The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 30, 2012

Fear: It’s the only thing we have

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Fear scares me.

I know what FDR told us, that fear itself is the only thing we have to fear, but that concept in itself scares me.

I don’t like to be scared, which scares me, since fear is the stuff of which Halloween is made — along with candy, of course.

I grew up with a father who delighted on frightening the bejeezus out of his beloved only child every chance he got.

He would go down the hall and slip into a darkened bedroom. Then he would wait for me to come along. I knew he was there, of course, and knew what fate awaited me, but I was drawn to that stupid hallway like a moth to a flame.

I should have turned around and run the other way, should have stayed in the living room watching TV, should have made my mom go down the hallway first (Dad would have frightened her exactly once, and never, ever again).

But like every slow-witted protagonist of every cheesy horror film ever made, I moved toward the object of my fear, rather than away from it.

How many times have you wanted to yell, “Don’t open that door, that’s where the (monster, mummy, zombie, vampire, tax man, bill collector or mother-in-law) is hiding”?

So I would creep down the shadowy hallway, the butterflies in my stomach growing with every step. Along the way, I would call out, “Dad, uh Dad?” How he kept from laughing, I’ll never know.

All at once he would step out of a darkened bedroom and say something terribly original, like, “boo,” and I would shriek and run, his laughter ringing in my ears.

Now I know he was trying to kill me. OK, in truth he probably really wasn’t trying to kill me, but he could have.

So could my bride, who is constantly sneaking up on me when I least expect it and issuing a blood-curdling yell at the top of her lungs, scaring me out of 10 years’ growth.

OK, in truth she actually just walks up and quietly says “Honey,” while I am concentrating on something else, but it scares me just the same.

Now, doctors say it is possible to scare somebody to death. The condition is called stress cardiomyopathy syndrome.

They cite the case of a 60-year-old woman who was given extremely bad news about her husband’s health. Before the couple left their doctor’s office, the woman suffered tightness in her chest and had difficulty breathing. Fortunately, she was outside the office of a cardiologist at the time, so she was rushed to the emergency room.

When the woman was hooked up to an EKG, doctors discovered her heart had stopped beating, though nothing was blocking the blood supply to her ticker.

They concluded that the overwhelming emotions she experienced after getting the bad news about her husband literally stopped her heart.

So that proves it. My bride is trying to kill me.

My college roommate once tried to kill me, too. I didn’t know he was anywhere around. I thought he hadn’t come back from his usual weekend trip home. I was coming in from long hours of studying at the library. OK, in truth I was likely under the influence of the nectar of the grape or the grain.

Anyway, I walked into our dorm room and opened my closet to neatly hang up my jacket. OK, in truth, I was going to toss it onto the floor with the rest of the unlaundered flotsam.

All at once, I was confronted by an apparition so inhuman, so horrible, I very nearly expired right on the spot.

It was my roommate, wearing a gorilla mask.

I wish I had the presence of mind to absorb the shock and to thwart my roomie’s evil plans by simply saying, “Hey, how’s it going?” then simply shutting the door in his face.

Instead I played right into his hands.

I screamed like a little girl. At least I could take comfort in the fact I made his day, if not his whole weekend. Besides, I was needing to wash a load of underwear anyway.

I saw him about a month ago for the first time in years, and darned if he didn’t bring up the whole ugly incident, somewhere around 40 years hence.

I hate him.

Actually, Halloween doesn’t scare me.

It is just a bunch of kids dressed up as Spongebob or some such, asking for candy that will just make them fat, rot their teeth and give them bad skin.

Many other things, however, do scare me. Like intolerance, injustice, hatred, ignorance, abuse and the suggestion by those on both sides of the present presidential horse race that a victory by the other party’s candidate would somehow destroy the country.

Scorpions scare me, too, not to mention Brussels sprouts, beets and the news that 65-year-old adulterer and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering doing another “Conan the Barbarian” film (working title, “Conan the Geezer.”)

In this version, Conan will use a walker and will wear adult diapers under his loin cloth. Now that scares me.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at