Scene One – DOESN’T SEEM RIGHT – Ace Diner, Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 1951
I sit on a stool at a lunch counter between Dad and Uncle Larry. My feet dangle above the floor like tetherballs at the end of skinny ropes that swing in the wind at my playground. Dad and Uncle Larry dunk ends of one-half of their cake donuts into brown-stained, white steaming mugs of coffee. Hills Brother’s Coffee, a neon sign on the wall, glows in the early morning light. I dunk one-half of a glazed donut into a glass of milk just like a man.
Uncle Larry turns toward me. “Bobby, please pass the cream.” He then leans forward and looks past me at Dad. His voice is quiet, yet firm. “I feel bad about the sailor we cheated.”
Dad turns his head to Uncle Larry. “Why? He said he wanted a low mileage car. That’s what I sold him, thanks to your help.”
“I’m not sure about that. I don’t think it’s right to take advantage of discharged war vets with a wad of cash and a need for a used car. The other night when I was setting back mileage for another customer, I left the electric drill on too long and the speedometer cable turned the car’s mileage past zero. I had to reverse the drill and add 20,000 miles back onto the car’s odometer.”
“Larry, you probably helped him because when he goes to sell the car it will be worth more. Look at it this way. There’s a shortage of cars and many buyers. We’re helping vets get reestablished. Times are tough. Remember, you have rent to pay and I have a family to support.”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right.”
Scene Two – SORT OF – Bobby’s Wrigleyville apartment, Chicago, Illinois, June 1979
“Who’s the cool dude in front of the airplane, Bobby?” Debbie lifts a black and white print from a box of photographs.
“That’s my dad.” I reach for the photo. “The plane in the background is a commercial carrier. Dad flew small aircraft after this photograph was taken but nothing this large. He used to dream of flying his living room chair before he obtained a private pilot’s license. He flew out of Timmerman Field where he met Bill Brandon, the TV weatherman who owned a Piper Cherokee. Dad would passenger with Brandon or rent a Cessna 150 when he wanted to fly on his own.”
“Was he a good pilot?”
“Sort of. He had trouble with landings.”
“Landings are the most important part of flying.”
“No kidding. Tora! Tora! Tora! like a WWII bomber dives toward an American aircraft carrier.”
“I saw that movie.”
“Right. Dad didn’t believe in slow landings. He should have been a helicopter pilot. I recall
Mother had one flight with him. I asked why she didn’t fly with him more often. She said, ‘I don’t like to fly, dear.’”
Scene Three – PLAY ACTING – Dan’s farmhouse kitchen, Ashton, Wisconsin, June 2019
“Bobby, look at these photos.” Dan slides three 8x10-inch black-and-white photographs across his kitchen table.
I lay photos side by side. “Ugly! Dead? Or, is he playing possum?”
Dan waives toward an open window. “I was walking Biscuit up the path we normally take and suddenly he made a beeline for the barn. I called and Biscuit wouldn’t return. He was circling something near the barn wall. I walked over and smelled the stench before I saw the body. Phew, almost made my stomach turn.”
“So, the possum was dead.” I push the photos back to Dan.
“Well, as you can see in this photograph, with matted fur, eyes wide open, and tongue hanging from his mouth, he looked dead. I lifted Biscuit and walked to the barn for a shovel. When I returned to bury the body, the possum was gone.”
“OMG, play acting.”
“Sure seems that way. Although possums resemble a cross between a rat and woodchuck, they are neither rodent nor mammal. Did you know that the North American Possum, also known as an Opossum, is the only North American Marsupial? Like a kangaroo, baby possums are called joeys. They hide in their mother’s pouch to nurse and develop. When they are ready for the world they climb out and ride their mother’s back until independent.”
“Yeah, but I still don’t like them.”
“I know. Possums have a bad rap because of their rat-like appearance, ability to play dead, and mimic rotting flesh. However, possums are not all bad. An average possum eats over 5,000 ticks a year. Many of these ticks carry Lyme disease. And, possums are fiercely loyal, protecting home and family above all else.”
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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.