Throughout elementary school years, we were shown a film about how not to be a jerk, thereby keeping yourself and the other kids safe. I remember two of the characters - Giddy Goose and Foolish Fish. Goose walked in front of a child on the swings, her head turned away, never seeing those outstretched legs coming right at her. Fish was a smart-aleck who took pleasure in putting his thumb over the drinking fountain, creating a puddle on the polished linoleum hall floor, resulting in a classic case of slip-and-fall. We saw the film at least once at each grade level, probably more often. Combined with the earthquake drills, fire drills, air raid drills was another film on how to save your buddy from a rattlesnake bite by cutting an "x" directly over the fang marks with the knife you always carried, then sucking out and spitting out the poison. I believe popular thinking has changed on that technique. We did not lack for models of sensible, even courageous behavior.
Yet somehow I became my own cautionary tale. One clear example came on a day I walked home from school to find a shoe box sitting on top of one of the trash cans awaiting pick-up at the curb next to our driveway. The box’s lid was on and I didn’t recognize it as anything we had discarded so I walked over and lifted the top. As I remember it, a lizard lept out, scrambling across my hand, and I’m sure I must have screamed. Our house was set at the very back of the lot and I don’t recall anyone coming to see what was the matter. I assume that I reached the front door in hysterics for my dad was summoned from work and I was driven to the doctor, throwing up all the way. There is no memory of what the doctor said or thought, I just know that on the drive home, my father tried to tell me the story of Pandora’s Box and about never taking the lids off things and letting horror loose in the world. Say goodbye to curiosity and those dwindling threads of daring DNA.