Scene One – PERSISTENT – Pine View Lodge, Hayward, Wisconsin, July 1964
“Bobby, I’m glad you showed up.” Sally’s eyes meet mine. “You are persistent, I’ll say. I wish Butch had paid more attention to me.”
“Ah–” I lift my gaze to Sally’s. “I mean, when you didn’t call back last month, I decided to drive up. Fishing season is over, but I wanted to see if I could find you at the lodge.”
“So, you did.” She sips her coffee. “I owe you an apology for not answering your calls. I wasn’t ready to talk with anyone. Butch had just left me–”
“I’m sorry.” Coffee mug shakes in my hand. “When you told me you and Butch had never married, I had no idea he had just left you. I shouldn’t have bugged you.”
“You couldn’t have known. Don’t feel sorry. I want to explain–”
“You don’t have to–”
“Yes, I do. There’s nobody here I can talk to. I have lots of friends, but no one I feel comfortable with. You’re the only one from high school who calls or seems to want to know me. Everyone, including Butch, is more interested in my body than in me.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything. Could you just listen?”
My heart beats louder than Love Me Tender whispering from the jukebox across the room. “Sure.”
“After high school I told Butch I was pregnant. I wanted to run away with him to northern Wisconsin. I wasn’t pregnant. I hated Mequon and life with my grandparents. Did you know my parents died when I was young and my grandparents raised me?”
“No.” I shift my weight on an uncomfortable chair.
“Are you okay with my story?” Sally’s voice is calm and persuasive.
“More coffee?” My hand shakes as I refill both mugs.
“As I was saying, my grandparents adopted me after the accident. The Duluth News Tribune headline described their death as a ‘Tragic Lake Superior Boating Accident.’ I was riding in our Chris-Craft speedboat, old enough to remember the joy of bouncing from wave to wave. The ride seemed more wild than usual. I don’t remember what happened next but the newspaper reported we hit a buoy that marks shipping lanes. I remember fire, smoke, blood in my eyes, and being trapped in darkness under the hull of the overturned boat. Fortunately, I was wearing a life vest and the Coast Guard rescued me. My parents were never found.”
Sally hesitates as she reaches for my hand. She places my fingers above her right temple. “I wear my hair long to hide my scar.”
Scene Two – THE CHASE – Milky Way Drive-in, Glendale, Wisconsin, August 1964
“Hi, Bobby. I see you’re alone. May I sit with you?”
“Coach Benson.” I reach to shake his hand. “Sure. Climb in. I won’t ask what you’re doing here. I’ve figured that out.”
“I’m here for a burger.” He lifts a greasy paper bag and slides into the Studebaker’s passenger seat beside me. “You call this drive-in the Milky Vomit, but the burgers are actually good. Maybe someday they’ll make a TV show that features a drive-in like this, that stars two women from Milwaukee.”
“Yeah, sure.” I turn to face Coach. “The food isn’t that good. When I was in high school Cokes were a dime, fries were fifteen-cents, and burgers were thirty-cents. Across the street at the Sunoco station, smokes were twenty-five-cents a pack. Everything is more expensive now.”
“Yes, life changes.” Coach unwraps his burger. “Where’s the roof of your car?”
“Long story, Coach.” I turn to face him. “I’d rather talk about Sally. Do you remember her?”
“Sure do. What’s going on?” He looks at me.
“Well, I’ve been interested in Sally for a long time–I don’t know how to say this.”
“Last month we met up north. She told me more about herself than I really wanted to know. Stuff about her parent’s death and all that. Now I’m scared to see her again.”
“I always thought Sally was a long shot, but I wanted to date her. Now that she may
be interested in me, I’m scared. I’m not sure if I’m ready to settle down with her.”
“May I share a story?” Coach leans back in his seat.
I laugh. “You usually do.”
“I have a home in the country, in addition to Mequon.” Coach wipes his mouth with a paper napkin, balls up the empty paper bag, and tosses the wad into a galvanized trash container outside the car. A perfect ringer. “Oscar, a German shorthair pointer, lives at my country home. While I’m away, neighbors take care of him. Pointers were bred to find and point toward game. The breed also loves pursuit. Long legged and lean, Pointers are born for fun.”
“Like Daisy, your beagle in Mequon?” I sip my Coke.
“Not exactly.” Coach gulps his drink. “Daisy likes to roam. I won’t see her for most of the day. Oscar, on the other hand, is a home-body. He loves his routine.”
“What routine?” I reach for a Lucky Strike. “May I?”
Coach nods. “Oscar loves to chase squirrels who eat seeds that have fallen from our bird feeder. He begins his chase from the porch. When a squirrel arrives at the feeder, Oscar slowly stands. He stares intently at the squirrel. Next, he moves with cat-like stealth, one foot then another, toward his goal. Suddenly, he unwinds like a spring, and sprints toward the hapless critter.”
“Gosh, does he catch the squirrel?” I clench and unclench my fists.
“Not usually. Nine times out of ten the squirrel is faster than Oscar and escapes up a tree. Oscar circles the tree. He barks and jumps but the squirrel has scrambled to an adjacent tree. Not noticed, Oscar continues to bark up the wrong tree. Once he is convinced that this particular squirrel is no longer available, then he will reposition himself on the porch to wait for another.”
“Why doesn’t Oscar give up squirrels and try to catch something easier like rabbits?” I rub my chin. “If he can’t catch a squirrel, why does he persist?”
Coach Benson waves for a car hop and orders two more Cokes. “Oscar doesn’t switch from squirrels to rabbits nor is he distracted to eat, groom, or nap. He focuses on squirrels because he loves to run. And, once in a while, he is successful.”
Coach hands me a fresh Coke. He sets his drink on the dashboard. “Last week Oscar caught up with a squirrel before she could escape up a tree.”
“Okay, this time Oscar captured the squirrel.” I set my cup on the dashboard.
“Yes.” Coach finishes his drink. “But he didn’t grab the squirrel or pin her to the ground. Instead, Oscar leaped over her and ran back to the porch to wait to chase again.”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.