Burt Prelutsky

I’m not sure how I feel about psychoanalysis. As I understand Dr. Freud’s brainchild, you talk to an analyst for years on end about your dreams and your emotions, about your siblings and your parents -- paying particular attention to your mother -- and by digging your way down to the very depths of your subconscious, you ultimately come to discover the source of your various fears, phobias and neuroses. That is, assuming you live long enough. For all I know, it actually helps people -- and I’m not just referring to the psychiatrists who have their mortgages and their children’s orthodontist bills to worry about.

The reason I’m skeptical is because I have what some folks might regard as unnatural fears, but I know perfectly well from whence they come, and knowing all that makes absolutely no difference.

For example, I will not change a tire. And, what’s more, nobody can make me. You see, once, when I was eight or nine, I was standing around watching one of my older brothers change a tire in our garage. Suddenly the jack slipped and the car crashed to the cement floor. I was certain that Ted had been crushed. If not dead, he had certainly had one or more limbs severed. Happily, that wasn’t the case. Somehow the car had fallen at such a fortuitous angle that he was able to crawl out from underneath without a scratch. So far as I’m concerned, if a jack can slip once, it can slip twice. The way I look at it, there’s only so much luck to go around in one family, and I believe Ted used up the Prelutsky’s entire quota that morning.

Next we come to the matter of heights. When I was an adolescent, I used to think I might enjoy growing up to be a stuntman. I can’t imagine why, but at the time it seemed like a swell idea. In preparation for this career, I used to climb up on the platforms of the billboards in my neighborhood. I’m not certain how high those platforms were, but certainly they had to be at least five or six feet above the ground. Anyway, I would jump off and then roll on the grass as if I had been shot off a horse’s back. Very odd, I grant you, seeing as how I didn’t even enjoy watching westerns.