Ah, those good old Cape May days… by Jackson D’Catur
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I detest those words, and I detested them when my old pal FDR first spoke them aloud to me the night before his famous address. On that occasion, he and I were in the Admiral Hotel, drinking fine old malts in the wee small hours. He was running his speech past me, as he tended to do, and I was making it less dry and turgid for him, as I tended to do. Usually my critiques were spoken, occasionally margin notes if he had mailed me a draft, but on this occasion, so scornful was I that a second after he finished that line, I struck him a blow on the temple with the shaleighleigh I had up my sleeve. I was not expecting to have to use it on the President, I stress, but I had earlier that evening heard that some Wildwoodians had slipped past the blockades and were intent upon a night out in our fair city.
FDR came up fighting and delivered a surprisingly strong punch to my jaw that extinguished my meerschaum pipe. By the time we had settled the matter, and tidied up the broken glass and scattered teeth, we did not discuss the point further.
I was, though, disappointed that he used the line, as it flies in the face of common sense. For the man or woman who says they know no fear is a fool. I live my whole life in a state of fear – that wary, fight-or-flight state that makes a chap able to react to every threat instantly. I was scared when I fought the Zulus to a halt at Rourke’s Drift: I hardly hit a good high note as we sang Welsh hymns in battle, such was my fear.
I was deathly afraid on the night I parachuted into the Wolf’s Lair to assassinate Adolf. And the time I had to steer Apollo 13 to earth with a blazing heatshield ? I was petrified.
That constant fear is what allowed me to narrowly avoid being trampled to death by a rogue elephant in Atlantic City one Christmas: every time I hear an unexpected snap of a twig, no matter where or when, I assume it’s a rogue elephant, and sure enough, I have been right twice. The second a shadow falls across me when out for my customary afternoon stroll, I prepare for a plummeting meteor (or lunar module), and dive for cover.
Likewise, when the doorbell rings I assume ninja assassins and every week or two, I am correct. It means the mailman’s job is hazardous, but if he, too, lived his life in fear, he would leap back the second he rang any doorbell, and avoid harm.
Fear, dear friends, is our friend and our savior. If the price for this invaluable instinct is frequent changes of underpants, it is a small price indeed.