February 21, 2007
Jerry is doing his part for the country, working with the border patrol in Texas. This column originally appeared before he became brave.
OF MOUSE AND MAN
OK, before you read one more line I want you to level with me.
Tell the truth. Is there something you fear that you have never told anyone about?
Come on, we're in this together. All you have to do is think about it and you'll be able to understand the rest of this column.
It's "secret fear" swapping time.
You fear the dark . . . you fear the light . . . loud noises spook you . . . roaches . . . water bugs (ugh). I can't even type the words water bug on my computer without being grossed out.
Don't be ashamed.
Many years ago, one of my kids, when she was two years old, came out with me and my wife one sunny fall day and started screaming and lifting up her right leg. We thought she was having some kind of an attack.
"Appendix, it's her appendix," I screamed. No it wasn't her appendix. The angle of the sun cast a dark shadow up to her right leg. She raised her leg trying to dislodge the shadow and screamed in fear — I realized then that I had a child who was afraid of her own shadow.
It's genetic — the Della Feminas have always been afraid of their own shadows. A few weeks ago the famed Della Femina streak of yellow showed itself again. At first I saw it from the side of my eye. A little black streak of movement. Being a hypochondriac my first thought was, "That's a floater; I have a detached retina." I turned my head towards the movement. "Maybe," I thought, "it's my little whiny Yorky pooch, Mocha." Maybe he was slinking out of the room and I just had seen a part of his tail.
No, Mocha was snoozing on a chair.
I was in my home in New York City in my bedroom stretched out in bed wearing only a pair of orange boxer shorts — not a pretty sight. It was a Sunday morning and since this was my wife's, the beautiful Judy Licht, birthday weekend I dedicated the weekend to her.
She could have anything she wanted.
She wanted to stay in town. We did.
She wanted to go to the theater on Saturday night and we did.
She wanted to go to a romantic brunch on Sunday afternoon after she played tennis.
Her last words as she went out to play tennis were, "Jerry, we're going to brunch. I want you dressed and ready to go the minute I come home."
Now I turned on the bed to face the open bedroom door and the streak went out into the hallway and disappeared into a bunch of bags Judy had left strewn all over the hallway.
"What is that?" I wondered.
Then from between two bags it emerged. A mouse. "AHHHHHH!!!" I screamed. Now, there is no way I can tell you how frightened I am of mice. I've been writing this column for a lot of years so I think I must level with you when it comes to mice I'm what Arnold Schwarzenegger calls A GIRLYMAN. Say mouse to me and I'm able to jump onto a 10-foot high table like they do in all those cartoons. The mouse, only 20 feet away, was just sitting on the hallway carpet and I swear it was staring at me.
It was like the movie High Noon. I was Gary Cooper (albeit in orange shorts) all alone staring down the street at the deadly Frank Miller. In the background I could swear I could hear Tex Ritter singing:
"Do not forsake me oh my darling
On this our wedding day"
This is tough to admit but at that point the mouse stared me down. I averted my eyes. I was no match for him. From 20 feet away he could smell my fear.
I have no doubt that establishing mastery over a fat guy wearing orange shorts is a very macho thing in his mouse world and I'll bet he was enjoying watching me back down.
"AHHHHHH," I screamed again.
I couldn't take my eyes off of him. Slowly I crawled on the bed to the phone and called on the intercom to my son J.T. who was upstairs, in his bed, in his shorts.
"J.T.," I whispered. "There's a mouse down here."
"Ahhhhhh," he said. "That's disgusting."
"The "chicken" apple doesn't fall far from the "chicken" tree," I thought with a sense of pride.
It's rare that you can find a 15-year-old boy who is ready to admit his fear of mice.
"I have to go to the bathroom but I think I'll wait until your mother comes home," I said.
"Good idea," he said.
Judy came home, took one look at me and said, "You're not dressed!"
"Good call, Sherlock! There's a mouse in the hall — I'm afraid of it."
Let me put it this way: of all the un-romantic things a man could tell a woman, admitting a fear of a mouse is at the top of the list.
I would imagine it would take between five and 10 years for a woman to see a man as a romantic sexual hero after he admits to fearing a mouse.
"Where is he? I'll get him," Judy said in a macho way that really irritated me.
"Be careful — he looked like a big mouse," I warned.
"A mouse is a mouse," she screamed, "and you and your son are not dressed and the day is ruined."
"Yeah, well this mouse was an aggressive mouse and you had to see him — he terrorized me," I said trying to speak in a strong masculine whine.
"How. . . how. . . how. . . can you be such a wimp?" she snarled, looking for the mouse who had disappeared. That's when I drew myself to my full six-foot height and mustered as much dignity as a man wearing only orange shorts could muster and I said, "You listen here, it takes a real man to admit he's afraid of a mouse."
She didn't talk to me for two days.
The traps yielded two mice.
If there's two, there could be more. I'm thinking of moving to a hotel.
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