This week’s Writing Adventure Group topic was fear: “WAG #11: Scaredy-Cat” Another people-watching exercise! Choose a stranger and observe him/her for a little while. Now give them a phobia. A full-on, jump on the chair, scream like a little girl, unreasonable fear. (Or however you imagine them to respond.) Try to choose something that fits the person you’re watching, and let us know what it is about them that clued you in to their secret fear. The object is not just to describe the fear, but to make us understand why it fits with this particular person.

kilt2When out over the weekend, I saw a guy who stuck in my head. He was 40ish with slate grey around the temples, and wearing a kilt. Although that’s not that unusual here, it told me he was on his way to or from someplace. It’s not an accidental clothing choice. If I were a guy, I’d wear one all the time, but that’s another story.

Anyway, my guy was happy. He was walking with a woman who wore a flippy white dress beneath a raincoat. He wasn’t wearing any sort of outerwear himself, but let’s face it, he had on 8 yards of wool.

So this guy is stuck in my head, and I’m sitting at home later wondering what he might be afraid of. At the time I couldn’t think of anything. He just seemed so happy. But fear is like that, isn’t it. I have three brothers, all of which have a different phobia: sharks, spiders, and werewolves. No, I’m not kidding about the last one. We all sorta laughed about it when he was younger, but once you’ve seen someone paralysed by fear, it isn’t as funny. He copes. He also buys silver bullets at gun shows. I kid you not.

Anyway, my kilt guy… I found a list of phobias and was mulling, trying to understand what might fit the man I saw walking so confidently through the street. He wouldn’t be subject to the stranger ones: the fear of knees or the fear of gravity or the obscure ones like the fear of ferns or the fear of the colour purple.

But I liked my guy. I don’t want to saddle him with an ordinary fear of flying or a fear of marriage.

Then I came to cyberphobia: the fear of computers. That one stumped me. I don’t trust people that don’t trust technology, but I can also understand it. He was strong, handsome, and yet in his kilt there was something olde-worlde about him. And as much as I didn’t like to admit it, I could see it. He worked outside, I could guess that with his tanned skin that highlighted the lines around his eyes, filling their creases with white.

He passes it off as quiet disdain, but in truth, it scares him. His hands were beefy and strong. I’d noticed that. If anything will fill my guy with dread, it would be the clacking of a keyboard, the insidiousness of the voice of the (anonymous) people, the strange impermanence of it and not quite understanding where exactly is the internet?

He’d prefer a pint with his friends. He maybe doesn’t even have a cell phone. When he’s out of the house, he doesn’t want to be chained to anything. For fun he doesn’t click at the bleeps, he goes fishing.

So what’s he going to do when he can’t avoid it any more? Does he baulk at ATMs? Can he pay at the pump? Would he only do maths in his head? Does the voice of a SatNav disturb rather than comfort?

He seems so happy, and yet, suddenly, it’s complicated.

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13 comments

  1. I like! I could see him perfectly, especially those poor beefy hands poised above a delicate yet insidious keyboard… Extra Sprinkles!

  2. Ha hah! Where, exactly IS the internet? Love that!

  3. The extension of his fear into extremes is interesting. Fear of calculators…now that is an irrational fear. And does anyone pay at the pump? I know I don’t. Does that mean I’m becoming one of them?

  4. Nice idea, you’d think more elderly people would fear technology but I know a few people who are nerve racked when facing it. This reminded me of them and who doesn’t love a guy in a kilt?

    That werewolf fear is very real, I can assure you, I have it. When the moon is full, which could be just a myth, but I stay inside anyway. It may sound a little…nutty but better safe then sorry.

    Nice piece Nixy.

  5. I enjoy your imagination Nix

  6. I enjoy your imagination Nixy. I always wondered about a man in a kilt. Too funny. Where is cyber space precisely? LOL And I think your brother has something there with his werewolf phobia. I’m with him on that. Great article!

  7. Ha! I like your guy too! Must be because of my ancestry!

    Regarding this exercise, I was very impressed with the obvious thought you put behind it. You helped me imagine the impact of an irrational fear of what others take for granted. How would it interfere with quality of life to be afraid of computers or door thresholds or kitchen knives?

    Well thought out and beautifully constructed. Nice read.

    Cheers!

  8. Iain Martin

    Hi Nixy…good job on this one; and…as a guy in a kilt…I must say I’m flattered. I liked your choice of fears, although, as you probably already know, “ye canna scare the breeks aff a hielan’ man.” : ))

  9. Loved this chap! He emight be afraid of ferns though – imagine a prickly one getting under his kilt! LOL

  10. “So this guy is stuck in my head, and I’m sitting at home later wondering what he might be afraid of.”

    Sudden gusts of wind? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    I wrote a short story once called Silver Bullet. Three guesses on what it was about. Interesting to learn that you actually can buy them. I wasn’t sure at the time.

    “I don’t trust people that don’t trust technology…”

    Have I got a voting machine to sell to you. ;)

    I think you picked the perfect phobia for your chap. The kilt does sort of place him in an anachronistic light (no offense, Iain), so fear of modern technology just seems to fit somehow. Good choice. And I’m impressed at how well you followed the rules. ;)

    I don’t mean to hijack your WAG but I am taking the opportunity to tell everyone in the comments about the flash fiction contest at Editor Unleashed. It starts tomorrow. No fees. Cash prizes. You might want to check it out. I’d love to see some of the WAG group enter. Maybe one of us will even win! That would be cool. Anyway, check out Maria Schneider’s blog for the details.

    And sorry I’m so late getting around.
    ~jon

  11. I really liked this and could really picture the guy. I can also understand his fear even though I don’t share it.

  12. Hi Nixy, this was great fun! Thanks-(sorry for being so late in catching up.) cheers!

  13. DMWCarol

    I wanted to comment on your writing, but I’m still swooning at the image of man in kilt… you say they’re common round your way?

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