Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fear Factor

The Colonel ain't smart and you can't make him.

That, and three other notions, have been the operative phrases with which the Colonel has charted the majority of his adult life.

The other three?

The Colonel don't dance.

The Colonel don't paint.

The Colonel ain't afraid of nothin' or nobody (the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda excepted) .

The Colonel used to have a fifth -- the Colonel don't cry -- but, several years ago he found out that his mother was a civilian and went on a three-day boo-hoo bender. 

Now, the Colonel has a confession to make.  Operative rule number 4 wasn't really completely true either.

There was something that so scared the Colonel as a tot that for nearly three decades -- well into his career as a roguishly handsome soldier of the sea -- it held a fright-filled grip on a corner of his subconscious.  Mentions of the thing, associations and references, while evoking gales of laughter from his comrades, would trigger a Pavlovian response filling the Colonel with an unaccountable feeling of terror and dread.   

What, you ask, could possibly have made such a debilitating impression?  The Colonel wondered the same.

Did the Colonel witness a torture/homicide/dismemberment as a child?

No, that wasn't it.

Turns out, as his civilian progenitor [see crying-jag reference above] finally explained to her, then, 35 year-old child, the Colonel had experienced a traumatic experience while watching...

Wait for it...

The Wizard of Oz  

Yep, the Wicked Witch of the West and her flyin' monkeys had scared the pea jabbers out of the Colonel.  

And, because he had experienced such trauma with the movie so early in his childhood, and could never watch the movie again, the Colonel completely missed out on any understanding of the myriad references to it that so pervaded our culture.

On a hike, a fellow Marine would suddenly break into a skip and sing out, "follow the yellow brick road," to the snickers and snorts of his comrades.  The Colonel was clueless.

What yaller bricks?

"There's no place like homeThere's no place like home," a jarhead, soaked and miserable in a swamp somewhere at the far end of the earth, would suddenly exclaim, tapping the heels of his muddy boots together.

Well, duh!  Why is everybody laughin' at that?

And then, another leatherneck would shuck his poncho, and while the rain poured down on him, screech,... 

Yeah, you know what he screeched,  ...and why.  

The Colonel?  Not a clue. 

What?  Did the Marine think he was made of sugar? What is so stinkin' funny 'bout that? 

Some nonsensical, arbitrary edict would come down from higher headquarters and a devildog would sneer, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

What man?  What curtain?  

And then, the Colonel's children began to develop senses of humor, manifested most often immediately upon arrival at the Colonel's newest duty station, "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." 

Kansas?  The Colonel had dragged his kit and kin across the globe, but there was never a stop anywhere near Kansas.  And, who are you calling, Toto, there knucklehead child!?! 

Finally, at the age of 40 or so, the Colonel watched the movie.

"Oh!  Ruby slippers!  So that's where that comes from!"

"Oh!  Auntie Em!  Didn't think everybody had an Auntie Em!" 

Days later, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda approached the Colonel and lightly touched his lips with the tip of her dainty finger.  The Colonel smiled at his Lady.  She smiled back.

And then, in her loving way, she gripped both of the Colonel's lips between a thumb and finger suddenly transformed into a set of vice-grips.

"Whistle the tune to 'If I only had a brain' one more time and I'm gonna rip these off." 
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