L is for Lysssophobia, The Fear of Rabies
“Ugh! Get that filthy thing off the porch!” Jessica squealed. In one smooth motion, she hopped back behind Addie, and glared daggers at the small, furry creature scurrying about on the wooden deck. As if realizing it had an audience, the beast turned, reared up on its hind legs, and peered sorrowfully at them through the screen door.
Addie rolled her eyes at her big sister and scoffed, “It’s just a squirrel, Jess. They’re everywhere, for Pete’s sake. Besides, that one’s just a baby. It probably wants a walnut. Hand me one from the bowl over there, will you?”
Jessica’s face collapsed in revulsion. “You’re not going to feed that thing, are you? They carry all kinds of diseases like malaria, plague, and… And rabies!”
“They do not!” the younger girl countered, shaking her reddish-blonde curls in exasperation. “Well, maybe the rabies thing, but not those others.” While it was true that she was mature well beyond her six-and-a-half years, she still could not fathom the depth of her sister’s odd obsession with rabies. It was sickness like any other. All you had to do is go to the doctor, and they would fix you right up. Addie knew her sister wasn’t afraid to go to the doctor like she was, so what was the big deal?
“I forbid you to open that door, Adelaide Rose. Absolutely forbid it!” Jessica shouted, her normally pale face growing crimson in anger. “Why, that awful creature is practically foaming at the mouth, and you want to let it mosey on in here like it’s the damn Queen of Sheba or something. There ain’t no way I’m gonna let that disease-ridden, disgusting beast make us insane with its damn rabies!”
Addie’s mouth hung open. She had never heard her sister swear before. Maybe Jess really was scared. “Uh… Okay, Jess. I was just… Um. I’m sorry.”
“You better be!” Jessica spat, shaking her long, dirty-blonde bangs from her eyes. “Because if you’re not careful, you’ll end up just like Auntie Kay.”
“Auntie Kay? Who’s that?” Addie’s blue eyes clouded with confusion.
“Mama’s little sister,” Jessica said, her tone both matter-of-fact and conspiratorial. “She went to the looney bin before you was born. She got bit by a dog with rabies, and completely lost her marbles. The doctors said there was nothing they could do. She was so crazy from the rabies rotting her brain that she hung herself in the bathroom. She died all alone in that awful place, Addie. Mama was so heartbroken that to this day she won’t even speak Auntie Kay’s name. Just up and forgot her.”
Jessica’s eyes brimmed with tears. She whispered, “I don’t want Mama to forget about me like that.”
Speechless, Addie stepped into her big sister’s embrace and the two girls wept, silently clinging to each other for comfort.
Realizing that it no longer had the attention of the humans, the red squirrel flicked its tail twice in disappointment and returned to the task of searching for food.