the taste of red

The first symptom was a cold sweat. Then his heart started its panicked slam against his ribcage, and he could taste the sourness at the back of his throat.

A traffic light was enough to start it off; more than enough. Oh, he could cruise through the green, no problem, but at the first glare of red he had to turn his head as he hit the brakes. Best not get him started on the flash of brake lights either.

Christmas was hellish for him. How a jolly fat man could trigger such fear was amusing to his colleagues and concerning to his friends, who knew better than to laugh by now, but that furry scarlet costume made the pins and needles break out across his hands, every silly season.

His housemates had become accustomed to picking out all the red snakes from the party mix – they were the most delicious, after all – and stored the cans of tomatoes with the labels facing inwards. One girlfriend had insisted on wearing red lipstick to ‘cure’ him of his phobia, but each time she leaned in for a kiss his repulsion was so severe he actually gagged. She didn’t take it well, but now tells the tale at dinner parties with a good-natured chuckle and raised eyebrows.

His doctor had tried hypnosis, but the root of his disorder had burrowed deep into his psyche and refused to loosen its grip. Medication could help, it was suggested, but when he popped one out of the packet into his waiting palm, a yelp of panic sent the red pill hurtling towards the ceiling. They’d explored the source as a fear of danger the colour symbolised, then a rejection of sexuality, and even a repudiation of his own mortality in an aversion to his blood. But really, what use was theory when you found yourself hiding in the supermarket from Coke cans? And the experts in charge of phobias must be sick bastards anyway; who else would call a fear of long words hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

Imagine a life without shiraz or strawberries, flinching from fire trucks and hyperventilating at Santa. He was a gentle man, a man of rhyme and reason, who paid his bills on time and wasn’t at all disturbed by the Odd Sock In The Dryer Syndrome, but show him a child with a red ribbon tethering a wayward balloon and his fists began to clench.

Tonight though……tonight the balance had to shift. Had to. Deep breathing would help, as would the Valium, but mostly, there was Carmella.

Her user profile had caught his eye immediately, and they’d fallen into a month of indulgent emails and raucous phone calls until the witching hour. A woman with a passion for Tom Waits and the dirtiest laugh this side of Tulsa could not be ignored, and a meeting had finally been arranged. And as he readied himself with a whiskey, he gazed again at the photo he’d finally been granted the night before.

Trust him to fall in love with a redhead.

Phodophobia – Fear of the colour red
Nomatophobia – Fear of names
Thaasophobia – Fear of sitting
Euphobia – Fear of hearing good news
Nostophobia – Fear of returning home
Clinophobia – Fear of going to bed
Heliophobia – Fear of the sun
Panophobia – Fear of everything
Luposlipaphobia — the fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly-waxed floor

I love the words that fall between the cracks; where I have to roll my sleeve up, jam my arm down into the darkness, and yank the stories up by their hair.

I write with black coffee, and bare feet.

Both seem to help.

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  • PintaPinta
    PintaPintaalmost 6 years ago


    i don’t know… i don’t know! i can’t pick my favourite ‘bit… i snorted with laughter at the hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia retort. i skipped through all the ways and moments this poor poor bastard shrunk away from red (you’re killing me here my girl of bells) and postively beamed (there was clapping) when i reached the end. whatever was in the sushi – we love it. if this is a product of the sushi, we love the sushi! my oh my, my jelly bean… how bloody crackerjack snapping hot you are at humour and irony… who ever knew that the growl could give way to such a warm and endearing cheekiness? me. ha! i knew. oh cripes, bell. i just LOVE this my girl. LOVE.

  • Darling Tommy, food poisoning has kept me tethered to my flat all weekend, and several pieces are the result. Don’t quite know where this came from! But imagine, a life without red….sweet jesus, what would be the point? I couldn’t gaze in admiration at your sublime ruby lipstick, for one! So glad to make you laugh, sweetheart x x

    – bellmusker

  • PintaPinta
    PintaPintaalmost 6 years ago

    p.s. Luposlipaphobia — the fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly-waxed floor – can we PLEASE talk about this over our next honey martini? bags not being the first to snort honey up her nose with the giggles…

  • Isn’t this majestic! I snorted peppermint tea out my nose when I read that. You can thank Gary Larson, the cartoonist, for that one. He’s also responsible for possibly the best phobia I’ve ever come across, antidaephobia: the fear that somehow, somewhere….a duck is watching you.

    – bellmusker

  • aglaia b
    aglaia balmost 6 years ago

    i loved it bell!
    and all your phobia words too.
    for you
    ;-) xox

  • How I love your little musical gifts! He don’t know what he’s missing indeed. Thanks babe! x

    – bellmusker

  • amanda marx
    amanda marxalmost 6 years ago

    very cool . . . loved this so much, so quirky & original . . . made me snort my honey & milk out my nose . . . very uncoool
    cheers sweetie

  • Snorting is never uncool, Amanda! Just shows a healthy lust for life, hehe. Thanks so much x

    – bellmusker

  • Alexander Brown
    Alexander Brownalmost 6 years ago

    hello, this is AMAZING and i love it. fantastic writing :D

  • Hey, where you been?! Wonderful to hear from you, and see you peeking in on my writing…..hope all is well in your world.

    – bellmusker

  • sandraellen
    sandraellenalmost 6 years ago

    This was a wonder FULL read……love it!
    So, food poisoning is key for writers block, hey?
    I’m desperate, not sure i’m THAT desperate. :))
    sandra xx

  • Sandra, I don’t recommend it! I’ll never look at sushi the same way again…..but my fingers have released all kinds of story imps and rascals this weekend, and I couldn’t ask for more x

    – bellmusker

  • PJ Ryan
    PJ Ryanalmost 6 years ago

    brilliant story bell .. Trust him to fall in love with a redhead … beautiful bow tie at the end x

  • Redheads are always worth it, my girl! x

    – bellmusker

  • Enivea
    Eniveaalmost 6 years ago

    LOL!!!!! I went from snorts to chuckles to raucous cackles – and I hadn’t made it past the third paragraph! Your suffering has transformed into my delight!! Thank you :-)))

  • Thank you! What more could I ask for than to bring laughter to my friends…..well, a weekend without becoming intimately acquainted with my bathroom floor would’ve been sweet too :-)

    – bellmusker

  • Alexander Brown
    Alexander Brownalmost 6 years ago

    all is well.. i moved out and only recently returned to full time activity on the internet, so been catching up on things.been a little up and down in my moods with my lack of achievement in life but am coming to terms with it. having writers block is a pain in the rear as well as photography block and lack of will to get going. but have discovered a heap of my friends either want to photograph with me or be models within my photos, so am getting back on track with life and all that. have been unmotivated and not driven with my work situation but that also is on track! so i can return to the bubble fully and yeah! that was a rant and a half, and i am sure that you dont want all of that in your comments section :D

    P.S. i will go back and read all that i have missed over the next fwe weeks. i promise :D

  • Welcome back! I know you mentioned your internet access would be restricted, so I’ve just been waiting til you pop your head back in. Throw yourself into creative endeavours sweetheart – take those friends up on their offers – one step is all it takes to unlock the gates :-)

    – bellmusker

  • jemimalovesbigted
    jemimalovesbigtedalmost 6 years ago

    HAHAHAHAAHA! what a freak. How could you hate red? it is the most feeling colour in the spectrum, tinged with passion, pain and pleasure.

    This was sensational Bell. Loved it to bits.

  • I’m with you there! It’s the colour of sensuality – hell, the colour of life if you ask me. But phobias aren’t so much hate as pure unadulterated fear, and they know no logic. I’m terrified of crumpets, for one, so who am I to speak? :-)

    – bellmusker

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