What scares you? That’s the question I asked for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.
Today’s guest is writer and editor Timothy Braun. What scares Tim? He’s written us a Halloween fable to tell us…
Guest post by Timothy Braun
Nova has been kind to me over the years. She allows me to write what I want for her blog (inside a theme), and I respect her and her audience. Recently, my past blogs on Distraction No. 99 have been republished on another site, but I’ve decided to write something only for Nova and her fans this time around. For the theme “What Scares Me,” I’ve written a short story with a monster, wild animals, poison, a bookstore, Thai food (I know Nova likes Thai), and a great deal of fear. This will not be reposted on any other websites. This one is just for you…
“I don’t like the way you are talking to me.”
It was Halloween and Louis didn’t appreciate much. He spoke down to his boss at the bookstore, because his boss wouldn’t let him read on the job and made him shelve the children’s stories. “Bitch” is what he called his boss. Louis was getting older, grumpier, and all he had in the world was a dog and a Thai takeout menu. He had worked at the bookstore for fifteen long years and saw it as a prison. He saw his life as a prison, the world as a prison, and he had days when he just wanted it all to go away. Louis could be mean to people, and thought he had every right to speak the way he did to them.
When Louis got home he had not eaten all day. He had no food in the fridge or the cupboard, just a bottle of clear alcohol in the freezer. He yelled at his dog, Monster, who wanted him to scratch his tail when Louis got home, but Louis drank from the bottle in the freezer instead to drown his sadness. He turned on the television and watched romantic comedies. Louis always watched romantic comedies on Halloween. Louis needed food, and he didn’t want to order pad thai for the third night in a row. The grocery store is only two blocks away, he thought. And I’m not drunk yet… But he was. Monster needed dinner too, but Louis would feed him when he got back.
Louis got into his car and swerved down the hill. He missed his turn and pulled over when he saw flashing lights in his rearview mirror. “Son, have you been drinking?” asked the police officer. “Dick” is what Louis said to the police officer—as if he was better. He took three sobriety tests and was placed in handcuffs and taken away.
Louis didn’t think he belonged in jail and thought it was a dream, but it all became real when he took off his clothes and put on the black and gray stripes the police gave him. Louis was put in a cell at the end of the hall, with a rubber bed and a metal toilet. “We’ll get you when your bond clears.” He was there for twelve hours. For the first three he slept, then he did push-ups, sit-ups, and sang to himself. He pretended his cell was the information desk at the bookstore, something he was familiar with, and then a great fear kicked in. Was he always so mean? Would he ever get out of jail? The room felt small, like it was shrinking. Louis had never been so scared.
Louis was called to a plastic box. On the other side was a lawyer. “Am I going to lose my job?” he asked. “No,” the lawyer said. “Will they take my dog?” Louis asked, scared. “No, this is a misdemeanor. Think of it as a warning. Stay calm. I’m doing my best to get you out.” And Louis was taken back to his cell.
Attempting to stay calm, and not knowing what else to do, Louis recited children’s stories to himself. He recited “The Scorpion and the Frog.” A scorpion said, “Hey, froggy, can you take me across the water?” The frog refused. He was afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argued that if he stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agreed and began carrying the scorpion, for what reason Louis could not recall. Midway across the river, the scorpion did indeed sting the frog, dooming them both to a death of drowning. The frog asked why the scorpion would do such a thing and he said, “It’s in my nature, baby.” Some creatures are just irrepressible, no matter how they are treated and no matter what the consequences.
Louis thought about this while he was in jail, and wondered if animals could change. That is what jail is for. An hour later Louis was released on bond. The city moved fast and needed the cell for more souls. Louis took a cab home and found Monster waiting for him at the door, as is a dog’s nature. Where have you been? I’m hungry! Monster said without speaking, jumping on Louis and licking his face. Louis had never been so happy and never felt so loved. He fed Monster and took what was left of the bottle of clear alcohol and poured it down the kitchen drain. Louis kissed Monster on the nose, scratched his tail, and thought about the frog and the scorpion once again.
Louis wondered if the frog forgave the scorpion, and decided he did. He hugged Monster and turned on the TV so they could watch romantic comedies together. When Harry Met Sally was on. Louis liked this movie. He told Monster how inspiring Harry could be when he took responsibility for his actions. Louis called his boss at the bookstore. “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you yesterday. I had no right. It will never happen again.”
And it never did.
Humans are social animals, and Halloween is a social night. This year appreciate what you have, kiss the thing you love most on the nose, and when no one is looking forgive that scorpion you come across, especially if that scorpion is looking at you in the mirror. And think when you drink—otherwise you might end up in a bookstore.
Thank you for writing us this Halloween story, Tim! (And for slipping in some Thai food, my favorite.)
Timothy Braun is a writer living in Austin, TX, with his dog, Dusty-Danger. He teaches at St. Edward’s University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is the Editor-In-Chief of New and Social Media for Fusebox. He is a fan of the Indianapolis Colts, and George is his favorite Beatle.
Visit him online at timothybraun.com.
Follow @timothybraun42 on Twitter.
Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:
- What Scares Brenna Yovanoff?—Interview and Giveaway
- Daniel Marks Screams Like a Girl—Guest Post and Giveaway
- Top TEN Things That Scare Gretchen McNeil—Guest Post
- What Scares Adele Griffin? A True Story—Guest Post and Giveaway (closes Oct. 29)
- What Scares Michelle Hodkin?—Interview and Giveaway (closes Oct. 30)
- What Scares Tessa Gratton?—Guest Post and Giveaway (closes Oct. 31)
- What Scares Andrew Smith?—Interview and Giveaway (closes Nov. 1)
- What Scares Fiona Paul?—Guest Post and Giveaway (closes Nov. 2)
- What Scares Sarah Rees Brennan?—Guest Post and Giveaway (closes Nov. 3)
And come back tomorrow for more… The next writer to share fears with us is: Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares!
Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.