When I was a boy, I was afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. It started when my dad brought home a Three Little Pigs record album, a Disney promotion he’d received for filling his tank at a Union 76 station. He left the album on my bed and as soon as I saw those sharp teeth and menacing eyes, I was terrified.
My brother Mark picked up on my fears and sang, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” happy he’d finally found a way to get back at me for all the times I called him “fatso. Mark wasn’t scared of cartoon wolves. His phobia was clowns. He was still pissed at me for the time I ran around the house with a Bozo mask yelling, “Give me a kiss, lard ass.”
On my sixth birthday, my parents took me to Disneyland. I met Mickey, Donald and Goofy and as the day wore on, I remember thinking “This is the best day of my life.” That all changed somewhere between Main Street and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I was sucking on a jawbreaker when I saw him striding over a small bridge. His teeth were sharp as daggers and his lips appeared to be smeared with blood. It was the Big Bad Wolf. I spat out my candy and hid behind my mother’s legs.
The beast continued towards me, passing one of the little pigs without a glance. I tried screaming but I couldn’t get air into my lungs. Mark stepped forward and grabbed the Wolf’s gloved hand.
“It’s my brother’s birthday,” Mark said. “Give him a hug.”
The last thing I remember before passing out was a huge rubber snout lunging towards me. The nightmares began soon after that. I awoke in a cold sweat, breathless, having evaded the Wolf in some dark forest.
It got so bad my mom took me to see a child psychologist. The doctor asked why I couldn’t sleep but I was afraid to tell him. Somehow I surmised that I had to keep silent or the Wolf would avenge himself on my entire family.
Even my walks to school became an ordeal. I was afraid to pass thick hedges in case the wolf was hidden behind them. I avoided flat rooftops since only part of the roof was visible and who knew what might be lurking on the other side. God forbid some kid wore green suspenders to school. On those occasions, I feigned sickness and waited in the nurse’s office for my mom to get me.