“Phobias” Finale & the Staple Gun

book clubsOver the years, my wife and I shared our phobias and on occasion even poked fun of them - her fear of monkeys and my terror from librarians. There’s a time and a place for playful digs and light-hearted cheap shots. But be kind and don’t overdo it.

For instance, I’ve never hired a local actor to dress in a monkey costume and attack my wife at 3 a.m. On the other hand, I have mailed her autographed pictures from primates at the local children’s zoo, signed “Let’s monkey around, Love, Bobo the Chimp.” That monkey was, of course, actually me pretending to be a primate, since the chimps I coerced with plump, ripe bananas never initialed the photos. After the disgusting knuckle-scrapers yanked my pictures through the cage's metal bars, they wiped dried dung from their smelly bums, crumpled up the photos and tossed them back at me, inadvertently hitting some Montessori kids attending a field trip.

On the other hand, my wife serves up demented practical jokes as frequently as reheated casserole (her tuna one is to die for). Every holiday she wraps up an overdue library book for me, knowing the nocturnal torment that will follow. Later that evening, I scream during nightmares featuring emotionless women wearing their hair in a bun, eyeglasses around their necks, loose-fitting light grey stretch pants, white blouses, navy blue buttoned sweaters with matted balls of fuzz stuck to their sleeves and opaque tan nylons that bunch up around the ankles, just above their brown orthopedic shoes. The women are chasing me on ladders that roll across the top of bookcases.

For some odd reason, I’m shirtless in this dreamscape. The librarians are shooting staples even though I’m out of range; the metal projectiles harmlessly bounce off my forehead and cheeks. But my ladder is slow and they’re getting closer and closer. The last staple penetrates my neck, almost piercing through to my jugular.

One of the women brandishes a rubber stamp the size of an encyclopedia while she dangles wildly from her speeding ladder. She lunges with the free hand and attempts to grab my ear. She’s so close that I can read the word “EXPIRED” in reverse on the massive stamp. All of a sudden she acrobatically leaps from her ladder to mine. We tangle and scratch at one another as my ladder accelerates now that her body weight adds to our momentum. She’s a tough old broad wearing dime store lipstick. She doesn’t even flinch as my boney elbow swings with full force and smashes into her porcelain jaw. Several teeth and silver fillings explode from her mouth, ricochet off the book shelves and disappear into the dark abyss beneath our feet. She just grins, proudly displaying the new empty spaces in her variegated smile. She counters with a groin punch that catches me completely by surprise. As I wince in pain and clutch my crotch, she again catches me off guard and slams the rubber mallet on my bare chest, knocking me off my perch as I flail my arms and legs in a slow motion free-fall from high above the book stacks.

Just before impacting the dusty floor below, I wake up, each night at that exact same moment of the dream, with my annoyed wife poking my ribs with her elbow. She sighs and yanks back the sweaty bed sheets that I’ve hoarded. I stop shivering about an hour later and eventually plod downstairs, all wide-eyed, to warm up a glass of chocolate milk and listen to another podcast by Dr. Phil.

(next post: "High-Priority Purchases on My Bucket List")