FINDING COURAGE

By

Rod Stewart

As the storm hit the township of Guildwood Village, near Lake Ontario, torrential rain and high winds knocked out power. The town had been warned that the storm was approaching by TV and radio, but it was beyond expectation.

His face orange from flicking candlelight, Bobby Weir felt dismayed. A burden weighted heavy on his heart. He cast his eyes away from his father, ashamed. Saddened that he had let his father down.

"You're fifteen, you need to be more responsible!" his father scolded him.

He squeezed a fist at his side. He was angry that he had been so stupid.

The tension between them made their relationship strained, and the storm further complicated things.

He was reminded of an ancient Greek lore that told of a god who was charged with balancing the weight of the world on his shoulders. What was that god's name?

He helped his father where he was needed to atone for his error in judgment.

Charged with his own task yesterday, he was told to get supplies for the storm: batteries, matches, candlesticks, and bottled water. But rather than doing so, he hung out with his friends at the mall.

It was a decision he soon came to regret. He was grounded for a week. And his father had to get the supplies on his own.

He didn't think the storm would be this bad; it turned out to be the tail end of a hurricane!

As he stood dreading his idiocy and irresponsibility, he assisted his father in filling the reservoir of a gas powered pump by shining a flashlight on the machine.

His father had the foresight to rent one. It was an inclination that paid off when the roof to their bungalow began to leak, saturating the hardwood floor.

It was a good thing his father had house insurance, he thought.

"Storms are like brainstorms of the human mind," his father once told him, when he described the power of storms. "They're full of chaos. Rain is like electronic synopses impulses, channeling and revitalizing everything to start anew. Wind is the strength in which power flows in the human body, pulsating through it."

He liked science much like his father who was a Meteorologist. And comparing a storm to the human body gave new perspective on a storm. It made it clearer to understand in terms he could understand.

He was reminded of a storm at the family cottage last year.

A twister swept across Big Chief Island in the middle of Lake Couchiching, near Orillia; it's vortex creating high winds and torrential rain. Thunderclaps followed from hovering, menacing clouds.

Permutated, it turned into a thin, reedy, swirling water spout when it left land. And as he watched it from the cottage window, as it sucked up moisture to fuel itself, it glided across the water like a dancer on stage, until it fizzled out, and dissipated into nothing. As if never existing.

The storm only lasted for a few of minutes but it made a huge impression, especially on his little brother, who, as a result, now harbored a deep psychological fear of storms in general. And hid every time he saw clouds brewing.

Bobby sighed.

He looked out the nearest window as rain cascaded down, masking and distorting images and objects beyond, the gutters overflowing, unable to hold the cumbersome amount of water coming down.

"Isn't this rain ever going to stop?" he grumbled.

"It'll stop when it stops, Bobby."

His father was still angry. And Bobby refuted from making anymore foolish comments, as it would only aggravate an already tense situation.

His father said, "With the lake used as a catalyst, fueling its rage, a hurricane can last for hours, even the tail end of one. But it will burn itself out." His father looked around. "Where's your brother? I haven't seen him a while."

"He's probably hiding," Bobby said.

"Then go find him, now. I want you two with me. Hurry. I still need you here."

Bobby nodded, and went in search for his brother. But it didn't take him long. He found his brother cowering behind the hot water tank in the basement, in a small isolated space that only someone of his minute size could squeeze into; the sound of thunder muffled by the concrete walls. It was Stevie's favourite hiding place when during a storm.

Bobby stared at Stevie through the narrow space between the tank and wall. Stevie had his legs folded into his chest with his arms clutched around them. He was six. "Stevie, please get out of there."

"No!" Stevie said defiant, his eyes narrowing. His face wrinkling up tight. His lips pursed. "I'm staying here until the storm ends!"

"Then you're in for a long wait. The storm might not let up for hours." Bobby then attempted to lighten the mood, and smiled. "Should I call room service and have all your meals redirected here? Do you want Mr. Hugs, your teddy?"

"I'm not hungry. And you leave Mr. Hugs alone!"

Bobby stopped smiling, withheld a frown. His humour backfired, angering Stevie. Reanalyzing the situation, he realized it sounded more like mocking than comfort.

"I'm sorry, Stevie. I won't touch Mr. Hugs. But if you come out there's a chocolate cupcake in the fridge for you. I was saving it for my lunch tomorrow at school, but you can have it."

His brother shook his head, no longer looking angry. A forgiveness in his eyes.

Stevie slapped his hands over his ears as a flash of lightning illuminated the basement through a window; a precursor for a thunderclap, rumbling through the concrete walls. He folded in tighter. "Please make it stop!" Stevie shouted scared, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Bobby wished he could. And he wondered if Stevie wished he was one of his comic book superheroes at the moment, one who could teleport away out of danger or control the elements, and whisk the storm away in the blink of an eye.

When the rumbling quieted down, Stevie lowered his hands. Bobby slid down, sat, and leaned his back against the wall. He smiled at his brother, keeping his voice calm. "Look, I know the storm at the cottage last year frightened you, but storms are a fact of life, and we can't be afraid of them. Dad says they're good for the planet; they ease atmospheric pressure that can result in unsettling weather phenomenon."

"I don't care," Stevie's voice trembled as more rumbling sounded. Bobby saw the fear in his brother's eyes and sympathized.

He mused for a moment. Stevie's afraid of storms. What if I come at this from a different angle? Show him he's not alone. He smiled empathic. "When I was your age, I was afraid of storms too. But I got over my fear."

"How?"

"Dad helped me. He sat me down and explained what a storm is, and after that, my fear started to disappear." Stevie looked at him like a curious dog, his head tilted. "I also went online and researched weather systems and storm phenomenon, and it helped me too."

"How come you stopped being afraid?"

"I realized the more you know about something, the simpler is becomes to understand, and the less you're afraid of it."

Stevie nodded. "Maybe I should do some research too?"

"It wouldn't hurt," Bobby said, "but the best person to talk to about storms is Dad. He's a Meteorologist. He studies weather for a living."

Stevie agreed, and nodded.

Stevie slapped his hands over his ears when another thunderclap sounded. "Ow!" he said. He had slapped himself too hard; he rubbed his ears.

"Are you alright?" Bobby said.

Stevie nodded. "What makes a storm scary?"

Bobby thought for a moment. "I think you know better than anyone, but the simplest reason, in my opinion, is noise. Because it evokes fear."

"So noise makes fear?"

Bobby nodded. "People are generally afraid of the unknown. But if fear isn't controlled or conquered, it can paralyze us into hopelessness. We can't let fear control us or it will ensnare us for the rest of our lives."

Stevie lowered his head, ashamed. He then folded into himself tighter. "I'm sorry for being such a coward. You must hate me."

Bobby snorted a chuckle. "I don't hate you, Stevie," he said. "You have no reason to apologize. Fear is a conditional response to uncontrolled stimuli, or that's what my science teacher would say. Most people don't know where a fear comes from, but we do know where you got yours - at the cottage last year. So we can take steps to beat it."

Bobby smiled.

And Stevie smiled back.

Bobby saw an elated look in Stevie's eyes, like a kid who just found someone he admired, or a favorite superhero who had come to rescue him from the forces of evil.

"You really think so?" Stevie said. His eyes widened, to the point of excitement.

"I know so," Bobby agreed. "All it takes is finding courage inside yourself. Everyone has courage inside them that they don't know about just waiting to come out. All it needs is the right motivation."

"You think I have courage?"

"Yes, I do. And you've already taken the first step in conquering your fear. The first step is to talk about your fear. When you have someone who understands what you're going through, you no longer feel alone. It's like losing a pet. If you have someone to comfort you, mourn with you, you begin to heal sooner."

"You're so smart, Bobby. I wish I could be brave like you."

"Being brave has nothing to do with it, it's all about experience. With experience, things always become easier." Bobby extended a hand to Stevie. "Now please, will you get out of there? Dad wants us upstairs, together."

Stevie grabbed his hand and crawled out.

Thunder rumbled, and Bobby cringed from a sudden, sharp pain in his hand, as Stevie squeezed it. It was an unconditional response to the noise, stimulated by fear. But his brother didn't run and hide. Bobby smiled proud.

Stevie loosened his grip when the thunder quieted down. He had a strong grip for his age. "I can be brave, truly I can!"

Bobby smiled. "Of course you can. Think of something to distract yourself from your fear. It always helps me. You're doing great."

Bobby lead his brother upstairs, taking one step at a time; feeling his brother tremble with each step as the sounds of the storm got louder. While the concrete basement walls muffled the storm, on the main level, sounds, such the heavy rain pounding on the roof and the high winds were elevated to fever pitch. Stevie froze in fear when they reached the last step.

"I don't want to go, Bobby," Stevie said scared.

This is not going to be easy, Bobby thought.

He had an idea. He went to his room, taking Stevie, grabbed his iPod, and gave it to his brother. "Okay. Put this on, and listen to some music. It will drown out the noise of the storm."

Stevie smiled. "Great idea! You're so smart, Bobby." He put in the earphones, and turned it on.

Being smart as nothing to do with it, it's all about experience. It's also what Dad told me to do when I was scared. Distract yourself from the fear.

When they reached the living room, Bobby found his father dumping buckets of water out into the backyard. His father turned around, and stopped when he saw them. "What took you so long?" His father looked at Stevie, and saw the iPod. "This isn't a time to fool around, Bobby. What's going on here?"

Bobby swallowed. His father was still mad. "Stevie needed me, Dad. It took longer than I thought to coax him out of hiding. I found him behind the hot water tank. I gave him my iPod so he wouldn't hear the thunder. I told him what you told me when I was his age."

"I'm being brave, Daddy!" Stevie said loudly, and smiled.

Bobby looked at Stevie, and then back to his father. His father didn't look angry anymore. There was hint of a smile. They exchanged glances. "Good work, Bobby. That was nice of you." His father's voice mellow. "Now, I need you help. I need you to take care of the buckets, dump them into the backyard, while I attend to the gas pump."

Bobby said, "Sure, Dad."

He pointed at Stevie. "Stevie, stay out of the way." Stevie nodded.

Bobby all of a sudden felt the weight lifted from his shoulders; the guilt of earlier gone, like the heaviness of a solid reverted to the lightness of a gas. In science, that transformation was called Sublimation.

He found himself back in his father's good graces. And he felt proud of himself for helping his little brother in his greatest time of need. He had turned his initial selfishness into selflessness. It was a good feeling.

Atlas, that's the god's name, he remembered.

The storm ended an hour later, and despite a leaking roof, no other damage was done to the bungalow. The neighborhood wasn't so lucky, however, and when Bobby went out onto the front porch, he saw the true ruination of the storm.

Stevie came to stand beside him, still holding the iPod. He gasped. "What a wicked storm." And Bobby agreed. "When do I get my cupcake?"

Bobby looked at him, and Stevie smiled. He was hungry. That was a good sign his fear was disappearing.

Their father then joined them, and in his hand was a half-eaten chocolate cupcake.

"Hey! Isn't that mine?" Stevie said. And he explained why.

"Sorry kiddo, I was hungry, and it was the first thing I saw in the fridge. I'll buy you another one."

Bobby saw his father look at him, and suddenly got a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, like butterflies just before going on stage for a play performance. He saw his father's eyes. Something told him he had something important to say.

"I'm commuting your grounding to only the weekend, Bobby. You did a good job with Stevie, and I think that heir of responsibility in helping your brother deserves a reprieve. But you will help me clean up here." His father's voice was adamant, but calm at the same time.

Bobby smiled. "Sure Dad. Glad to help out."

"In the meantime, I'll keep your iPod as collateral until I get my cupcake," Stevie then put in.

Bobby turned quickly. "Hey, that's blackmail."

Stevie grinned. "I know."

And Bobby laughed.