When I was about five years old, the younger brother of one of my little buddies was attacked by a rabid fox. The rest of the children on the playground went screaming like sirens up to the top of the sliding board, and his very pregnant mother outran all the men who ran to pull the biting fox off his poor face. She did this with her bare hands and I guess the fox saw, through his delusional fog, the maternal rage in her eyes. Because he took flight into the woods and took up residence in my very vivid imagination.
For years, I scrutinized my pets' behavior and checked their eyes for glazed expressions. When my cat "Milky", named for his affinity for the substance... forget about my vivid imagination... attacked our new Cocker Spaniel, I was terrified Milky was rabid and about to go stark raving mad. Milky was actually suffering from a condition commonly known as jealousy. Tragically, he never recovered. He must have decided that he could tolerate wearing doll bonnets, but that to share the affections of the Yoder family with a darling, perpetually smiling dog was beyond his capacity. He left without ceremony. I was heartbroken, but at least he didn't have rabies.
I hadn't consciously thought about these memories until two weeks ago.
I'd parked my car beside the sidewalk in front of my house and was standing on the porch, unlocking the front door. Across the street, my neighbor was sitting on her porch. This scenario happens several times a day on our street. With several variations. Today I was not standing in the middle of the street and talking to my neighbor before going inside. I was on my porch because she was talking on the phone. It's crazy, how the "what if's" of a close call stand out in retrospect.
As I turned the key in the lock, two very animate objects hurtled around the corner of my porch. The neighborhood feral tomcat, chased by... a coon?
My brain started flashing info in freeze frames. Click. Click. Click.
In broad daylight.
Chasing a cat.
Dee started screaming into the unsuspecting ear on the other end of her phone conversation, "THERE'S THAT RABID COON! I TOOOOLD THAT *@&%# GAME COMMISSIONER I SAW ONE!"
The frenzied tomcat dove underneath my car, fangs bared. I tell you, that cat has fangs. And very expressive eyes. If utterlyterrified would be found in a dictionary, it would be beside a picture on Mr. Tomcat trying to keep a tire between himself and the coon. The coon, relentless as a windup toy that never needs rewound, nipped him. Mr. Tomcat catapulted from under my car, and off they hurtled through the backyards across the street.
While Dee called the Game Commissioner to yell and cuss, I locked my door against a wave of phobic panic. I did not know I had a phobia.
"Phobia," I said to the antique blue coffee pot on the doily in the center of my dining room table. I said it with the same vocal inflections as my Psych professor had used only two days before. "A phobia in an UNREASONABLE fear, sometimes based on a legitimate concern. Usually formed sometime in childhood (Oh, right. The rabid fox.) and might lie dormant for years."
I know what this is. It's a phobia. I know what caused it. So therefore I can be all logical about leaving for work after dark. Right?
Yeah, that didn't work so beautifully.
I confess that I ran the few feet from porch to car while seeing phantom coons zooming toward me in my peripheral vision, unlocked the car door and leaped into the driver's seat, muttering "please-God-please-don't-let-a-coon-be-under-the-car-waiting-to-bite-my-legs", slammed the door, hit the lock... then sat unblinking, holding my breath to stifle the rising panic that a coon had unlocked my car, gotten inside, locked the doors again, and was lurking in the back seat, biding his time to dive bomb my head the moment I relaxed.
Pretty sure I have a phobia. Also pretty sure phobias aren't afraid of logic.
So I called Julie later that day, and she screamed with laughter at me. That helped. Really, it did.
For the record, that coon met his end several blocks away. He was chasing animals and kids were screaming into their houses, and the police were called. This brings us to the moral of this story. If you live too far away for your dad to come to the rescue with... say, a 2/70... and you live within city limits, where such methods of animal control will get you canned, do not call the game commission. They will promise to come the following day and set a box trap. Call the police. They will arrive in minutes and euthanize the crazy creature.
Also for the record, the game commissioner did set a trap. In my back yard. The following morning, another very ill coon was in the trap. I really hope this is the end of the saga and I'm trying tell myself that there probably isn't an entire army of rabid coons in my back yard. I'm also trying to tell myself that the feral cats who were seen being bitten by the coons will go off somewhere and die quietly.
Because I like animals, really. Love them. Until they contract the R-word.