Short-listed Entry: Non-Fiction Category
By: Tara Parian
Sometimes I wonder if there’s reason to my ridiculousness. My ridiculousness being my paranoia over things I shouldn’t be paranoid about. Paranoia is after all, classified as a mental disorder. And I’m certainly not ready to admit to myself that I’ve gone mad. But then I think back to my childhood, and remember how I was raised.
Grew up in the woods of a small town in a small state, just outside of a small city and no more than an hours drive to reach a small lake.
Town had one stop light, few street lights and an abundance of moonlight.
Town’s most prominent attraction was the Duck Race, held annually on the last weekend of July. All townies would be in attendance, except, of course, for all the anatideaphobiacs.
Neighbors would have neighborhood parties, and neighborhood bonfires where the neighborhood kids would skip through the backyard, sparklers in hand, wonder filled in eyes, a thumping in their hearts and screams of joy gushing from their lungs.
We would venture the forest trails by bicycle with our closest companions to and from the village school each day.
Come winter, friends across the street would build snow tunnels and snow forts under pine trees made of needles.
Mother would cook a delicious, hearty dinner each night. Either in the form of meat loaf (which I would help mush) or a decadent array of crackers, mac and cheese garnished with hot dog nuggets, and a side of white grapes. (Skins peeled of course). Most always followed by an oatmeal cream pie for dessert.
Sometimes, on special occasions, mother would drive us into the city and treat us to Burger King! Or that restaurant in the back of K-Mart! Or Pizza Hut! (solely for Book it). And even Taco Bell.
Growing up in a small town felt comforting. But sometimes, father did not feel safe, based on disturbing headlines he would read in The Town Crier. How sometimes the least expecting families could at any moment become victims of robbery.
Therefore, father installed a security system purchased from an infomercial. He spent the first half of the week installing it, the second half explaining how to use it. (Very complicated, actually).
One weekend, when father was away on business, mother carted the siblings and I to Taco Bell to try their new Mexican Pizza. Little sister was still ever so confused with how to shut off our security alarm in the event we ever set it off by accident. Mother, a patient soul, explained it once again, this time slower and louder, as if 7 year old sister had dementia.
Moments later, mother noticed something… awful. Two men, sporting mustaches, staring directly at us. All of a sudden mother clenched her jaws and straightened her posture as all color flushed from her face.
“Kids, we’re leaving. Now.”
I couldn’t understand. Why now? I still had half a soft taco AND a melting Choco Taco on my brown plastic tray.
Mother quickly wrapped up our food and shuffled us out the door. As we made our grand departure, mother glanced hard at the eavesdropping mustached men, who were evidently taking notes on mother’s “how to disable our security system and break into our home” lecture/tutorial. (When in reality they were probably just checking her out. Mother is quite a babe, come to think of it).
I had never been in a wooden-lined minivan that moved so fast up until that traumatic Taco Bell Tuesday. Mother peeled out of the parking lot, cut off an Oldsmobile, soared over a curb, and proceeded to race past every car on the highway at lightning speeds. Mother must have been breaking laws. But in this instance, she did not care. For mother was assured the mustached men were listening to every word of her instructions, and were now plotting their attack.
Once home, mother locked up and tucked sister and I into bed. She then grabbed our largest kitchen knife, the telephone, her bed sheets, and tucked herself into her new makeshift bed: brother’s carpeted floor. (Leaving sister and I to fend for ourselves once the mustached murderers made their inevitable homicidal intrusion).
She had phoned father immediately, in a panic, retelling the story, and how she ‘knew’ the mustached murderers were following us home.
“Well if that’s the case, why did you drive straight home? Why didn’t you make a detour? Throw them off course? You should have stopped at K-Mart, you love K-Mart.” Father had a point. Mother was a sucker for discount shopping. But this was long before cell phones, so mother didn’t appreciate the too-late-now advice. We were already home, tucked into our death beds. Doomed.
Thankfully I survived the night, but was unaware of mother’s true fright. For she was completely convinced we were being followed, and later confessed how scared she really was for us. I felt truly offended that:
A) She hadn’t told me she knew for certain the mustached murderers were coming for us, (which they never showed) and I could have died, alone, at any moment in my sleep.
B) She chose to set up shop curled up next to brother’s bed, knife under pillow, protecting him. Leaving me to die, alone, at any moment in my sleep.
Not sure if mother was on drugs the Tuesday evening of the trauma induced by a Taco Bell outing. But I’m almost positive she was just being ridiculously paranoid. So to answer my own question of where my ridiculousness comes from, I am most certain I get it from my momma.