Mother Warned Me
Copyright 2018 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
When I was young and in the military and we were off-duty, winding down the adrenaline of our second wind so we could sleep, sometimes we’d sit around eating and drinking our junk from the gedunk machines. When we did this, we’d get all philosophical.
Now to a 19 or 20 year old our philosophy went something like this,
“What are you going to do when you get out?”
“What is the one thing you haven’t done?”
“What is the line you’ll never cross?”
or the next question,
“What scares you the most?”
Then the round robin would begin as the question was answered, person by person around the haphazard circle.
What Scares You The Most?
I learned early on that fear is subjective. One person will be scared by something another finds harmless, even ridiculous.
It was here that I first developed the idea of a scary cupcake.
Suppose you knew a person who lived all alone in an apartment or house and you wanted to do something nice for them.
At the same time, you know there must be a reason for their solitude so you don’t want to be pushy – infringe.
So one night, flush with compassion, you make some cupcakes. You look at what you’ve made, find the best looking one, take it to their door, quietly knock, and leave.
You just want your neighbor to know that someone out there cares.
What you don’t know is that your neighbor is going through some high-octane introverted mind-fuckery on an epic Edgar Allan Poe scale and you just became the Raven.
You’re already gone, warmly wishing that your little gift is well received. Meanwhile your neighbor has only now screwed up enough courage to respond to the void,
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;”
Who knows how far they felt their bubble of solitude reached. Within the confines of their home? Beyond their apartment or house? The entirety of their lot or property? Then in the deepest darkness of Their night, they heard a knock.
“But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.
Yet while Edgar may have found himself
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
Your neighbor just ratcheted up the paranoia factor. Because your neighbor’s mind isn’t playing tricks. There really was someone there. Someone who knocked then vanished and the evidence of this is plain. There in the quiet moonlight on the doorstep sits one solitary cupcake on a dish.
One Scary Cupcake.
It’s scary not because of what it is but what it means to your neighbor.
‘Someone put that there: Someone who wants to remain anonymous, unknown, unseen. Someone wants me to know they’re watching me. Oh God! They could be hidden in the dark, watching me right now! This single fragile little cupcake with its bright frosting and little candy sprinkles: Is that what they think of me?’
Such thinking is not without precedent. When a VooDoo Bokor nails a dead chicken to your door, the message is not, “I thought you might be hungry. Please enjoy this chicken with my well-wishes, signed, Your Secret Admirer.”
So back in the military, trading spooky stories of what scared us, I learned that fear can be unique to the individual.
A long time later in life, during an otherwise uneventful moment, I had an unexpected flash of insight.
I realized I’d become the person my Mother always warned me about.
There she sat in the comfort of her kitchen, having no idea that the wretched person one must avoid was standing right next to her. The creature hugged her, brought her ice tea, and kissed her on the top of her head.
Because the horrifying thing loves his Mother.
Unaware of the danger, she called the monster that towered over her diminutive 5 foot frame, “My little Eddie!”
Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.
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