The Magic Word

*This is also my submission for the September #MRWritersClub contest. Yes, I am still trying to affiliate my work with that blog, even in spite of some things.


To some people, being in a room full of puppies is something out of a fantasy.

For nine-year-old me, who had a petrifying fear of dogs, it was like a scene from a Hitchcock film. Think of it as something like The Birds, but with three chihuahuas instead.

When I was locked in that bedroom, I wanted to ask myself why I was there. But I could not, because I already knew the answer.

I was a pushover.

For a good chunk of my childhood, I had a very hard time saying the magic word: “no.” All I wanted to do was let others have their way, because we all know a child’s logic: if they don’t get what they want, they get mad.

Taking advantage of me was pretty simple, so I was a natural friend of girls with occasional bully-esque tendencies.

One of these friends invited me over to her house one day. She knew very well about my fear of dogs, and she found it preposterous. So she sought out to get me over my fears by coralling me in her bedroom with her three hungry chihuahuas.

When she first told me of her odd therapy session, I wanted to decline, because it was the equivalent of hell for nine-year-old me.

But of course I said “yes,” because I was more fearful of her getting mad at me than I was of any dog.

So that was how I got there. I let my pushover side win. As per usual.

As the chihuahuas inched closer to me, I realized that my life did not need to be this way. I could very easily break out the magic word. I could use it as a weapon to protect myself and ward off the people who wanted to take advantage of me.

Just then, I heard my friend ask, “Are you less scared of dogs?” from the other side of her door.

I took a deep breath, ready to roar.

“No.” For the first time ever, my voice was loud and clear. “And if you don’t get me out of this prison right now, I am going to be taking legal action, Martha.”

I did not actually say the last part. Instead, I stuck with a simple “Please get me out of here. I don’t like this.”

My friend—whose name is not Martha, FYI—did indeed get me out, but didn’t talk to me for a month because she was mad that her intervention did not work. Not going to lie, I did not really mourn that brief loss of our friendship.

From there on out, I used the magic word in all situations necessary. My life changed for the better, even though I had a couple of friends turn their backs on me. But frankly, I did not need those people in my lives in the first place.

My new beginning began with only two letters.