Agrizoophobia (Fear of Wild Animals)


(Fear of wild animals)

Edward Jones had always had a fear of wild animals. The one incident that had brought on this fear occurred when he was eight years old. He was on a school trip to the zoo and everything was going fine until James Barrow, a boy who was a year older than Edward, had dared him to climb up on the fence which ran around the wall of a gorilla enclosure. Edward had always liked animals but gorillas were not known for being the most tranquil of animals. Edward and James held back from the rest of the class and when everyone, especially the teachers, were out of sight, Edward climbed up the bars of the fence. He was half way up the fence when he decided that this may not have been the smartest thing that he could do and was ready to climb down, but James insisted that he touch the top of the fence. Edward took a deep breathe and hooked one of his legs on the fence and climbed the rest of the way. Once his objective had been reached, Edward started on his way down. Unfortunately, neither Edward nor James had been paying too much attention to the gorillas. One of the alpha males saw the boy trying to climb the fence and charged. The gorilla considered this as an assault on his territory and was not going to allow this incursion. He swiftly ran across the trench that divided the fence and his pseudo-rocky territory and grabbed the intruder by both arms and banged him against the bars. Edward let out his first scream when he felt the strong hairy paws of the primate grab a hold of him. Before the gorilla started to slam Edward against the bars, Edward had looked into the eyes of the enraged primate and saw the primal rage within. That was one of the last things that Edward remembered before the pain of the bars knocked him unconscious. He never saw James running away calling out for help from the teachers. He never saw the zoo attendant run up to the enclosure with a rifle loaded with a tranquilizer dart and shoot the gorilla and he never saw the faces of the ambulance attendants as they carried his limp body away on a stretcher. Edward Jones was in the hospital for a week recovering from his injuries, and James Barrow and his parents were the first people, after his own family, to come visit him after he was allowed visitors. James deeply apologized for daring Edward to do such a stupid stunt and he promised that he would never do such a thing again.

James, for the most part, kept his promise because one year later he and his family moved to Eugene, Oregon. Edward and James kept in touch with each other until they both hit puberty, but after that they both found other things, and people, to occupy their time. James would eventually go to college in Oregon, get married after graduation, have two kids, and in his fifteenth year of marriage leave his wife and kids and move to Denver with his new girlfriend. Edward never knew any of these things but, during the occasional times that he did remember James, his recollections were always scarred by the gorilla attack.

Edward also went to college, met a girl he liked but did not make any commitments to her, due to the heavy load of work that college presented him with. He was planning to be a lawyer but he wasn’t sure what area of law he wanted to get into. He was torn between Corporate Law and Medical Law and until he could make a commitment to his future, he felt that it wasn’t fair to make a firm commitment to his girlfriend. Sandra, who understood Edward’s dilemma and supported him in his decision, felt happy just knowing that he cared for her and that once he made his choice for his career, he would be more secure in committing himself to her. Sandra, although a very pretty and smart girl, did tend to sometimes live in a fool’s paradise. She would sometimes visit Edward in his dorm room in order to help him study for exams, but she also saw this as an opportunity to slyly remind Edward of her usefulness to him.

One evening as Sandra was coaching Edward for his final exams, she asked him if he had made any plans for the summer.

“Huh? I’m sorry, what did you say Sandra?” Edward asked as his half-sleepy eyes fluttered open.

“I said, have you made any plans for the summer?”

“Well, the only thing that I thought about was going back home and trying to get a summer internship at a law office in LA.”

“Well, does this mean that you’ve finally decided on what area of law you’re interested in?”

“I think that I’m going to go into corporate law.”

“Well, Los Angeles is fine but I think, and this is only a suggestion, that you would be better off if you tried to get an internship in New York. You’d be able to make more money and there are more important companies that you could work for in New York.”

“But, I have family in Los Angeles and I could save money on rent by living with them.”

“However, if you go to New York, you could stay with me and my family. My father has lots of important connections and I’m sure that he would be happy to help you. It would also give us more time together. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Sure, you know I would, but…”

“But what? You think that I’m trying to pressure you into making a commitment?”

“No, it’s not that. I’ll tell you what, we have four more days until summer vacation and I’ll give you my answer in two days, but right now, I just want to get some sleep. Is it a deal?”

“Two days? Alright, I’ll hold you to that. Well, I better leave now anyway. It’s after eleven o’clock and I have an eight o’clock class tomorrow. I’ll see you later, Eddie.”

“Good-night, Sandra.”

Edward had made his decision; he decided to spend two weeks with his family and then he would fly to New York to be with Sandra and her family. “If her father is as well-connected as she says, it might be worth my time to stay with Sandra,” Edward told his parents when he got back home. Although his parents were a bit disappointed, they understood Edward’s reasoning.

“Well, do you have any plans for the time that you’re here?” his mother asked.

“I do plan to check out any internship programs while I’m here; sort of get the lay of the land, so to speak.”

“But if you find something here that you’re interested in, won’t Sandra be disappointed?”

“I have thought of that, mother. Sandra is a very nice girl, but I’m not sure if her invitation has any strings attached and I’m trying to focus on my career before thinking of marriage.”

“Well, I’m sure that you know her better than your father and I do, but it wouldn’t hurt to see where your options in New York would lead you.”

Edward gave his mother a small smile and left the living room. He knew that his mother worried about him, but after the near death experience at the zoo when he was a child, her worry sometimes became oppressive. Edward, for his part, managed to suppress the terrible incident. The only time that the experience had caused him any discomfort was when Sandra and some friends had invited him to a party at one of the frat houses and some joker thought that it would be funny to dress up in a gorilla outfit and jumped out of some bushes when guests showed up. Unfortunately for the prankster, Edward, without thinking, took a swing at the guy and knocked him out. It’s true that his hands were shaking after wards, and the guy forgave him, but the party lost any joy for Edward and he told Sandra and her friends that he was not feeling very well and that he was calling it a night. Sandra asked him what was wrong but Edward didn’t give her an answer. She never brought the incident up to him and, after a few days, totally forgot about it. That night he did have trouble sleeping, but after waking up in a cold sweat, he got out of his bed, went to the bathroom and washed his face with cold water. That seemed to calm his mind and he went back to bed without further incidence.

After his time home with his parents, Edward packed his bags, had his father drive him to the airport, and caught his plane. Six hours later, he was greeted at JFK by Sandra. They found her car and she drove Edward to her parents’ house in the suburbs. It had been built in the Tudor style and had six bedrooms and three bathrooms. Sandra’s mother and father greeted the couple at the front door and were very cordial towards Edward. After all of the formalities had been taken care of, Sandra led Edward up to the room that would be his while he was there. Checking to see if anyone else was around, Sandra closed the bedroom door and practically jumped into Edward’s arm after he set down his luggage. She gave him a passionate and long kiss, then broke off and said,

“I’m so glad to have you here. I missed you terribly for those two weeks.”

“And I missed you, Sandra. Well, I suppose I should get unpacked.”

“Oh leave it. The valet will take care of that for you. I think that you should just freshen up a bit and come downstairs for a drink with my parents. I know that daddy has been busy on your behalf.”

Edward and Sandra’s parents did manage to get along quite well. Her father told Edward that the family had invited some of their friends over the next night for dinner and a cocktail party and that many of the people that could be helpful to Edward would be there. The rest of the evening went well and after dinner, Sandra took Edward out to a club to meet some of her friends. Although, for the most part, Edward did enjoy the night out, he was beginning to wonder about Sandra’s intentions. Was she taking him to meet her friends only as a courtesy or was she trying to get him to be overwhelmed with the social life in New York and decide to stay? His fears about being pressured to make a decision were slowly creeping into his head. Edward was not normally a heavy drinker, but that night he had a couple drinks more than usual. This, combined with his nagging fears, caused him to ask Sandra if they could go home before she practically had him proposing to her in front of all of her friends. The drive back to Sandra’s parents’ home was fairly quiet. Sandra asked Edward what was bothering him but he only mumbled an answer as he stared out at the lights along Broadway. When they got back to the house, Edward gave Sandra a peck on the cheek and went up to his bedroom. The next morning at breakfast, conversation was at a minimum. Edward had come to the table with his head hung down, walked over to Sandra and quietly apologized for his behavior. Sandra gave him a small smile and told him that she forgave him. Sandra’s mother was the only other person at the table and she knew better than to ask questions about any problems the couple may have had.

“So, Sandra, do you and Edward have any plans for today?” her mother asked after what she considered an appropriate amount of time.

“I thought that Edward and I would go downtown for a few hours and catch a matinee of a play and then have lunch. Would that be alright with you Edward?”

Edward put down his fork, looked at Sandra and gave her a smile and told her that would be a very nice idea. Satisfied that Edward was willing to give her another chance, she told him that they would leave in an hour in order to get to the first matinee. Edward was relieved by the fact that Sandra was willing to give them time to be alone and not be surrounded by people who would expect him to pretend to be something that he was not, mainly Sandra’s fiance.

The ride into the city was less tense than the night before and the conversation leaned more towards their academic futures than their personal futures. Sandra found a parking space in a lot and they crossed the street towards the theater. Edward did not really pay much attention to the name of the play, but he went to the window and ordered two tickets, hoping that it wouldn’t be something too boring. They found their seats, which were about a dozen rows away from the stage, and sat down.

“I’ve wanted to see this play since it came here. It’s suppose to be very entertaining even though it is basically meant for children.” Sandra told him. Edward then happened to look at the program and saw the title of the play. He was startled but then thought to himself, “It’s only a play; the animals aren’t real.” With this thought implanted into his subconscious, he smiled at Sandra and sat back in his seat as the house lights went down and the curtain rose on the first part of “The Lion King.” On the outside, Edward put on a facade of enjoying the play for Sandra’s sake, but on the inside, Edward was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable. He knew that the animals on stage were just actors in costume, but the costumes were so well done, that he clutched the armrests of his chair throughout the play. He was almost relaxed enough by the final act of the play to let loose of the armrests, when something occurred which he had never expected. The actors in their costumes when coming off of the stage and into the audience. The final song of the play was being sung, but Edward paid no attention to it. Within minutes, he and Sandra were being surrounded by the actors. Edward’s heart was racing as he saw the actors playing the lions come closer to their seats. Sandra and the other audience members were smiling and laughing, but Edward’s fear was becoming too much. Suddenly, he leapt out of his chair, screamed, pushed the actor in the lion suit to the floor, and ran out of the theater.

At the same time that Edward’s fear was overtaking him in the theater, Marco Santorini was on his way to his part-time job. Even though the job didn’t particularly pay well, Marco decided at the time that “beggars can’t be choosers” and accepted the job. The outfit for his job was a bit cumbersome and since it was the middle of summer, he carried it in his strong, muscular arms. Marco’s job was to be a costumed performer for kids at a family restaurant which had a circus theme to it. He was two blocks away from the restaurant when someone ran into him so hard that, although Marco kept his balance, the person who had run into him bounced off of him and fallen to the ground. Marco looked down to see if the man was hurt, but instead he saw that the man was staring at the gorilla head of the costume that Marco had been carrying. When Marco bent down to get the head, the man suddenly looked at Marco and started screaming.

Sandra, in the meantime, had grabbed her coat and purse and, excusing herself to the animal-actors, made her way out of the theater. Once her eyes got used to the daylight, she saw Edward sitting on the sidewalk screaming while a large man carrying part of a gorilla suit was trying to calm him down. She slowly walked over to Edward so as to not startle him. When she got to him, she managed to embrace him and, at the same time, quietly asked the large man to call for an ambulance. An ambulance arrived within ten minutes and the EMT managed to get Edward on a gurney and in the ambulance. The EMT helped Sandra get into the ambulance and, with a word to the driver, the medical vehicle took off. After the ambulance had taken off, Marco picked up the gorilla head, looked it over carefully for any damage and noticed that he had only five minutes to get to work if he didn’t want to get fired.

The day after Edward was admitted to the hospital, Sandra came to visit him with a bouquet of flowers. Edward was awake when she entered the room and almost as soon as she sat on the side of his bed, Edward told her about his childhood experience. Sandra was very understanding and once Edward was out of the hospital, she swore that she would never take him to a play with animals ever again. She also made sure that when they were together and went to a movie that “King Kong” was not playing at any of the cinemas.

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