- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

dark shadowphobia

It rang and rang and rang again.

The corner of my eye began an involuntary twitch.


They were Hellhounds on my Trail

or worse ---

I knew the voices on the other end of the line

only too well.

Perhaps it was my long-deceased

gramma's sepulchral Marlboro drone,

spitting its nether-worldly venom

through the fiber, vowing she'd even

the score once and for all for her

bargain-basement burial in Tupperware.

What if it was a whispering

demon come a-janglin' my ganglia

with surreptitious marching

orders for mayhem??

"It's for you daddy!"

my little kiddle said, beaming with

a gap-toothed grin and toddling toward

me with a pink plastic play phone.

I recoiled in horror.

She shoved the play phone at my proboscis, puzzled.

"Answer it, dad!!"

I sized up the hateful implement.

Oh, it had the shiny, candy look of

a toy, all right. But it

wasn't plugged into the wall

(we used to have to plug phones

into these little wall pluggy thingies,

young readers).

There was little question that I

was in need of a complete neurological workup,

if only my HMO plan would cover it.

Now, I know as sure as eggs is eggs

that one day I'll pick up one of those

innocuous little phone toys,

put the receiver to my ear to play

along with my kids' phone fantasy,

and some blood curdlin' malevolent

gobhoblin will be on the other end

of the infernal thing;

it will call my name, and the next

thing you know I'll be skulkin'

around all skanky and spooky like

Nosferatu with gross pointy press-on claws

and an inexplicable Renfield craving

for bugs and creepy-crawlies and

funk that goes crunch in the night.

Gone, dear dads? Is that your shameful

conclusion after all the dadly deeds I

have shared so willingly

(and so far, sans hotlink ad banners),

with ya'll?

Well I must stop you right there.

This paternal peccadillo is just your

basic garden variety phobia (I think),

and as you are faithful readers,

I trust you will tell no one else

of this confession to obsession.

But I must stand up for myself

and my own dadly psyche, tortured as

is yours, by these calamitous times,

and of course by the runaway terror of TV.

The phone thing happened for real on

"Dark Shadows," so you know ding-dang well

what I'm talkin' 'bout.

For the uninitiated, or those with

an honest-to-beeswax life who

do not imbibe in the zombie vibe

of the tube, "Dark Shadows" was the coolest,

crappiest Gothic soap ever to cross a cathode.

In the schmaltz-rococo-Goth world of Collinwood,


creepazoid David Collins and his

snotty sidekick Amy

(the werewolf's sister, 'natch),

find a hidden room behind (what else)

a hidden panel deep in the

mansion's strangled bowels.

The room's decor was strictly

Miss Havisham, to be sure.

Resplendent in decay and in cobwebs

and in mildewy Euro-lace, the

black-and-white scene was about the

freakiest thing to come pulsing through

our blondewood Philco since Vampira left

Ed Wood's ensemble to go solo.

In this particular Dark Shadows,

David and Amy sneak into the

secret Havishamery, shamelessly

aping Miles and Flora as poor dead

Henry James rolled to and fro,

this way and that way,

in his cold, cold grave.

On a Chippendale table toward

the center of the room, an old musty

crusty candlestick phone, its wall

cord severed, inexplicably begins to ring.

With a slathering of method histrionics,

little overacting Amy slowly, slowly

draws the receiver to her ear.

"H-h-h-allo?" she sputters in a practiced stutter.

And from beyond the Veil,

from beyond a tear in the fabric of Time itself,

from an audio booth far beyond

the cheapazoidal Dan Curtis sound stage,

came the voice of Quentin Collins,

a proper Victorian ghost

with a not-so-proper agenda of

havoc and of mayhem and of all things nasty-wasty.

Quentin told them to do things ---

BAD things.

Possessed, they did his evil bidding because

Henry James told Dan Curtis

to tell David Selby to do so.

Quentin called them daily with fresh

instructions to further his unholy agenda

as the show writers desperately tread

water looking for a new plot

point to purloin from classic literature.

I was glued to it every day ---

running home, breathless in the unendurable heat

of the summer, reeking of

chlorine and Milkduds from the

neighborhood pool where I'd just

won my fifth swim meet and endured

my sixth savage beating by rednecks

this particular pool season.

It was the best damn summer I ever had.

I wound up imbued with a Pavlovian-conditioned

dread that reared its ugly head

every time our princess phone did its rang thang.

To my eternal dismay,

it was never ever Quentin,

but usually instead, my ceaselessly chatty and

pesky aunt who would

yak yak yak and yak

until the good juicy gossipy bits

came up, at which point she'd

kick into Hungarian and leave

those of us diligently snooping

on the party line spent and hyperventilating with

gossipus interruptus.

But the Mesmer-like suggestion

was planted somewhere deep in the

fold of my medulla, oh dads.

And as I grew and matured (?) and

took the Secret Code of Dads

and drank the Secret Elixir o' Pappys

and learned the Super-Secret Handshake

which no righteous dad on the planet

would ever reveal, the Quentin

quadrant of my brain threw a

fright down my dendrites every time

a toddler took a fake phone call.

Didn't matter if the call came

from Bert or Ernie, Big Bird or Kermit,

Mickey or Minnie, or any

other goofy-ass-anthropomorphic animule;

the shudder would come a-rumblin' ---

my skin would set to crawlin' ---

and the telltale blood pressure

blotches would bloom on my neck like

dandelions in the the ol' Kentucky Blue.

In reality, the voice on the other end

was always some minimum-wage

Jim Henson soundalike whose hap-hap-happy

and politically savvy greeting for the

sprout set would start up then start slowing

down to a quaaluden 16-RPM croak as

the alkalines gave up the ghost.

It would stand to reason after decades

of subliminal suffering that

the spirit world chose to reach out and

spook my little brother instead.

It was not, however, some retired

Screen Actors' Guild spook ringing to

roust the beejeezus outta my little sib,

but an actual, factual communiqué

from our very own tired old,

dead old grammaw.

NOT the granny you all reverentially

helped send off in past "dads,"

my presumptuous patrons;

but our other ghostly Hungarian

granny from way over yonder on

the other side of our

diseased Family Tree,

whose acquaintance you will most

assuredly make on an All-Saint's eve

toll call from the Great Beyond,

in the very next pulse-pounding issue

of dads-dot-com.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

©2003 Arhythmiacs

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