Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

True Grits 6: In which I face my fear

[box] This is part six of a seven part story on Grit called True Grits’ Guide to a Grittier and More Successful Life. I suggest you read part onetwothreefour, and five before continuing on. Make sure you join the discussion in the comments below.[/box]

Hours earlier, when I entered a dark saloon in search of a guy named True Grits, I was afraid. Not long after, when a flying shard of glass embedded itself in my arm, I was even more afraid. But standing alone in an abandoned cellar, I was frozen with fear.

Who was this guy trying to kill me? What kind of “pact” did he have with True Grits? What do I do if True Grits doesn’t return?

Photo by Jehane (Creative Commons)

Photo by Jehane (Creative Commons)

I quietly crossed to the corner of the room in search of a weapon. All I could find was a stick about a yard long. I lifted it above my head. The footsteps grew louder.

Well, I thought, I guess I am the may fly after all. My short life is about to end.

I closed my eyes.

“You prayin’?”

It was True Grits’ voice. I opened my eyes. He was standing at the corner of the hallway staring at me.

“What were you gonna do with that stick? Make me chase it?”

“Um, I was trying to protect myself in case it wasn’t you.”

True Grits shifted his hat on his head and took a step towards me.

“I sorted things out. He’ll leave us alone. You don’t have anythin’ to worry about for now.”
Something about the way he delivered that last sentence bothered me.

“What do you mean ‘for now’?”

“Take a seat and I’ll explain.”

As I turned to find somewhere to sit, I realized I was still holding the stick above my head. I dropped the harmless timber on the ground and leaned against a barrel.

“He agreed to leave us be if you meet him on the street at noon.”

“For what?”

“To decide this thing like men. No hidin’. No runnin’. Just two men facin’ off.”

“Facing off with what?”

True Grits patted the gun at his side. I felt lightheaded.

“What? You . . . how am I  . . . I don’t even know how to shoot a gun. Why would you agree to something like that? I don’t even know who this guy is!”

“Calm down, son. Just breathe. Let me explain.”

I slumped down on the dirty floor. My arms fell limp at my sides.

“When we talked, I saw in his eyes he won’t leave you be ‘til you face him. This was the only card in my hand. He lives to crush people like you—to stomp out hope just as it starts to take root. You’re gonna have to face him sometime. It might as well be now.”

True Grits seemed to move farther and farther away from me as he spoke. Or I was shrinking. My breathing was heavy and labored.

“His name’s Resistance. He’s been following you for years. Tracking you. But you won’t let him win. Not this time.”

Is this really happening? I thought. How did I end up in a Wild West showdown?

I knew how I ended up here. Desperation. Perhaps dying in a duel would make a better story than returning to the broken ruins of my life.

“You said you wanna learn ‘bout Grit. Well, son, it’s time. Of course, you can slink away, but all this’ll be lost. There’s no Grit ‘til you look fear in the eyes.”

“Shouldn’t I be afraid?” I protested. “I mean I can’t handle a gun. It’s walking to my own funeral.”

“Fear is every man’s burden. If you’re not afraid, you’re an idiot. Or suicidal. Fear chooses you, but you can choose what to do with fear. Face it or run for the hills.”

“But, in this case, facing my fear is the same as facing my death. I don’t stand a chance!”

“You don’t? So you’re a fortuneteller now? Can you see the future? Why’re you so sure you’ll lose?”

True Grits had returned to his normal size and feeling returned to my arms. I slowly pushed myself to my feet.

“By every possible measurement I am going to die. Experience. None. Skill. None. Nerves of steel. None. I don’t need a crystal ball to see the future. Just the facts.”

True Grits mumbled something under his breath.

“You wanna know why your business failed? Why every business you start will fail if you walk away? Because you expect them to fail. You’re afraid of the future, so you get a frightenin’ future. You’re like a kid who gets to pick out his own Christmas present and chooses a bag of nails.”

“Sorry I can’t just ‘put a smile on’!” I yelled. “Are you saying I should ignore the facts and pretend everything is okay?”

“No. Just get your facts straight.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your problem is you think you’ve got all your facts straight. Well, you left one fact out of your list.”



True Grits stared at me, calm, his right hand resting on his pistol. Could I really trust this grizzly stranger with my life? Was his belief enough for the both of us?

“When I was young, my Ma taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. She said, ‘Don’t let fear shoot you in the back. Make it look you in the eyes when it pulls the trigger.’ If you’re gonna die today, don’t die runnin’ for your life. Go down fightin’ for it, believin’ you’re gonna win. That’s how I wanna die.”

I stood in silence, letting his words sink in.

“Well, I prefer not to die, but I think I am finally done running. I’ve run from fear my whole life and it has gotten me nowhere. I am ready to face my future.”

“Good. Here’s what your gonna do.”

[box] Questions for Discussion: What fears are threatening your future right now? How can you face them?

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