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What There Is to Be Afraid Of

June 1, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent part of the afternoon at the Dew Drop Inn where I sat at the corner table next to the window and drank strong black coffee and watched the rain falling on the geraniums. I didn't think much about anything but the rain and where my good friend Jack might be, considering he was supposed to have met me at 4:00 and I had to leave at 4:55 in order to catch the show. It's not so much that I mind when people don't show up. Just that I worry about what might have happened. A car accident or a loose tree limb or a dental visit gone horribly wrong. Combine that worry with three days straight of rain coming down and you've got yourself a minor complex.

So I asked for a fresh cup to go and hurried out to the car, ducking as I went as if I'd get less wet that way. I made it to the car just as the piano music started up, and took my sweet time driving home. There was Howard Levy with his harmonica, playing as if his soul were giving a victory speech. I pulled up to the house and could see through the living room window the kids piled on the couch. Their heads were all turned a bit to the right and their faces were bluish so I knew they were watching a movie and figured I might as well drive a while longer. So I did. I drove around the block about seven times then headed on out east toward the river and then south for a while. Mr. Keillor was talking about all kinds of fear and then the ol' rhubarb pie song played and I sang along -- all the while thinking hard about fear and what there is to be afraid of.

The kids are afraid of tornadoes and of being left behind. Mr. Sundberg isn't afraid of much, though I am aware of his aversion to large numbers of moths and the whole concept of body piercing, and I know he has concerns about waking up unmotivated. My girlfriend Pauline is afraid of being alone for longer than a few hours and I know without question Dolores down the street is afraid no one will find her if she should happen to pass on, so we've worked out a system with her porch light. You know, giving birth three times over pretty much takes the fear right of you and replaces it with this feeling of invincibility. Not that I can take on everything, but things have certainly changed. My big fear in high school was named Rita. She was big, alright, and angry and wanted me as a locker decoration. I imagine I was an easy target, being quiet and rather orderly in my ways. I wonder where she is now. Iím tempted to find out and send her a harmonica.

I drove until my coffee was gone. Pat Donohue was singing about the light of the moon as I pulled into the garage and the kids appeared at the door. "Where were you? We were worried!" they said as they hugged me, and Mr. Sundberg was washing dishes and said he hoped I wasn't hungry for tater tot hotdish because it was gone and there was only one hard roll and a piece of pie left from dinner. I could live the rest of my life quite happily without tater tot hotdish, I thought, and it occurred to me as I ate Dutch apple pie that I am afraid of bats and how they might smack into your head without warning, and of something going wrong with my nervous system, but mostly I'm afraid of not being able to find the people I love when I need to find them, and even when I don't.

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