The Boy Who Worried Too Much

Frank and Beth were worried. Their little boy Stevie was having problems. His school grades were dropping and his friends were starting to tease him.

He had seemed fine until the big storm hit. That was when he started worrying about everything. His dad's job, his schoolwork, his mother's health. It got to the point where he refused to leave the house because he was afraid of catching a cold or getting hit by a car. Frank and Beth tried to ignore it as best they could but when he started talking about monsters and demons they were forced to seek help.

"Dr. Vertinelli?"

"Yes, good morning. Come in please and have a seat."

Frank and Beth slid into the burgundy leather chairs facing the psychiatrist's oversized desk.

"I understand your little boy is having some problems."

Frank spoke up first. "Yes doctor, he's worrying so much about everything. It's affecting his schoolwork, his friends, even his appetite." He shifted his position in the chair, but still felt uncomfortable talking to a stranger about his son's problems.

"He used to be an excellent student," he continued. "He had real interest in his grades. He used to love sports. He used to love drawing. He used to love watching movies. Now it seems like he doesn't do anything anymore. He's worried about hurting himself or about not doing a good enough job, or…"

"Frank, please. Calm down," Beth interrupted. She smiled at Frank before quickly turning to the doctor.

Dr. Vertinelli sighed. Rubbing his stubbled chin, he softly addressed the distraught parents.

"I've seen cases like this before," he stated quietly. "The child apparently has been exposed to too much reality. Has he witnessed something traumatic? A car accident, a person passing away, a funeral. Anything that would alter his insulated perception of life."

Beth beat her husband to a response. "No, not at all, although there was the big storm last month."

Again the doctor rubbed his chin. "Ah yes, the storm back in April. I remember it well. Some areas got hit rather hard. Tens of thousands were without power for days."

"Us included," Beth added. "Our house was nearly knocked down."

Dr. Vertinelli nodded as he lit a hand carved mahogany pipe.

"And you say this storm changed the way your son behaved?"

Frank sighed. "After the storm hit was when Stevie started worrying about everything. It started with real life problems like health and money."

"A nine year -old child thinking about finances? That's quite intriguing."

"Eventually," Frank continued. "It led to fantasy-related things. Monsters, vampires, killer machines. And when he woke up in the middle of the night talking about the dead coming back to life…well, that did it."

Dr. Vertinelli tapped his pipe into a bronze ashtray. "The dead coming back to life?"

"Yes," Beth interjected. "He thought it could happen if a big enough storm triggered it. Said it would be like Frankenstein with the electricity."

"Well, there was quite a bit of lightning if I recall correctly."

"Oh please," Beth moaned. "This is ridiculous."

"Dr. Vertinelli nodded in agreement. "Please Mrs. Sequelle, I'm not suggesting it could happen. I'm only looking at every possible angle in the situation, regardless of the probability." He adjusted his tie and continued. "It sounds as if your son is thinking up new things to worry about. After he had exhausted real scenarios, he switched to more colorful ones…imaginary ones. A perfectly logical next step if you will."

"But what can we do doctor? It's affecting his life and ours," Frank said, realizing just how much the doctor's pipe smoke was annoying him.

"I'd like to schedule an appointment to meet Stevie. If I can offset his fears with positive thoughts I feel that would be the first step to him realizing that there are more good things in life than bad things, and that eventually all things work themselves out."

Frank and Beth sat patiently and listened to Dr. Vertinelli's plans for their son's treatment, and when all was said and done an appointment was scheduled for the following Monday.

"Frank, do you think Stevie will be okay seeing this doctor?" Beth's voice had a distinct undertone of worry.

"I think he'll be fine," Frank replied with a smile. "Dr. Vertinelli is a highly respected doctor." He realized he wasn't sounding too convincing. "I think everything will work out fine. Stevie just needs to see things differently."

Beth sighed. "Well, we don't have much of a choice. Today it's monsters. God knows what it will be tomorrow; aliens taking over the Earth, the house collapsing, the Black Plague. We have to straighten him out now before it gets worse."

Frank looked over at Beth. He'd seen that look on her face before, when they were saying their wedding vows. That same expression of fear and nervousness, of

worry about what the future might hold. God, he thought, now I know where Stevie gets it from.

"Which way are you taking home?" Beth asked, suddenly alarmed.

Annoyed at her tone, Frank turned the radio on.

"Why are you going this way? The highway would be much quicker."

"I thought I'd take the scenic view for a change. When's the last time we went through Palmersmith?"

Beth gave him a sharp look."You know I don't like it there. You know my father is buried there. Why do you do this crap to me?"

"Honey, just relax. I figured it would give us more time to talk. Forgive me?" He held out his hand and it was soon joined by hers.

The black Chevy rolled along as Frank and Beth discussed how they would break the news to their son that he would be seeing a psychiatrist. They passed Palmersmith Drive-In. They drove by Good-N-Food grocery store. They even went past International Skating Rink where they had met as teenagers so many years before. But Frank took extra care not to go near Union Bay Cemetery. He didn't want Beth to get upset again. Even though it had been more than ten years since her father had died, he knew she was still emotional about him.

The couple drove on through the misty, warm evening discussing their son's situation and occasionally reminiscing about their courting days in Palmersmith.

"Beth? Beth, where are you?"

The desiccated corpse of Beth's father stumbled after the black car rolling down the street. It shifted its decayed head in the direction of the car. It smelled food. It smelled its daughter, which it knew tasted so much better than a stranger.

All around it others like itself staggered about, crawling along on ruined limbs, broken bodies, stained flesh. They were going towards the nearby city lights. They were heading towards Palmersmith.