Pennywise, Spandex shorts, and things that go bump in the night -- Jen Doktorski

After reading Stephen King’s IT in high school, I had to sleep with the light on for a month. I also refused to use the bathroom sink after dark—fearing what might call out to me from the pipes—and developed a serious aversion to clowns.

Growing up, Stephen King novels weren’t the only thing keeping me up at night. Nuclear war, The Exorcist (and exorcisms in general), and several Twilight Zone episodes vied for the attention of my overactive imagination in the wee hours of the night. I often needed to fall asleep with the TV on or headphones in my ears.

Fear is one of the topics were blogging about in this spooky month of October. Mine have changed as I’ve gotten older mostly because they’re more grounded in reality. I had a writing professor in college who said that real life is often more interesting than anything we can make up. I would submit to you that real life is also scarier than fiction. Pennywise the clown has been replaced in my psyche by things that can actually happen or have happened already. I find my new set of fears difficult to talk about and even harder to write about. But at least fiction allows me to place my characters between myself and those fears—to wear a mask as I try to sort what scare us both.
For this post though, I thought I’d keep it light and share with you my run-of-the-mill fears—the kind that make me laugh and keep the big ones at bay.

Fears like…
Running out of coffee. Followed closely by running out of wine and toilet paper. I tend to stockpile all three.

School picture day. For the past six years, I’ve organized the photographing of 550 students ranging in age from three to ten at my child’s school. The process has sent more than one brave parent running.
Laundry. It never, ever ends. Tell me that’s not a nightmare.

The guy in my fitness class who wears spandex shorts from 1986 and cropped tops from the same era. Neither offers ample coverage or support.

And along these same lines is my 90-year-old neighbor who bares his milk-white legs as he sports only a bathrobe and slippers when he walks to the driveway’s end every day around noon to retrieve his newspaper.
Spider crickets. I encountered one of the gargantuan hopping creatures in my kitchen one morning. Trying to whack that thing with a broom at 6 a.m. was like battling Smaug. I’d post a pic here, but it would only give me nightmares. Google them if you’re curious. Be warned. They ain’t pretty.

The scale in the doctor’s office.
Public speaking. I’ve got to give a 15-minute speech at Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus conference in two weeks and I’m already practicing deep breathing exercises.

George Clooney's marriage and Derek Jeter's retirement. Both must signal the end of the world, right?

Social media. Some day aliens from distance galaxies will come to assimilate us, and they'll know exactly where to find us.


Donald Trump’s hair.

The Honey Boo Boo mom’s feet.
Scraping the seeds out of a pumpkin. Though I love just about everything else about pumpkins including carving them and their faux flavor in my latte.

Missing a deadline.
And finally…

Reviews. Particularly from The Magazine That Shall Not Be Named.
What are some of your fears? Big, small, or silly I’d love to hear them.



  1. I totally jumped when I saw Pennywise at the top of the page. He scared the crap out of me as a middle schooler when my brother and I secretly watched "IT" without our parents' knowledge. I relate to your fear of tasks that never end. No chance for a check mark on that to-do list.

  2. Pennywise terrifies me!! And yeah, I don't even bother putting laundry on the to-do list. :)

  3. I love your list! I remember the sink scene in IT, too. Another scary movie for me was When A Stranger Calls (the original). It ruined babysitting for me!


    1. Yes! That movie ruined babysitting for me too! I started asking friends to babysit with me. I had to spilt the pay but it was worth it.

  4. Bah! The Magazine That Shall Not Be Named. Don't even get me started.

  5. Ha! Great list! No coffee scares me too. When I fasted on Yom Kippur, the no water or food thing was fine, but no hard! First thing I drank when I could break the fast!

    1. I feel for you! That's not easy. Whenever I travel I need to know exactly where I'll be able to retrieve fresh coffee in the morning. I don't like those in-room coffee makers.

  6. OMG I love this list! That guy in your fitness class does sound like the stuff of nightmares!

  7. Thanks Stephanie! He seems to have an endless supply of those spandex shorts!


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