after the group had had a good laugh at his expense, dave pushed on as he always did.
this took more effort than usual because brenda had instigated the laughter, and he was hopelessly in love with brenda in spite of or because of her bitchiness, bad temper and all-around bad personness.
he only continued to lead the group, or to participate in it at all, because it gave him the opportunity to be in her presence for a few hours a week.
brenda was a fox. dave spent long hours wondering why she associated at all with a bunch of losers like himself, and he came to each meeting dreading that she would have given up on the group and himself.
brenda wondered that a lot herself, both at the meetings and away from them. but the answer was simple. despite her rotten personality, brenda was one of those people who was afraid to be alone - ever, for one minute of the day or night. and going to meetings was better than going to bars because she was afraid of alcohol and its effect on her looks, and although three analysts had diagnosed her as a "sex addict" she loathed men and didn't much like sex.
fear. brenda knew fear. fear was a black toadstool ready to sprout in her brain at a moments notice and smother and devour her.
and these morons - in addition to everything else wrong with them, did any of them really know fear? not likely. what a crew - dopey dewy-eyed dave, who probably whacked his doodle every night dreaming about her - awful annabelle with her fat red boozers face and her sagging butt- linda the lollipop with her unbroken string of bringing up global warming at every meeting. was the meeting about global warming? no!
brenda's mind wandered. she had read a story in the paper that morning about boy soldiers in africa. it sounded like a pretty good life. always in a group, no real work, nice and hot (she hated cold), taking out your frustrations shooting people - but what did they eat? she read the story through a second time but there was nothing about what they got to eat. mangoes and bananas and stuff like that? anyway, she wasn't black, she wasn't a boy, and she didn't have the plane fare to africa.
goofy annabelle was telling a dumb story about how she wasn't afraid of the abductors in the paper. it didn't make a lot of sense and wasn't pushing anybody's buttons. so she told it again and when she said something about adrenaline - bingo - this time brenda could actually relate.
"that's right - when the mugger stuck his gun in my face i actually lost all fear while it was happening - " she noticed linda and frankie the fat flaming queen were rolling their eyes like she was milking the story about "the" mugger - brenda had actually been held up five times although only one had actually stuck a gun right in her face - and chased down the street twice by guys she was sure were serial killers - so go ahead and laugh, you dopey sluts -
"i almost felt ... empowered." brenda would see or hear words that didn't make much sense and they would roll around in her brain for weeks and suddenly pop out of her mouth.
brenda was contributing! and she was agreeing with annabelle who she always treated like dog poop on her shoe. dave looked like a fish trying to jump out of a boat.
"oh brenda, you're so butch," said frankie. "what are you doing here with the rest of us scaredy cats? you should be out walking the dark streets karate chopping rapists and hit men."
"for exactly how long did you feel empowered?" asked linda with her always obvious sarcasm.
dave tried to rescue the conversation. "yes brenda" he started to drone... " for exactly how long did you feel empowered?" he had repeated linda's exact words but "nicer".
annabelle felt like she had been hit by lightning. brenda had agreed with her! she actually said the words "that's right". or did she?
annabelle was walking home from the bus stop at three o'clock in the morning after attending an apprehension anonymous meeting over on the south side.
as she came to the last block before her apartment she suddenly remembered seeing a story on the news the morning before about a series of abductions of young women and an occasional young man on the north side. a story? the news had been about nothing else for two weeks.
i must really be wrapped up in my own problems to have something like that slip my mind, annabelle mused as she picked up her pace. it's lucky i only have a block to go.
just then she sensed a car pulling up beside her. it was a police car.
the policeman behind the wheel looked up at her. "are you all right, miss? are you aware of the abductions in this area?" he's not bad looking, thought annabelle, but he looks a little gay.
"thank you officer, but i live in that apartment right there." she pointed to it.
there was also a policewoman in the police car. she leaned down and spoke to annabelle across the driver. "we can drive you the one block." annabelle thought, she looks like she should be home with nine kids cooking pasta all day.
"no thank you, i'm fine."
"ok. but we'll sit here and watch you."
when annabelle went to her next meeting three nights later, the abductor or abductors had still not been caught, and the story had become national news.
annabelle couldn't wait to share her story. she was proud of herself. not only had she felt no fear or apprehension but she had had a mild adrenaline buzz.
the group was a little smaller than usual. twelve people instead of the usual fifteen or sixteen. the usual moderator, dave - dull dave, annabelle thought of him, with his awful bushy beard - was there and mentioned the abductions.
"this is in many ways a good opportunity for us," said dave. "if we can confront our fears about this - a real tangible fear - maybe some of our self-generated fears will become a little more manageable."
"that's very nice, dave," said liberal linda (annabelle had a tag for almost everybody) "but let's not forget that real people are being kidnapped and terrorized here. i'm not sure they be thrilled to find their purpose in life is to give meaning to ours." linda could always be counted on to ladle out some lukewarm pc dogma on any topic. annabelle was a big fan of bill o'reilly and ann coulter, but she usually held her tongue when linda spouted off.
"that's very true," dave agreed hastily. "linda makes an excellent point. but if you think about it " - if you think about it was one of dave's favorite phrases - "her point is the same as mine. the people being kidnapped are facing primal fears - the fears of our ancestors in the jungle and the savanna - and our fears are the usually more nebulous ones of the megalopolis."
oh dave, annabelle thought, dave, dave, dave, dave. she hated it when he started running on about the savanna (wherever that was) and the megalopolis and the zeitgeist (whatever that was). she wanted to hear real stories about real people.
"a mugger stuck a gun in my face," said annabelle's archenemy, bitchy brenda. "it wasn't very nebulous."
"i said usually, brenda."
"you usually say usually."
this got a good laugh from the group. annabelle was often surprised at what people laughed at. back in the days when she went to movie theaters she would be sitting in the dark theater with a silent invisible audience and then a little kid or dog would run across the screen and everybody would laugh. weird.