Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Fear Itself

Jackie K. Cooper


Some people are basically paranoid, and that description pretty much suits me. In today's age I find a lot of things to be paranoid about. It's easy. Just pick up the newspaper or turn on TV and you will find a checklist of possibilities that can turn you gray overnight.

Look up in the sky and spot a cloud. Is it a possible tornado? Or go to the beach, then you can worry about sharks or tsunamis. Somewhere there is a bunch of killer bees ready to sting you to death. The article I read about them said they were generally harmless unless you aggravate them. I guess that means you are safe unless you call them names, or buzz off-key.

Honestly, just going to your fast food place for a snack can put the fear of God into you. I headed out the other day with chili on my mind. Then I remembered that story I had read about possible "mad cow" disease being found in Alabama. That state is next door to me so that put a chill on my chili.

So I decided maybe some chicken nuggets would be tasty. Wait a minute, I thought, what about bird flu? Do chickens get bird flu, or are they all tested before they end up in those huge trucks I see with cages piled on top of cages? Better stick with a salad. Then when I got home I turned on TV and there was some guy talking about too many pesticides being used on lettuce.

My wife is a vegetarian, has been for years. She says she never felt better and urges me constantly to convert. So far I have withstood her pleas. I love steaks and hamburgers and chili. How could I live without my weekly intake of spaghetti? Watching my wife eating her salads and vegetables doesn't do it for me. Those are side dishes, not the main course.

I really think we have to just live our lives and pray for the best. We can only hide from the realities for so long. I had a friend whose parents were both sickly people. He worried all his life about them dying, and you know what? They both outlived him. He was killed in a car wreck in his early thirties and both his parents are still alive. All that time of worry was just wasted.

Still I live in fear of the unknown. My poor wife has to call me when she leaves school each day so I will know she is on her way home. That way if she has car trouble, I will know to be on alert. I also check in on my kids every day just to make sure things are all right. I just need that daily reassurance they are doing okay. I used to just have to only worry about my wife and two sons. Now I also have two daughters-in-law and two grandchildren I have to monitor.

Was it Churchill or Roosevelt who said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"? Anyway, they didn't know how my mind operates. I fear everything AND fear itself. I know that uses up a lot of energy and I wish I could stop, but I think I am just programmed to be a little insecure about things.

My preacher ended her sermon last week with this story. She said there was a woman who was just sure her home was going to be burglarized. She told her husband over and over that this was going to occur. Finally one night they did hear a noise in their home. The husband got up to check and sure enough there was a burglar standing in their den.

The husband looked at the burglar, who seemed to be searching for an escape route, and said, "Could you wait here a minute. I want to get my wife. She'll be so excited to see you. She's been expecting you for years."

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Jackie K. Cooper was born in South Carolina and now lives in Georgia. He is familiar to people living in the middle Georgia area as the "entertainment man" since his entertainment reviews run in newspapers and are shown on television there. His short stories have been used as commentary on Georgia Public Radio. He also keeps active appearing as an after dinner speaker for various events.

Cooper has lived an exceptionally interesting life and portions of it are contained in his first book Journey of a Gentle Southern Man. The journey continued in Chances and Choices.

Jackie's first two books, Journey of a Gentle Southern Man and Chances and Choices, were reprinted and published by Mercer University Press in July 2004. His third book Halfway Home was published by Mercer University Press in October 2004.

Cooper is currently at work on his fourth book, The Book Binder, which will be published in the fall of 2006.

Visit his website, or email Jackie

© Jackie K. Cooper

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012