A long time ago, before IPods, Cell phones and even record players, there was a little boy named Bradley Jinn and he was afraid of everything. Most notably, he was afraid of a bully named Andrew Perkins. One day, to escape Andrew and the gang, he tricked them by hiding in his barn. He ran all the way to the back of the barn and hid behind some hay. Back there, he discovered the single thing that would change his life forever…had he known, he may have just taken the beating from the bullies. “Bradley!” shouted Andrew. “We’ll just wait around here till you show up, sissy!” Bradley hid in the corner and that was when his hand brushed the top of an old rusty handle. He looked down and realized he was squatting atop a trap door. He lifted it open and peered down into the darkness. Suddenly, he felt the presence of someone behind him. It was Andrew! He found him! “What’s down there?” asked Andrew momentarily sidetracked. “I dunno.” Mumbled Bradley trying to edge away from Andrew. “Why don’t you go…find out!” he shouted as he shoved Bradley as hard as he could. Bradley toppled over and the next thing he knew he was free-falling, he screamed a high-pitched, shrill scream and the next thing he knew, he hit the bottom and the darkness surrounded him. Before he passed out, he heard Andrew say “Later, loser!” and shut the trap door. The next thing Bradley knew, he was being shaken roughly by a pair of small hands. “Bradley!” yelled the voice. Bradley’s eyes popped open and he screamed. It was dark anymore. There was a candle next to him being held in the small white hands of his younger sister. “What happened?” asked Bradley. “I had to knock a lot of good sense into Andrew to tell me what happened to you.” She said. “You’ve been down here all day…and look at that knot on your head. He fixed you up real good.” Bradley felt something under him and pulled it out. “What’s that?” asked his sister. Bradley raised his eyebrows at it. “It’s a book!” he exclaimed. The small black book had fresh, blood red letters on it that read “Fear Book” Bradley turned to the first page. “What’s it say?” she asked. “This book is designed to help you face your fears. All you have to do is write down your greatest fear on the first page and keep writing fears until you fill the book up. First rule, only one player at a time. Second rule, don’t cheat. When the player dies, a new player can pick up where he or she left off. Good luck.” A chill crept up Bradley’s spine. “What a bunch of junk.” Said his sister. Bradley turned to her and tried to act like he wasn’t scared. “Yeah, I’ll start it right now!” he said. Then he stuck his finger in some mud and wrote in very clear letters “Andrew Perkins.” “What does that say?” she asked. Bradley sighed and told her, she wasn’t allowed to learn to read because she was a girl but he was tired of having to read everything to her. They went up the stairs with the book tucked in his back pocket and ran to their bedrooms. There, Bradley hid it under his bed. After they ate dinner, their parents came into their room to bid them goodnight. “Hey, Ben, you ready to learn to ride tomorrow?” his father asked his little sister. She nodded. “I’m gonna be the best cowgirl in town, Daddy.” “You bet!” he said cheerfully. Bradley waited for his father to say something to him too but his father hadn’t spoke to him in a very long time…not since he was Ben’s age. Bradley was never the son his father wanted. He was shy and quiet and got nervous easily. He was sick with a disease when he was born and all the doctors said he wouldn’t live, he lived anyway but he was very frail and weak as a side effect and therefore couldn’t do much yard work. And what was a son for, if not for yard work? Ben was the exact opposite of him. She was fearless and strong and even wore her hair short like a boy and wore his old clothes. He was eleven and she was eight and yet she could face a big bad bully like Andrew Perkins and do all the stuff he could never do. Their father loved her which was why he named her Ben, because he wanted a boy better than Bradley. The next morning, Bradley woke up after a terrible nightmare about dying by snakes. Instead of going back to sleep, he dressed in a white t-shirt, overalls and boots and decided to walk around the pond behind the house before school. Before he left, he tucked the fear book in his back pocket. In the early morning light, he breathed in the fresh air and knelt near a large oak tree to pick the dandelions. He loved nature and peace and everything kind and sunny. He simply loved the less noticeable things in life and made a point to notice them all. He noticed a baby turtle making its way through the grass alone. His heart immediately went out the to the turtle. “Where’s your Momma and Papa, turtle? Why are you by yourself?” The turtle continued without listening and he picked it up in his hands and put his face next to it. “Why are you so lonely turtle? Are you like me?” The turtle’s wrinkled face stretched out toward him. “I’m lonely…my momma died giving birth to Ben and she was the only one that loved me. My Daddy hates me because he thinks I’m a sissy…and my sister Ben is so different. He loves her.” The turtle’s head went deep inside his shell suddenly. Bradley felt betrayed. “You hate me too, don’t you turtle?” he asked it. The turtle went farther inside. Bradley hugged his knees and began to cry. Between his sobs, he heard a twig snap and whirled around. Andrew stood with his arms crossed and his two mean friends stood behind him. “Hey, look, it’s the world class sissy, sitting here talking to a stupid turtle.” Before Bradley could move, he picked the turtle from his knee and threw it to the ground. “Wait!” yelled Bradley but Andrew stomped on it and they could all here the poor baby’s shell crack. “You monster!” shouted Bradley. But they didn’t care, they just laughed, Bradley took the moment to scramble to his feet and run away but the boys were right on his tail and they grabbed him and slammed him down onto the forest floor. One boy held down one arm and the other held down his other. Andrew stood in front of him and grinned. Something suddenly occurred to Bradley and he squirmed. “Let me go, I-I have to go to the bathroom.” He whined. Andrew put his foot on Bradley’s stomach. “You think that’s gonna make me let you go?” He asked. “Why don’t you pee in your pants like the sissy you are!” The boys laughed and then there was a blood curling roar from behind Andrew. Before Andrew could even turn around, a bear larger than any Bradley had ever seen, stood on it’s hind legs and used it’s long, scraggly claws to pin into Andrew’s shoulder blades and then rip his head off in one single second. Bradley lay on the forest floor, frozen as the other two boys screamed and ran for their lives. The bear threw Andrew’s head aside and the rest of Andrew’s body collapsed to the floor. The bear’s eyes turned to Bradley and then, like a flood gate had opened inside of him, he peed his pants. But the bear just looked at him and loped away. After what seemed like hours later, Bradley sat up and opened the fear book. After the page with Andrew’s name written in mud, there was a boy with brown hair and green eyes, just like Andrew’s, being mauled by a bear and just like what had happened, Andrew’s head lay in one spot and his body lay in another. Bradley’s eyes lifted from the book and settled on Andrew’s head lying just inches from his feet. The wind whistled and lifted his black hair from his forehead and he could swore he heard a bear in the distance howling in regret for the deed he had done.
July 21, 2012