Natalie’s prompt: Write about the first time you were afraid. Write for ten minutes.
Dad’s voice would change when he played the part of George, a high-strung little kid just like the rest of us who also happened to really love Jesus. George was made of wood and slept in a suitcase. His voice rang tinny and compact, muffled yet articulate and quick, accompanied by a frantic jerking of his head and a horizontal sweeping of giant eyes – a clue that, yes kiddos, that was the punch line of his Bible story. Then his jaw would drop and his teeth separate into the only grin he could manage and he’d laugh. George was gentle, compassionate, knew the Bible well and loved to tell other kids about the love of God. And he had a great suit.
One day I’m sitting on the couch watching something unrememberable on TV when a different wooden face appears on the screen:
Abracadabra I sit on his knee / Presto! Chango! Now he is me!
A simple commercial – one big eye, half a sinister smile with a sharp curve upward at the corner and a five-second phrase – and my world shook. Never before had an image so basic and minimal yet so obviously evil been embedded in my young mind.
From that day forward, even if George would have suddenly begun spitting out gold coins and performing miracles with the cold touch of his little wooden hands, he would be nothing more than a harbinger of pain and suffering. Such was the effect Fats made on me in that televised moment.
I must have gotten over it all eventually. The curtain has parted, so to speak, and I know what lies behind the wooden smile and herky-jerky motions. I even rented the movie Magic as an adult, just to face the fuss buzzing in my memories.
Strangely enough, I am a big fan of psychological thrillers. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter still rocks my world . . . deep down where fear is lurking . . .