everyone had finished eating, Travis got them all out into the living room in order to go over the plan. Randy handed Travis a map of the city, which he spread out on the empty coffee table.

“All right. We are here about, what Randy, three miles?”

“That’s about right.”

“What do you figure is the easiest way to get to the court? What time of day?”

“Well, I figure if you go west on Constitution Avenue, you’ll eventually hit 2nd Street SE. When you get there, turn left and go down to First Street NE. It’s probably best if you park along the street or use a parking lot and then walk down to the Courthouse. If you all get there around 10:00 AM, you can sign up for going on a tour.”

“Alright, now, once we get on the tour, every body try to stay at the back. Randy, do you have the specs for the inside of the building?”

“Yeah, here. I marked with an “X” the best places for you to slip away from the tour.”

“Great. OK, Tommy, you’ll stay with me. Jimmy and Eddie, you’ll slip inside these restrooms, and when they are clear, you go to the last stall in each one, put up the “Out of Order” sign on the doors, and stay quiet. Gus and Doug, you’ll both sneak into the Court Room and plant the C-4; Johnny, you be the lookout. Is everyone clear on what they have to do?”

Jimmy raised his hand up.

“Tell me again, why Eddie and me got to hide out in the bathrooms?”

Travis sighed.

“You guys are going to be the back-ups if any of us get caught. If nothing goes wrong, then me and Tommy will come and give ya the “all clear”. Since Randy will be stationed near the entrance to the building, he’ll be able to distract the other guards when we make our escape.”

“Yeah, but what if we don’t escape?”

“Well, then, you’re on your own. I suggest that you don’t get caught. Once you’re out of the building, calmly make your way back to the cars. When everyone is safe, then we leave.”

Eddie raised his hand.

“Yeah, but if everyone gets out, who’s going to set off the C-4?”

“Randy will. I suggest we all get some sleep now; it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

The next morning, Travis was the first person to wake up and he went around and got the others out of sleep. Randy had made a pot of coffee and made toast for everyone. Amy, Randy’s wife, had called him around eight in the morning to let him know that work had been more hectic than expected and she wouldn’t be home until around noon. She worked as a nurse at Walter Reed Hospital and her supervisor had asked her to do some overtime. Randy told her that it was fine with him since it would mean more money to pay off their bills, but he also told her to try to get some rest, if possible. Once everyone had been fed, they got ready for their coming adventure. Some of them thought of what they were about to do as a “mission from God”, while some of the others thought of it as either a chance to be on TV or as something different to do in order to fight boredom.

“Doug, Gus, are you two set up and ready to go?”

Doug and Gus nodded their heads and Gus said, “Let’s do it!”

They all put on their jackets and walked down the stairs to get in their cars.

There was a bit of chill in the morning air, but the sky was a crystal blue. Travis and Tommy were leading the caravan through the unfamiliar streets. Tommy sat in the back seat looking back at the other cars to make sure that they didn’t get stopped by the police or if they fell too far behind. Before they had left the apartment and Randy had left for work, he went over the route again with Travis. In some things, Travis had to be occasionally reminded what he was to do or how to get someplace. Since they were in unfamiliar territory, Travis refused to turn the radio on since he considered it would be a distraction. Tommy was not happy about it, but once Travis explained his reason for it to him, Tommy quit complaining. “Besides, Tommy, we’ll be where we’re goin’ soon enough”, Travis told Tommy as a way of apologizing. Ten minutes later, Travis was pulling into a parking garage. The others pulled in two minutes later. Travis and Tommy got out of their car and waited while the others found parking spaces near Travis’ car.

“All right. Let’s go. You all know what you got to do.” Travis told the group.

They all had found spaces on the second level, so they all quietly walked down a nearby stairwell and stepped out onto the street. Travis noticed a couple clouds floating by which looked like there might be some rain coming later in the day, but he didn’t think that it would cause any problems for their plans.

When they arrived at the Courthouse Building there was a line of people standing on the stairs waiting to get into the building, but it seemed to be moving at a good pace. The seven conspirators got in the end of the line, not saying a word to each other. Travis noticed that Eddie was starting to sweat, but he didn’t think that he would break and run; Eddie was not someone who would “chicken out”. The only person that Travis might have had doubts about was Gus. As a bartender, Gus was someone who usually talked to people at his job, but Travis also knew him as someone who knew when to listen. Within fifteen minutes, Travis was at the entrance to the building and a guard told him to wait while the preceding tour group left and the docent came to lead the next group. Soon, a smiling brunet walked up to where Travis was standing and the guard let the next dozen people enter the building. The docent stood next to the wall waiting for her group to form up and, once everyone was together, she said,

“Welcome to the Supreme Court Building! My name is Kesha and I will be your guide. Before we start, please stay together, do not wander off, and, unfortunately, there is a no photos policy in force. If anyone is caught taking pictures, you will have to have a discussion with Homeland Security. If anyone has any questions, please speak up.” No one spoke or raised their hands, but a couple people did grumble about the “No Photos” policy.

“Now, if you will all follow me. The Supreme Court Building was constructed in…”

Jimmy and Eddie slowed their steps enough until they were both at the end of the group. Soon enough they were nearing the doors of the public restrooms. They both looked around, saw that no one was looking at them, and quietly opened the restroom doors. Fortunately for both of them, there was no one in either facility. Almost like a synchronized swim team, they slipped into the bathroom at the same time and made their ways to their ordained positions. They took out the “Out of Order” signs out of their jacket pockets and taped them to the doors. Once they opened the doors, each man tried to get comfortable in the stalls without having their feet showing under the doors. Eddie managed fairly easily; he sat on top of the toilet tank with his feet on the closed toilet lid. Jimmy, because of his height, was finding it more difficult. In either case, it was irrelevant because while they were trying to get comfortable, two officers entered the restrooms. Eddie had just gotten seated when the stall door crashed inwards and Eddie found himself facing two drawn pistols. Jimmy, on the other hand, had just turned around also to sit on the tank, when the door crashed in, he got knocked back and hit his head on the wall. He was not conscious when one of the officers handcuffed him.

In the meantime, the group that the other conspirators were with had just entered the room where the justices heard cases. Gus, Doug, and Johnny casually glanced around, estimating where to plant the explosives. After the docent had told the group everything relevant to the room, she led them back out without noticing that her group was three men short. Johnny stood by the door, keeping an eye out through a slight crack, while Gus and Doug went to plant the explosives. Just as Gus headed up towards the justices’ bench, six armed police officers sprang up from behind the seats. Their sudden appearance stopped the two men in their tracks and, when Johnny looked back to see what the noise was about, the door that he was guarding was quickly and forcefully pushed in and Johnny was knocked down to the floor. The trio were quickly handcuffed and, surrounded by officers, escorted out of the room and the building.

Travis and Tommy were just finishing their tour and not really paying close attention, when suddenly two plainclothes officers who had been in the group, grabbed the two men by their arms and shoved them to the wall. Tommy, who did not understand what was happening, struggled with the officer and yelled to Travis. Before he get free in order to help his cousin, his body was racked with a bolt of electricity and he fell to the ground looking like someone having an epileptic seizure. The docent, who had expected this to happen, quickly ushered the rest of the group away from the scene. Travis, who had wanted to reassure Tommy, had, however, put up no resistance since he knew that it would be useless. Eventually, the two cousins were led out of the building. While being led down the stairs, Travis saw that Randy was also in handcuffs. Travis knew, then, that they had been betrayed but he couldn’t figure out who the traitor had been. All of the conspirators were put in a van (the C-4 had been confiscated) and driven away.

At the police station, the conspirators were put in cells and individually interrogated. While he was waited to be questioned, Travis heard a news report coming from the waiting room television.

“All eight of the conspirators were believed to be angry because of the ruling which is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow by the Justices on the issue of gay marriage. We are unsure, at this moment, of how the plot was discovered. We have only been told that Homeland Security received an anonymous phone call. Meanwhile, in other news,…”

It suddenly became clear to Travis how they had been betrayed because, just before the camera had switched to the studio, Travis saw his sister-in-law in the background holding another woman’s hand, and he remembered that just before he went to bed last night, Randy had told him that he thought that Amy was cheating on him. Randy must have mentioned the reason why all of them were coming to DC to Amy. Randy was right in one respect; his wife was cheating on him, but not with another man. Travis just slumped down on the bench in his cell and, for the first time in years, started to cry.

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Atychiphobia

Atychiphobia

(Fear of Failure)

“So, let’s see your report card, and don’t lie! I know you got it today.”

“Yes, dad. But…”

“I don’t want to hear ANY buts. Hand it over.”

Jonathon Fry dropped his backpack to the floor, unzipped the top, and dug around inside until he felt the rectangular cardboard which held his fate. He had looked at the report card at school and his heart fell to his stomach when he saw his grades. He knew that his father, a business contracts lawyer who expected perfection from his only son, would be very disappointed in him. He knew that his grades would earn him a lecture about the need to “buckle down” and “fly right”, and he also knew that any extra punishments would be dependent on his father’s mood.

“One A is not going to get you off easy, young man. A B in English, Math, and Social Studies is totally incomprehensible. A C+ in Physical Education!?! How is that possible? I know that you like sports, but a C+? What, are you turning into a fag now? How can you not get an A in Physical Education? Well?”

“Uh, well, I guess coach is just working us harder and I was sick for those two days last month.”

“Well, you better make sure it doesn’t happen again! Now get up to your room and get your homework done! And you can forget about watching TV or video games for the next two weeks. I want to see every test that you take from now on. If I can pull my grades up to straight As when I was your age, then, damn it!, so can you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jonathon waited while his father signed off on his report card, put it back in his pack, and went upstairs to his room. Once he was in room and had closed the door, Jonathon dumped the back pack on his bed and, to himself, muttered, “you better make sure it never happens again. Like I have control over my body and can tell myself not to get sick.”. He got out of his school uniform and changed into a pair of jeans and t-shirt, got out his binder and books and sat down at his desk and started to work on his class assignments.

Fifteen years later, Jonathon Fry had graduated from Harvard with a law degree, even though he was not really interested in law. His father, without taking his son’s feelings into consideration, made sure that his son applied himself and made it into Harvard. After graduation, Jonathon managed on his own, to get a prestigious job at the top law firm in New York City. He was still single and not dating anyone because, as his father constantly liked to remind him, “women should not be allowed to be a distraction until you make it to the top”. He remembered his senior year in high school how his father had made him break up with Jayne Lowes because he was spending too much time on dates and not enough time studying. When he told Jayne that they could not see each other any more, she slapped him in the face and ran off crying. He felt horrible because he really did like Jayne and, in fact, had thought about asking her to marry him once they both graduated from college. Thanks to his father, another dream was shattered. In fact, Jonathon got to the point in his life where he decided that dreams were a waste of time.

One August day as he was on his way to the office, Jonathon happened to look up from a case that he was working on when he thought that he saw a familiar face. Normally, he would just close his eyes, pinch the bridge of his nose, and go back to what he was doing, but this time was different. He saw a woman walking down the street whose eyes seemed to look straight into his soul. He had the cabbie stop and, while gathering his things, got out his wallet and paid the fare. Jonathon quickly got out of the cab and looked in the direction that the woman was walking. At first, he was unsure if he should run after her and speak to her, but his self-confidence eventually won and he quickened his pace so he wouldn’t lose her. Just as he was ten feet away from her, he saw her go down a small flight of stairs which led to a basement room which had a neon sign in the window with the words “Psychic Readings, $10”. These words stopped him in his tracks when he saw them. He was confused because he couldn’t imagine a woman who was so beautiful would resort to having her life directed by what he considered as a charlatan. He decided that any person who resorted to psychics were weak-willed and so he turned back to the street and hailed another cab.

When he arrived at the firm, he went to his office, opened his briefcase and took out the file that he had been going over in the taxi. Occasionally, he became distracted when he remembered the woman’s enchanting eyes. Eventually he was called into a meeting and the woman was forgotten.

That night Jonathon Fry had a very unusual occurrence; he had a dream. In his dream, he saw himself walking down the street following the woman who he had seen that morning. Just as in reality, he saw her descend the stairs and enter the psychic’s door, but this time, instead of walking away, he also went down the stairs. He went into the room and squinted his eyes because the only light in the room came from some candles sitting on a table. A woman dressed in outlandish clothes came through a beaded curtain and said,

“How may I help you?”

“I’m looking for the woman who just came in here.”

“There is no woman here. Would you care for a Tarot reading?”

Jonathon almost laughed out loud at this, but then he had a sudden urge to know his future. He told the woman,

“Alright.”

“That will be $10.”

Jonathon gave her the money and then sat in the chair that she pointed to. She then set a pack of cards on the table and told him to shuffle them, and when he felt that he had shuffled them enough, he was to hand the cards to her. He did so.

“The first card represents your past. It is the The Emperor, which signifies power and authority, probably your father. The second card is the present. It is The Lovers, reversed, which shows frustration in love, separation. The third card is the future. It is the Queen of Wands, reversed, which shows unstable emotions and obstacles.”

“What does that mean? Will I ever see her again?”

At that moment, the psychic’s face vanished and his father’s replaced it. He said,

“What did I always tell you? Forget about women until you make something of yourself, otherwise you will always be a failure.”

Jonathon was shocked when he saw the psychic’s face turn into his father’s and he jumped up from the table and ran out the door, still hearing his father shouting at him, “Failure! Failure!”. Jonathon woke up then and felt sweat all over his body. He got out of bed, went to the bathroom and took a shower, and while toweling himself dry, kept muttering to himself, “I’m not a failure! I’m NOT a failure!”. After getting back into his boxers, he checked the time. He had two more hours until his regular wake up time. He paced for a while before he decided to go back to bed, but he couldn’t fall back to sleep. He tossed and turned trying to get comfortable but his father’s chant of failure kept ringing in his head. The next thing he realized was that the alarm clock was ringing. He slowly got out of bed, went to his closet and got out the clothes that he would wear that day. After shaving, dressing, and grabbing a piece of wheat toast and freshly-brewed coffee, he picked up his briefcase and caught a cab to work. This morning, however, he was not distracted by the woman that he had become infatuated with yesterday.

Around 1 PM that afternoon, Jonathon’s secretary let him know that one of the law firm’s partners was sending him a new client. Jonathon tended to resent it when this happened because he felt that the time that he had spent at the firm put him above such trivialities. This was something better accomplished by an intern, but he did it anyway, hoping that eventually the partners would be grateful enough to give him more important clients.

“Mr. Fry, Janice Fallowes is here to see you. Shall I send her in?”

“Of course, Denise, send her in.”

His door opened and he almost fell back in to his chair when he saw the woman who walked in. It was her! What were the chances of him being assigned the woman he had been dreaming of? He came around from his desk and pulled out a chair for her. As she was sitting down, he smelled lilacs rising from her shampooed auburn hair. When he sat back down, he stared at her sea-green eyes, then quickly shook his head and said,

“So how may I be of service to you, Ms. Fallowes?”

“Yes, I have never resorted to using the services of a law firm before Mr….Fry was it?”

“Yes it is. Was there something specific that you needed help with?”

“Well, I’m not quite sure. You see, I just recently came into a tidy sum of money and I thought that it would be a good idea to have a prenuptial contract and a will drawn up in case either one became an issue.”

“Well, I can appreciate a woman who thinks of all possibilities. I suppose we should start with the prenup. If I may ask, are you currently engaged?”

“No, I’m not but I’m sure that when I become more socially engaged, the eligible bachelors will be coming out of the walls. I worked as a secretary for a corporation in San Francisco for fifteen years, so I do know how money affects some people.”

“Good, however, I would need a list of your assets and, since you are currently not engaged, it might be a bit premature to draw up a prenup and, for that matter, even a will. It’s not that I don’t want to help you, but I would recommend that you get copies of your financial statements and then we will be able to get things started, Ms. Fallowes”.

“Well, thank you very much for your advice Mr. Fry. I will return when I have decided on an accountant to represent me and then we shall get everything put in order.”

“Very well. I hope to see you soon then, Ms. Fallowes.”

One month after meeting Nona (he had been so infatuated with her, that it wasn’t until their next meeting, that he found out her first name), Jonathon Fry had decided that this was the woman for him. The only problem that he saw was that, to him, it would be unethical to date a client. It was very frustrating to him and he tried to think of a way, without chasing her away as a client, to overcome this obstacle. He was very certain that he would find a way around this, because the thought that he would fail to get what he wanted was anathema to him.

The next day when he came to work, his secretary told him that Nona had called and wanted to set up a meeting with him at her place. His heart started to beat faster and he told his secretary to call her immediately. When Jonathon’s secretary buzzed to let him know that Nona Fallowes was on line one, he took a deep breathe to calm himself and then picked up the receiver.

“Ms. Fallowes, how very nice of you to call. How may I help you?”

“Mr. Fry, hello. Yes, I have something personal that I wish to discuss with you in private. Would you be available to drop by my suite this afternoon, say around 2 o’clock?”

“Of course, no problem.”

“Do you know my address?”

“Yes, I have it on file. I’ll see you at 2 o’clock.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fry.”

As soon as he hung up the phone, he informed his secretary that he would be leaving at one o’clock for a client meeting. She checked his schedule and saw that the afternoon was clear and let him know that this would not be a problem. For the next six hours, Jonathon Fry felt that time was dragging and that the clock would never show one. He tried to eat up his time by going over some files, making phone calls and, at eleven, went to a meeting. By the time that the meeting was over, it was 1:30 PM. He went to his office, grabbed his jacket and caught the elevator to the lobby. Miraculously, he managed to catch a taxi and arrived at Nona’s place with five minutes to spare. All the way over to Nona’s place, he wondered what was so important that she wanted to talk to him in private. He had no idea but he only hoped that it was something that would change his life forever. He knew that that sounded ridiculous, but if not, then if Nona Fallowes confessed to him that she loved him and that they got married, he would also be able to rub it in his father’s face that he was able to have a great job and a beautiful rich wife. That was the one thing that Jonathon always felt held him back from becoming a major success, his father’s constant harping on him that he was a failure. He even told him that if he really wanted to impress him, then Jonathon should start his own law firm instead of being “just another employee”.

Jonathon rang the apartment building bell and entered when he was buzzed through. He took the elevator to the sixth floor and found Nona’s number. A maid opened the door and led him to the living room.

“Madam, will be with you in a minute, Mr. Fry. While you are waiting, would you care for a drink?”

“No, no thank you, uh…”.

“My name is Mindy, sir”.

“Thank you, Mindy”. Mindy then walked out of the room and precisely one minute later, Nona entered. She looked beautiful in the simple white summer dress that she was wearing. Jonathon could hardly keep his eyes off of her and shook his head slightly when he realized that she had said something to him.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

Nona gave him a slight understanding smile and said,

“Please have a seat, Mr. Fry. Now I’m sure that you may be curious as to why I called you here for a private discussion.”

“Yes, I admit that I am. Is it something I or the firm has done that has displeased you?”

“Oh no, it’s not quite that. It is, however, of a personal nature and I would feel more comfortable speaking about it here. As I mentioned to you on the day that we first met, I was a secretary for a company. As such, I was privy to some, how shall I put it? Delicate information”.

“May I ask, was this of a financial or private information?”

“Actually, it was a bit of both.”

“I see. Are you in any danger due to knowing this information? If so, I have a very good friend who would be willing to take on your case if I asked him”.

“That’s very kind of you, but I don’t think that that would be wise. My former employer has some…powerful friends, who are not above using a bit of intimidation. For this reason, I have decided that I must move to a different location, somewhere that they wouldn’t be able to find me”.

“I would think that with your financial assets, that might be a bit difficult. A wealthy woman like you would have to make a lot of changes in order not to be recognized.”

“Yes, I know. That is why I have called you here. I would like for you to redo my will”.

“I’m afraid that I don’t understand. What would that accomplish.”

“Mr. Fry, I plan to change my name, hair color, maybe even have some plastic surgery to ensure my own safety. I want you to change my will, so that I, or I should say, the new me, is the main beneficiary. I have made arrangements to have it look like I have been murdered. Once these people are convinced of my death, I shall come to your office in order to collect my “inheritance”. I shall then leave New York and never return. Here is an envelope that I want you to keep safe for me and I request that you don’t read it until after my “funeral”. Is that understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you very much for your help with this, Mr. Fry. I will contact you after my death”.

Jonathon put the envelope into the inside pocket of his jacket and left. He was in shock after hearing what Nona Fallowes had told him. He sympathized with her, but at the same time, was disappointed that his dream of a perfect marriage with her was now only an illusion. He had to think of another way to keep Nona safe and not to have her disappear from his life. In fact, he decided, then and there, that that would become his mission and he was determined not to fail. That night, he had trouble sleeping and, since it was the beginning of the weekend, he got out of bed, made a pot of coffee and got out a pad and pen and tried to come up with an alternate plan for Nona. He did not want to lose her and, if he couldn’t think up something, he would feel like the failure that his father always said that he was. He refused to give into his fear.

By Saturday afternoon, Jonathon Fry felt that he had found his alternative plan. He called Nona’s apartment, but didn’t receive a reply. He started to panic and decided that he would go over to her place unannounced. When he got to her building, the sun was starting to go down. He pushed the button to her apartment several times until he was buzzed in. When he got to the door, the maid, Mindy, was standing at the open door, waiting for him.

“Where is she, Mindy? Is she home? Please tell me!”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Fry, but Ms. Fallowes has left the city and she did not tell me where she was going.”

“But she will be back, won’t she?”

“I’m afraid not, sir. She only told me to find a place to stay out of the city and that she would contact me later in the week.”

“Please, please, tell her that I have come up with a plan that isn’t so drastic as the one that she wants to use. Please, Mindy, when you talk to her, tell her to contact me.”

“I will, sir”.

Jonathon Fry then did something that he hadn’t done since he was seventeen years old; he went to a bar and got drunk. He sat at the bar and ordered Scotch. He did not fall down crying since his father always said that that was a sign of weakness and that only total failures let their emotions rule their good sense. The bartender sensed that it would be a waste of time to try to cheer this customer up, so he wiped down dirty glasses and poured other peoples drinks. Jonathon only stayed long enough to have three shots then he left a ten dollar tip, in appreciation of the bartender’s silence, and decided to walk home a bit to clear his head. As he raised his head to breathe in some of the cool air to clear his head, he saw a pale blinking of white and red coming from an out door stairwell. He walked over to the blinking lights and suddenly realized where he was. He was at the place that he had first seen Nona. The Open sign was still facing out to the street, so he cautiously walked down the stairs. He entered the dimly lit room and, seeing no one, called out “Hello!”. In a few seconds, a woman who appeared to be in her mid-fifties, walked through the beaded curtain. Despite his prejudices, she did not walk into the room dressed as a gypsy. She was wearing a light blue muumuu with a blue shawl on her shoulders.

“May I help you, sir?”

“Yesh, uh, yes. I saw a woman, late twenties, brown hair, about 5’10” come to see you about two weeks ago. I’m trying to find her now.”

“If she is missing, wouldn’t it be wiser to go to the police?”

“Maybe, but she told me that she is in trouble and that powerful people may be looking for her. I want to know why she came to you. What did she tell you.”

“I’m sorry,…uhm”

“Jonathon Fry, I’m her attorney.”

“Well, Mr. Fry, I am, in this case, also like an attorney or a doctor. I cannot give out personal information without my client’s permission”.

“That’s bullshit! You’re just saying that so that I’ll pay you for the information. Now, give!”

“I’m afraid that you appear to be drunk, Mr. Fry, and unless you are here for a reading, then I must ask you, politely, to leave.”

“You don’t understand! I have to find her. I love her and I want to help her”.

The woman stood by the table for a moment, trying to decide how to placate this man without having to call the police. Finally, she sighed and said,

“What is the woman’s name?”

Jonathon felt a spark of hope when the woman said these words. He told her and sat down on the chair that the women pointed to. The woman pulled out a deck of Tarot cards from a drawer in the table and started to shuffle the cards.

“Yes, I do remember her and what her cards told her. They told me about her recent riches, her uncertainty about how to protect her self, and her future card was Death. Now, I need you to understand that the Death card does not always mean physical death. It can also mean transformation or unexpected change. There is also a chance of loss or failure”.

“Failure? Do you mean that her plan will fail?”

“I cannot say. It is in the hands of Fate.”

“Fate? No, I believe that we create our own fate, not some pie-in-the-sky nonsense! I believe that if I can find her, I can save her.”

“Then shall we test that theory? Hold the cards in your hands, concentrate on her, then choose three cards from the deck and lay them down in front of me.”

Jonathon did as he was told, despite his skepticism.

“Your first card is the ten of Wands which shows that in your past, you had many burdens and excessive pressures. The second card is the present. It is the King of Pentacles, which shows that you are a businessman, a man of intelligence and loyalty. The third card is your future. It is the page of cups, which indicates that you will serve a specific goal, but you prefer that the initiative and planning of that goal is to be in someone else’s hands”.

Jonathon was a bit startled when he heard this. He was stubborn enough to believe that this last bit could not be true. He knew in his heart that his plan for Nona would succeed. He told the fortune-teller just that, and demanded to know if his plan would succeed. She took the cards away, shuffled them again, and told him, this time, to concentrate on his plan. He laid out three more cards.

“This time, we will ignore the card of the Past and only read the Present and Future cards.”

She then took away the first card and looked at the second card. She slowly shook her head and looked at Jonathon.

“The Present card is the ten of Swords which indicates ruin, pain, and sadness. The Future card is the Two of Cups, reversed which indicates crossed desires, unsatisfactory love, and separation. I will also tell you that these two cards are different than the face cards. These are cards that indicate that you have no control over the situation”.

When Jonathon heard this, he got up from his seat, put a twenty dollar bill on the table and, before leaving, said to the fortune-teller, “We’ll see about that.” Jonathon went to the curb, hailed a cab, and went back to his apartment. For the rest of the weekend, Jonathon Fry sat in his lounge chair, flipped through the TV channels, and waited, hoping that Nona would call him. She didn’t call and by bedtime, he decided that he would give Nona’s plan a shot. The first thing that he would do when he got to the office, was to prepare Nona’s revised will.

For the rest of that week, Jonathon Fry went through the motions while still hoping that Nona would call him and ask for his help. After what the fortune-teller had told him, he was determined not to fail. Two weeks after his last meeting with Nona, he read in the newspapers about her death in a boating accident in Acapulco. Three days later, he received a call. It was Mindy, Nona’s maid. Jonathon asked Mindy if Nona was alright, where was she, would she talk to him? A moment later, he heard silence and then Nona’s voice!

“Nona! Please tell me that you’re alright! Where are you? Can I…”

“Jonathon, please! Listen to me, first. Did you change the will?”

“Yes, yes I did! Who is coming to pick up your inheritance? Where are you? I could bring it to you, if you’d like.”

“Jonathon, please listen! A messenger will be stopping by your office in about half an hour. Put all of the paperwork in a manila envelope and give it to him when he gets there. After he leaves, you may open the letter that I gave you when I last saw you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Nona, I do, but…” Nona hung up the phone. Jonathon was confused, but, despite this, he did as he was told. Thirty minutes later, the messenger arrived, and without saying a word, handed him the envelope. He then went back into his office, went to his secret safe, and took out the envelope that Nona had given him. He could still smell a hint of lilac on it. He sat down at his desk, took his penknife and slit it open. Inside, he found a single sheet of paper written in an elegant script.

Dear Jonathon,

I’m so sorry that I couldn’t tell you the truth. I couldn’t tell you how I really came into so much money. I got it through blackmailing my former boss. You see, he and his wife had been married for 25 years and, I guess you could say that he was feeling his oats, so that when I began working for him, it wasn’t long before we were seeing each other when he could get away from her. His wife eventually found out about us and filed for a divorce. He managed to have stored away enough of his money where she and her lawyers couldn’t get a hold of it. Two weeks after his divorce was finalized, he proposed to me. I then told him something about myself which caused him to break off the engagement and, not wanting to be out on the streets, I told him that if he did not give me $15 million, that I would go to the newspapers and ruin him. I was not proud of myself, but I did it. I grew up poor and I was determined never to be in that position again. Now, this is where you come into the whole mess. That first day that we met, I saw the love in your eyes and I was determined not to let love rule my head. I had gone to a fortune-teller before I met you to find the best way to safeguard my money. She told me that a man was waiting for me in the near future, but that it was up to me on whether to allow either my head or my heart to rule me. As I said, I chose my head and when I saw that look in your eyes, I knew that I would have to let you go. Please, don’t be angry with me. I did love you, but, here is another secret, my daughter was more important to me. Yes, Mindy is my daughter and I, I am now her mother.

Sadly yours,

Nona Fallowes (formerly Alan Guntherson)

Jonathon Fry didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “How could I have not known that she used to be a he!” He could hear his father’s laughter ringing in his head! “I failed in the most stupidest thing in life. I failed myself!”

Astraphobia

Astraphobia

(Fear of thunder & lightening)

The humid air and scarce clouds of the Minnesota plains put a weight on Ryan Donough’s shoulders. His family and he had moved to the western part of Minnesota because his mother’s health was affected by the dampness of the Irish weather, and she had family in this area. They lived in a small town that didn’t even bother to have the population written on the town limits sign. It was a town that was about 100 miles east of Fargo and surrounded by flat plains of crops in summer and snow in winter. Ryan hated it. Back in Belfast, he had friends and there were buildings all around, a sure sign in Ryan’s mind of civilization.

Ryan also resented his older sister because there was a ten years difference in their ages. She was finishing college back in Ireland and so she managed to escape this nightmare. Even after she graduated, she would not be likely to exchange her chances at success by moving to the uncivilized part of America. The only time that Ryan expected Lily to visit Minnesota was when their mother died (if the weather here didn’t cure her as the doctors expected). Gruesome as that thought was, Ryan felt that it would only be right that his sister would have to come here and see her little brother’s double dose of suffering.

Since the school year would not begin for another six weeks, and Ryan was bored, he decided to go down to the local library. Since, apparently any kids his age were probably working on their farms, and the local movie theater did not open until 7 o’clock, Ryan walked the two blocks down to the library wondering if this “burg” would even have anything interesting to read besides The Farmer’s Almanac or The 4H Guide Book. It was worth a shot. Before entering the one story brick building, Ryan did notice that the clouds were becoming bigger and darker. Great! He thought, that’s just what I need, to be stuck at home or this building if it rains.

When he opened the door to the library, the first thing that he noticed was the air conditioning. The cold air felt great after walking through the muggy air outside. The second thing that he noticed was that, besides an older woman behind a desk who he assumed was the librarian, there weren’t very many people. In fact, there was only one other person. She looked like she was about the same age as his sister, except she had blond hair instead of brown hair like Lily. Ryan walked over to the shelves, checking out the sheets of paper stapled to the shelves which had the topics written on them, and when he found the small collection of science fiction books, he stopped. Ryan was surprised when he found a copy of Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, which he had heard about from his friends in Ireland. Sean, his best friend, told him that he had found a copy in his older brother’s room and had sneaked it out to read. Sean really didn’t quit grasp what the big deal was about the book, but then, he hadn’t read the whole thing. Ryan thought about checking it out but he wasn’t sure if the librarian would let him since it didn’t have a YA on the side of it. “Starship Troopers”, however, did have a YA on it, so he took it off of the shelf and looked further down the aisle. He eventually picked up two more books besides the Heinlein; one dealt with the town’s history (which was a rather thin book) and the other was an L. Sprague Decamp book. He went and sat at the only other table in the room and skimped through the history book. The town was founded in 1889 and was, at one time, a way station for the railroad. Most of the trains that stopped in the town were there to pick up and deliver the wheat and other grain products to Fargo and beyond. Due to the Great Depression, the trains no longer stopped in the town. It became more feasible for the farmers to drive their crops themselves. Ryan quickly became bored with the book and was getting up to return it to its shelf when a loud explosion shook the library’s windows panes. Soon the lights in the building were flickering. Ryan was unsure what was happening, so he looked around to see what the librarian and the girl were doing. He saw them standing by the door looking out. He walked over to them and asked,

“What’s going on?”

The librarian looked over at him and said,

“It’s pourin’ cats and dogs out there.”

“Was that loud noise thunder?”

“Yes, it was. Haven’t you ever heard thunder before?”

“Never that loud, no. Is it safe to stay here or can I make it home?”

“Depends. Where do you live?”

“Two blocks down the street.”

“Well, it would prob’ly be better for you to wait for the rain to let up.”

“How long do you think that will be?”

“It’s hard to say, for sure.”

At that moment another flash of lightening struck and the thunder roared. The lights in the library all went out and did not come back on. The air conditioner also died. This only made things worse for him, because he didn’t want the two ladies think that he was a fraidy-cat. Fortunately, ten minutes later, the rain let up and the lights flickered back on. The librarian asked him if he wanted to check out the two books that he still had gripped in his hands, and Ryan said “yes”. Before he could do this though, he had to fill out a form to get a library card. Once everything had been taken care of, Ryan gathered up the books and headed towards the door. He had just opened the door when he heard a voice say “wait up”. He turned and saw the girl who had been sitting at the table walking up to him.

“Hello, my name is Bridget. What’s yours?”

“Uh, Ryan, Ryan Donough. Me and my family just moved here a couple weeks ago.”

“Oh, yes! Are you the family from Ireland that I heard about?”

“Yes.”

“Well, my family and I live a block past your place. May I walk with you?”

“Sure, I guess.”

Ryan was shy around girls and he was somewhat surprised that a pretty girl who was older than him would want to walk with him, let alone talk to him. Once they were outside of the library, Ryan looked at the sky and saw a retreating black mass. He had heard thunder before, but never something that had been that loud. When he was around three years old, he had seen his first lightening and thunderstorm. It was very scary and his mother came into his bedroom to comfort him when he burst out crying. As he got older, Ryan still did not like storms but he did not cry. Instead, he just ground his teeth and clutched his fists.

Bridget told Ryan that her father was the local bank manager and that her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Ryan had never heard this expression before, so Bridget explained it to him. She then asked Ryan what his parents did. He told her that his father worked in an office in Fargo and that his mother’s family used to live in the area. He told Bridget about his mother’s health problem and why they had moved here from Ireland. Bridget had just started to ask him some questions about what it had been like to live in Ireland, when she broke off her question and said to Ryan, “Oh, we’re here.” Ryan was a bit disappointed that their time together was over, but perked up when Bridget invited him in for some lemonade and cookies. He accepted the invitation and when they entered the kitchen, Bridget introduced Ryan to her mother. Bridget told her mother that Ryan was nice enough to escort her from the library after the rain had let up.

“Well, thank you young man for seeing my daughter safely home.” Bridget’s mother said with a mock serious look on her face.

“It was no problem, ma’am.” he replied.

As Ryan was telling Bridget and her mother about life in Ireland, he lost all track of time. Before he realized it, it was nearly time for lunch and Ryan rose and excused himself. Bridget’s mother invited him to stay for lunch, but he declined. He said that his mother would be worrying about him and they still had not had a phone installed at the house, so he had no way to contact her. Bridget walked Ryan to the door and said “see you around” and Ryan walked away. He had barely gotten onto the sidewalk, when a strong gust of wind came up and nearly knocked him down. Ryan looked up into the sky and saw a huge cloud blowing in from the west. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of lightening, and Ryan began running. Ryan was half a block from his house, when he saw his mother standing out on the pavement turning her head all around, apparently looking for him. At the same time that Ryan shouted out to his mother, another bolt of lightening shot out from the cloud. The rain started coming down harder and harder. The thunder shook a nearby elm’s leaves. Then it happened. Ryan’s mother must have sensed her son, because she turned in his direction and saw him. She smiled and lifted her hand to wave him into the house, when another bright bolt of lightening struck. This time, it struck his mother and her body was tossed into the air. When her body came back down, it struck the pavement so hard, that Ryan froze for a moment. He saw his mother’s body twisted in an unusual way and there were little wisps of smoke rising from her head. Ryan finally came out of shock and ran over to his mother’s limp body. He saw a trickle of blood slowly streaming down her head from her ear. When she didn’t move, Ryan ran back to Bridget’s house and loudly pounded on the door. Bridget opened the door and when she saw the look on his face and heard his stuttering, she quickly brought him into the house.

“Ryan, what’s wrong?!?”

“My…my…mo…mo…mother hit by lightening. I don’t know if she’s alive or dead.”

“Mom! Call the clinic and have them send over the ambulance! Ryan’s mother has been hurt.”

Bridget then led Ryan over to the living room sofa and had him sit down while she went to get a blanket for him. When she returned, she fluff-dried his hair with a towel, then draped a heavy light green blanket around his body. He clutched the blanket tightly around himself and, despite the warmth, his teeth started to chatter. Ten minutes later, the ambulance’s siren could faintly be heard through the wind and the heavy rain. A medic came by and checked Ryan over and suggested that the boy be taken to the clinic. Bridget’s mother offered to drive him over with her and her daughter. Bridget’s mother was able to get through to Ryan that they were going to the clinic and that he would be able to find out how his mother was doing. Ryan got up off of the sofa, still wrapped in the blanket and walked out to the car. The ambulance had already left.

The doctor came into the waiting room and took Bridget’s mother over to the front desk. After a few words to her, she put a hand to her mouth and looked over at Ryan. Ryan didn’t see her expression, but when she walked over to where he was sitting, he looked up into her eyes and knew.

“Ryan, sweetie, normally people manage to live through a lightening strike, but, apparently your mother had a bad heart and the lightening and the fall to the ground, killed her.”

Ryan finally broke down and cried. Bridget and her mother wrapped their arms around him and tried to comfort him. Two hours later, his father arrived at the clinic. The doctor explained to him what had happened and that his wife had been dead when the paramedics arrived. He thanked the doctor, then walked over to Ryan.

“Come on, sport. There’s nothing to be done.”

One month after his mother’s death, Ryan was sent back to Ireland to stay with an aunt and uncle. And from that day on, whenever there was even a slight chance of rain or lightening, Ryan Donough refused to leave the house. He just sat in his room and cried.

Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia

(A Fear of Spiders)

I hate spiders.

I hate scorpions.

Let me introduce myself; my name is Athena Golden. I am 5’7”, blond, not so bad-looking, if I say so myself, and I am a telemarketer/single woman/aspiring actress. I have appeared in some minor roles off off Broadway and a couple commercials. I have put my love life on hold for now because I don’t want anything to distract me from my goals. I had an opportunity to appear in a Hollywood movie, but when I discovered that there was a scene where I would be required to enter a dark cave and be caught in a giant spider’s web, I turned it down. Granted, I really needed the money at the time, but just thinking about being in a scene with a large (or, for that matter, any size) spider caused me to sweat profusely. I have my big brother, David, to blame for this fear.

It all happened on Halloween night fifteen years ago when I was eight years old. Before that time, I had never even thought about spiders as either good or evil. I wasn’t too crazy about scorpions, especially after having seen a movie in which the hero and his female companion are sent back in time and chased by a prehistoric giant scorpion. Corny, I know, but when you are seven years old, movies can have an affect on you. Anyway, David liked to read when he was younger. He still does, but not like he used to. That Halloween night, my mother decided that I would go dressed as Little Miss Moffet and David would accompany me dressed as a spider. Before we had gotten into our costumes, David decided to come into my room and read me a story that he had just finished reading. At first, I thought that this was strange because he had never read to me before, but I quickly decided that I would not look a gift horse in the mouth and so I sat on my bed and listened. It was a story about a girl named Arachne who could weave beautiful clothes and stuff on her loom. One day, this girl bragged that she could weave better than the goddess Athena. When I heard my name mentioned in the story, I became excited inside. I had been getting a little bored before David mentioned Athena because I didn’t really understand a few of the words that he was saying. Anyway, Arachne’s bragging ticked off Athena and she challenged Arachne to a weaving contest. When Athena saw that Arachne was weaving a tapestry which made fun of the gods, Athena got angry and changed Arachne into a spider. Normally, this would not have scared me, except when David said that she was turned into a spider, he used a very scary voice and got on his tiptoes and approached me in a semi-threatening manner. I, of course, screamed. Our mother heard me and when she found out why I was screaming, she smacked David on the head and told him to go get dressed.

That night, as David and I were walking down the streets, a car would occasionally come by and its lights would flash along David’s made up face. It was scary enough to make me want to get the rest of the night over with quickly. After what seemed like years, we finally went home. I ran up to my room and closed the door. I don’t know if it was the story that David had told me or remembering the lights flashing along his face, but I had trouble getting to sleep that night. When I did get to sleep, I had a dream that I was the goddess Athena and that, for some reason, I was mad at David and changed him into a spider. The thing was that he kept growing and growing, his helix-shaped eyes gleaming red and his fangs dripping with poison. I dropped my shuttle (David had explained what this was) and started to run away. The giant David-spider kept chasing me and eventually caught me by shooting a web in my path. I was trying to get out of the web before David could eat me. I escaped by waking up when my mother called me down for breakfast.

This year was the same year that David turned thirteen. I don’t know if turning thirteen turns boys into brats instantly or if puberty has something to do with it, but every chance that David had, he would find ways to frighten me, and it was usually when our parents weren’t around. One day at school, I opened my lunch bag and found a big rubber spider sitting on my sandwich. I screamed, dropped the bag, and started stomping on the bag. The other kids around me were laughing but I spent the rest of the school day without anything to eat. When I got home, I almost told my mother what had happened, but David was also in the room and he shook his fist at me. I kept my mouth shut. The worst incident occurred when David and our father came home from the pet store. I knew that they were going, but I thought that they would bring home a puppy or some goldfish. Imagine my horror when David walked up to me carrying a small box with some holes in the lid. He turned his back to me and opened the box. When he turned back around, there in his hand was a hairy, big tarantula! I went flying out of the room.

So, that is the main reason that I hate spiders. As far as scorpions go, I read that they are in the same species as spiders, so they are also on my hate list. Scorpions, however, are not common in the Eastern Seaboard, so I don’t worry about it as much.

Now, I can’t really afford to see a therapist about this phobia, but if it interferes with my chance to get big juicy roles, then I might have to come up with the money somehow. Being a telemarketer doesn’t exactly pay big bucks and acting jobs are scarce. One day while I was on break from the phones, I was flipping through a copy of “Variety”, a subscription being my one major indulgence, and I came across an ad:

“Actresses wanted for major Hollywood production. Tryouts are scheduled from 9:00 AM until Noon, April 3rd. Bring head shots and job experience. 634 Triton Ave.”

That was tomorrow! Now, I thought, this is a possibility. I, of course, knew the routine because I had been through this several times, but this was for a real Hollywood movie. Fortunately tomorrow was my day off, so as soon as I punched out, I ran home to get my folio together. I was determined to get this role no matter what! If this role turned out to be the break I needed, I would be out of this city before you could say “Marilyn Monroe”! After making sure that everything was updated and put in order, I made dinner, watched TV until 9, then went to bed. I wanted to be well-rested for tomorrow.

The next day, I got up at 5 AM, showered, carefully chose my clothes, and made sure that my makeup was perfect. I stopped at a corner bakery, got a bagel and coffee, and grabbed a bus. I got to the address half-an-hour early. I went to the ladies room, brushed my teeth and gargled, then returned to the waiting room. I had brought a paperback with me to pass the time but, to tell you the truth, I was too nervous to sit there and read. Instead, I closed my eyes and used some techniques that I had read about to calm my mind. In fact, I was so calm that I almost missed hearing my name called out. I stood up, straightened my dress and hair and went through the open door. There were three men and one woman sitting behind a table; none of them looked like they were famous. At first I was disappointed but decided that I was probably better off not seeing any famous faces. It might have messed with my piece of mind.

“You are Athena Golden?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you have your head shots and resume?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Could you please give them to Ms. Weathers.” The woman who was seated at the table got up and walked up to me. I handed my things to her and waited while they looked through the photos and the list. They whispered to each other for a few seconds and then Ms. Weathers got up again and handed a few pieces of stapled pages to me.

“You will read the part for Eva. Ready?”

And so it began. I got a feeling for the part when one of the men read the lines before I was to start. Without telling me what the scene entailed, I dived right in and gave what I hoped was a good enough reading for the part. When the reading was over, they thanked me and said that they would call me. I felt confident enough that I really believed that they would call me back. Once I left the building, I caught the bus back home, changed my clothes, and sat down trying to decide whether to sit by the phone or go out again and do something, but I wasn’t sure what. Just as I was getting ready to go out and do some shopping, my phone rang.

“Hello, Athena Golden speaking.”

“Yes, Ms. Golden this is Ms. Weathers. We would like you to come in tomorrow morning for a second reading. When would be convenient for you.”

“Gee, I could be there by 8:30 if that’s not too early.”

“8:30 will be fine. If you have any clothes that were considered fashionable for the forties, that would be helpful for your audition, since the director of the project will be there. We are having a messenger bring you over the pages that you will be reading.”

“Thank you very much, Ms. Weathers. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Good afternoon, Ms. Golden.”

When I hung up the phone, I jumped up in the air and shouted. A second reading! That is almost a sure sign that I got the part! My nerves were on edge just waiting for the messenger. When the pages for the scene finally arrived, I was still so happy that I gave the messenger a tip and a kiss on the cheek. The guy was so startled that he blushed and stuttered his thanks as he left. I inadvertently slammed the door, ran to my kitchen table and tore open the manila envelope. I took out the pages and saw the title of the project, “Diamonds in their Eyes”. I took a couple of deep breathes to calm myself before opening to the first page. It helped, but I also decided to have a drink of water. I spent the next two to three hours going over the dialog and when I felt that I had it down pat, I went to my bedroom and went through my clothes to see if I had anything that I felt would be appropriate for my character. Not finding anything, I checked my watch and saw that it was 2:30 in the afternoon. I quickly scanned the phone book to see if I could find any antique clothing stores nearby. I did, but when I saw the name of the store, I felt a shiver go through me. It was called “The Spider’s Web”. I overcame my reluctance, grabbed my purse and hailed a cab. Twenty minutes later, the taxi stopped at the store and I paid the cabbie. The front of the store was painted a grayish color with a sign in letters meant to resemble a web. I dismissed my sense of unease and walked through the door. The interior of the store was well-lit and didn’t have any arachnid-type features hanging from the walls as I thought that it might. When the bell over the door rang, a saleswoman walked out from the back of the store and asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. I explained what I was looking for and why I needed the outfit. The saleswoman, whose name tag said that her name was Sondra, gave me a small smile and told me to follow her. Near the back and to the left of the area that Sondra had come from, I found three racks of women’s clothing that might help me find the perfect outfit. My character, Eva, was presented as a woman of great taste but not exactly independently wealthy. She was a secretary for a law firm, so it was necessary that she be suitably attired.

I couldn’t find anything on the first rack that would fit the bill. On the second rack, I did find a black coat with a silver fox collar. Half way through the last rack, I was starting to get discouraged, when I suddenly came across a powder blue blouse and navy blue skirt. They were perfect! Now all I needed was a hat to go with the outfit. Sondra showed me the hats that she had, but none of them seemed quite right. Sondra said,

“Let me take a look in the back. We just got in some new stuff that I haven’t had time to price yet.” Five minutes later, she came out carrying a pink hexagonal box. She took off the lid and took out a navy blue hat with a dark raven’s feather in it. I knew that that was the perfect hat! I left the store, feeling like Audrey Hepburn in Paris. I flagged down a taxi and went home. I laid the clothes out on the back off a chair and set the hat box on the seat. That night, I dreamed that I was walking on a red carpet with photographers surrounding me.

That morning, I woke up with a smile on my face and a feeling that this would be the day that changed my life. I took my shower, got dressed in my new outfit and went downstairs to get a taxi. I didn’t want to take a chance of ruining my outfit by riding the bus. I arrived at the address on Triton Avenue ten minutes early. I took a seat and put my new hat on. There were only two other women, besides me, who had been called back. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer then got the pages out of my new purse. Twenty minutes later, Ms. Weathers called my name. When I entered the room, I almost lost my sense of speech! The director was none other than Jason Maxovich! I had always dreamed of working with him and now here was my chance. He nodded at me and I read the first line. Jason read the other part. Too soon, my audition was over and I was told to wait outside while they auditioned the final person. I calmly took a seat and waited.

Suddenly, I started to feel ill. I became dizzy and saw double of everything. The next thing that I knew was that I seemed to be floating. In fact, I saw my body laying on the floor. The next thing that I saw was a black widow spider crawling away from my hat. I looked closer and saw a swelling red mark on the back of my neck. The damn thing had been hiding in my hat and chose that moment to strike. Obviously, when I saw the paramedics cover my face, I knew that my chance at stardom was no longer possible. Like I said,

I REALLY HATE SPIDERS!!!

The Purge

I don’t know where this is going, but I feel that it will end with the purging of my mental processes.  First, let me start by saying that I am writing this with only 4-5 hours of sleep.  For some reason, maybe because I am a bit nervous about going to the Federal Building today to see about getting signed up for a pension from the VA.  I am finally getting off of my backside in order to see if this will be possible.  I am running low on the inheritance from my father, due in large part to getting The Corporate Whore of Babylon published.  As some of you may know, I have finished a second book, All of Our Fears, but I don’t have enough money to get it published.  This is why I could really use a literary agent right about now.

Secondly, although these thoughts were not totally occupying my mind while sleep eluded me, my main fears about becoming broke and homeless threaded their way through my mind.  I did have a taste of homelessness back in 2003 and I did not enjoy it, but then, who does?  My “homelessness” was somewhat eased by the fact that through the VA, I was able to get a cubicle at a shelter.  This shelter, however, was only good for three months at which time they expected you to have a job and save enough money in order to at least get Section 8 housing.  I, however, was given help by a VA counselor in getting a room at a housing center for vets.  This place came with rooms which came in one, two, or more beds.  It also had a computer center that was to be used, mainly, for finding a job.  Fortunately, at this time, I already had a job as a security guard at a condominium complex in Playa del Rey.  This lasted until a cabal of penny-pinching unit owners took over the Board and decided that the complex no longer needed security guards.

Finally, I am going to finish this “rant” by saying that I am grateful for those who have read my book and stopped by to read my blog.  I hope that in the very near future that I will be able to have a larger following and that my humble scribblings will find a place in your hearts and minds.  Thank you all for your loyalty!