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The Cathartic Effect of a Pure and Baseless Fear

canny fox fooled me....

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 17, 2010.

This week, I went early to the KGNU studios for a session of phone calls during the pledge drive. It's a brisk and good walk from my apartment along Goose Creek to 47th St., and then over to Walnut. It was 0530 when I left to be there in time around 0615 to coffee up and sugar up and catch up before the shift started at 0645. I pad my times because if something happens enroute, I don't like to run and arrive a sweaty mess.

Nothing happened. It was still very dark, this being the first week of daylight savings, but the paths are well lit and the sky was nice and the small ponds enroute with their attendant fauna were active as always at that hour, with ducks and geese and either a beaver or an otter or some weasel contorting in the high weeds. Boulder was silent except for the rare auto when I started out but the hum was beginning to maintain as I went into the tunnel beneath 47th and turned south along the 47th St. Parkway's east side.

With Pearl St. in the distance with the high and bright street lamps I saw an animal, a fox or coyote or dog, running back and forth across the path ahead, maybe two blocks distance. By initial size I thought it a fox, and looked for the fluffy tail, but hard to make one out, so elevated my inner report of the sighting by inherited Hawkeye qualities, being male, to a small coyote because it looked used to changing direction at high speed and was clearly after a mouse. I was barely summoning the energy to care, what with the flatirons outlined and the air so clear along the front range. It was a beautiful morning.

When I looked up ahead again after that diversion of several seconds I noticed that the animal ahead running towards me on the bike path was no fox or coyote and was suddenly revealed as way too big and fast for a mere dog. Outlined by the light it was making as a bullet right for me, and his front shoulders were massive and rippling. He'd seen me, and I panicked. I went near limp with a child's fear, mouth open, hair rising, my back swelling and a mental menu selection of idiotic options dropped down for my consideration. It was a goddamned wolf and you might die. Option One. Did I have my pocket knife?

It would be wrong to characterize any of this as taking more than a few seconds before the animal turned suddenly to his right into the grass and his size was suddenly clear and obviously small. And now, clearly outlined, was the poofy tail of a fox. Like a twenty pound fox, fluffed out, but still a small animal. It was a trick of being backlit at that angle where his extended forward shadow was doubled by two high street lights and his tail blended into his body. Something. Some combination of prosaic events. Yes, I felt like an idiot. A terrified idiot.

But the fear was genuine, electrifying, and cathartic. I hadn't been scared like that in fifty years or more, and I've been in jail, a bouncer, confrontational by job description with thugs, punks, drunks, and delusionals like the guy who demanded to be let in to a sold out show because he was a member of the Mossad. When I raised him off the ground by his lapels he suddenly became a CIA hit man and threatened me. My normal reaction would have been to drop kick him to the curb because I hate that stuff and I was tired, but I merely called in the police who told me after a brief period with James Bond that no, he was not a member of a secret service as I had brilliantly ascertained, but yes, he did have a loaded gun and was a few synapses short of a quick study and I probably shouldn't physically contact these sorts in the future because they remember. That wasn't fear, but a literal wake up call that I referenced ever after working doors and front desks.

What I had felt when I suddenly thought I was going to be attacked, killed and eaten by a huge wolf, though, was the sort of bladder emptying disaster you feel during your first stand up screaming nightmare as a toddler, and your parents arrive in milliseconds because neither you nor any other creature of record had ever screamed like that. Heavy breathing, sweat, verging on feeling faint. Need for a hug. From beginning to end, a few seconds. It was over, and I realized I felt great, better than I had in a long time, decades in fact. We have things too easy.