I’m currently listening to a biography on Ben Franklin. It’s interesting that at that time newspapers were “the” media and published stories often contained a moral lesson. Pilgrim’s Progress was still a top seller in the early 1700’s.
It’s not that published stories back then couldn’t be funny and witty, many were, especially those written by Franklin. But readers in those times wanted more than simple entertainment. They wanted to learn something, and not just for themselves, they wanted to be able to instruct their families with what they read. This is a modern story with a clear moral spelled out. I wonder why stories of this type are not held in higher esteem today.
A Date with a Possum
Our dog Robert did what he often does, he carried into our yard a dead possum. This frequent practice of Robert’s presented a problem because we could not toss the carcass down the cliff, or into the back of the property, because Robert would bring it back to us as a gift, a second time.
My father, who believed because I was seventeen that I should inherit additional responsibilities, told me to carry the possum to the landfill for proper disposal. I protested, the landfill was on the other side of town, but my objections were overruled. I was stuck with a most unpleasant chore, but terrible times convey with them immense inspiration. It was then that I settled on a capitol plan.
After my father had stepped into the barn, I placed the clean, unmarked, and stiff possum gently on the roof of my car. I’d drive carefully out of our driveway, and as I got further away from the house I’d increase speed. Eventually the animal would fall off. I would not intentionally throw the animal into someone’s yard, or even toss it out onto the road. Who could blame me for the final resting place of the unfortunate creature? Fate would be the sovereign in the placing of the animal. At the time, my plan seemed one step from magnificent.
Everything went well, at first. I drove out of our place and was sure I still possessed the package. I approached town, avoiding the main roads least my father spot the animal in the morning on his way to work. I eventually increased speed. There were a number of sharp curves and I was sure I’d flung the animal off the side into some ditch or pile of brush. My brilliance had provided time ample time for me to visit my girl Sarah before I returned home for dinner.
At a red light on Mulberry Street, I saw the officer in my rear view mirror. The red light was horribly long and I hoped it would change, but it remained red. The cruiser pulled up beside my car and the officer immediately fixed his eyes on a point just above my head. I wondered what he was looking at and didn’t want to admit that my greatest fear might be coming true. He, not surprisingly, pulled me over after the light changed and approached my car, giving it a wide birth as he drew near.
I rolled my window down, “Afternoon officer,” I managed to say in a shaky voice.
He didn’t look at me immediately. It was difficult for him to remove his eyes from the roof of my vehicle. “Did you know,” he asked, “that you have a dead animal on your car?”
“Well no,” I said, “a dead animal?” I climbed out slowly and stared aghast at the unwanted lump of fur.
“You want to explain how it got there,” asked the officer.
“Well,” I said, rummaging around for an answer. “I must have passed under a low bridge when someone flung it off.”
The officer stepped up to the car for a closer look, and scratched his face just above his ear. “No,” he said, “if that were true, as heavy as this animal is, you’d have a dent in your roof, but I don’t see a dent.”
At that moment I experienced an eruption of anxiety and tried to throw something, anything, against the wall that would stick. “Someone threw it from their yard when I passed-that has to be it.”
“ No,” he said again. “If you were moving and the animal were moving it would slide from a smooth, round surface like this one. It looks very much like the animal was placed on the roof intentionally, while you were parked.”
“That’s crazy,” I said, wringing my hands while stepping back. “What fool would put a dead possum on the roof of their car?”
“That’s what I was thinking,” he said. “Why would anyone put a dead possum on the roof of their car?”
I didn’t bother stopping at Sarah’s that evening as the events described drained every drop of joy from my hapless soul. How could I stand and face her in my defenseless condition? Instead I turned round and eased up our driveway after dark, hoping—more than anything—that the incident would not end up in the county paper the next day. Perhaps, I thought, it would be wiser, in future days, to just do as my father suggested.