The coolest guy at my high school was named Brett. He drove a 1982 Ford F150 Pickup. He got it when he was 14 at a scrapyard for next to nothing. Then he spent the next two years restoring it, fixing everything, making it shine like new. By the time he got his license, it was in perfect shape.
But to tell you the truth, what really made Brett so cool was that he did not give a fuck. One morning, he came to school with a dead deer in the back of his truck. In the state of Wisconsin, this, in and of itself, is not that unusual. This, however, was not a deer that he had hunted. It was road kill. He was driving to school that morning and he saw in laying in the middle of the road, so he got out and threw it in the back of his truck.
He was telling us about it in math class. Then he got up and walked out. Minutes later, we could see him in student parking lot through the classroom window. He climbed up into the back of the truck and began wrestling with one of the deer legs, hacking at it with a knife. When the last string of flesh was severed and the leg was finally liberated, he swung it up above his head and began waving it back and forth. The whole school could hear him howling like a mad man. To this day, it’s the most inspiring thing that I have ever seen.
So, a few years ago, when I saw him post on face book that he was selling his truck, I immediately called him and told him that I had to have it. I went to get it that same night. I couldn’t believe it. It looked exactly how I remembered it.
Driving it on those country roads, I felt seventeen again. I pulled into a Blain’s Farm and Fleet and bought a Carhartt jacket and a tin of chewing tobacco. In high school, I smoked a few cigarettes now and then, but I never had the balls to chew tobacco. Even to this day, I still haven’t tried any, but it felt good just having the tin on the passenger seat next to me.
I was heading south towards Chicago, when it appeared in my headlights—a lump of flesh and fur, lying in the middle of the road. I thought aloud, “could it be road kill?” I slammed on the breaks. As I got out of the truck, I could already see that it was too small to be a deer. Still, I was excited. I figured that for my first night out on the road, this would be a pretty good haul.
I got a closer look. It was a possum. He was lying on his back. He had his head turned to side and his tongue was hanging out. There was a trickle of blood running out his mouth and pooling on the pavement. He had one paw up across his forehead. He had his other paw clutching at his chest. And he had a third paw pointing down the road, off into the distance, as if to say: “My killer went that way. Avenge me.”
I crouched down and studied him carefully. Something didn’t add up. I lit a cigarette and blew a large puff of smoke in his face. He didn’t move. Then it hit me—I was being played. I stood up. “Oh, Bull Shit.” I said. “What is this amateur hour? Fuck you, possum.” Disappointed, I turned around and began walking back toward my truck.
Then I heard someone yell “Hey.” I turned around, but didn’t see anyone. I felt something tug on my pant leg, just above the knee. I looked down. It was the possum.
“How’d you know?”
“How’d you know I wasn’t dead.”
“Oh fuck off possum.”
He looked me in the eye. “Please, it’s important.”
I was so angry; I let him have it. “You’re so dramatic Possum--one paw on your forehead and the other clutching your chest. It’s some story your trying to tell. Who do you think you’re fooling? Well guess what: Dead doesn’t tell a story. Dead doesn’t give a fuck. Dead is dead. And until you figure that out, it’s going to be obvious to me and anyone else that comes your way that you’re just another phony.”
I looked at the possum. He seemed heartbroken. He walked past me back to my truck and sat on the bumper. He buried his head in his paws. I went and sat down next to him. I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there.
He broke the silence. “Cool truck, how long have you had it?”
“Oh, um, a while,” I said.
“Cool, does it still have an original Windsor V-8 engine?”
I had no idea. I didn’t know shit about engines. Now, I felt like the asshole. I wanted to change the subject, so I offered him my cigarette. He took in one long drag and then handed it back to me. “Thanks,” he said.
Now the cigarette was covered in blood from his mouth. It was disgusting. I was going to just put it out, but I guess he saw the look of disgust on my face because he said, “sorry.”
“No, its fine,” I said, putting it in my mouth. I could taste the blood on the cigarette. It was sweet. “What is that?” I asked.
His eyes perked up. “It really looks like blood, doesn’t it? It’s my own concoction: equal parts maple syrup and Heinz ketchup, the good stuff.” He said with a renewed sense of pride.
I knew was lying, though. It wasn’t Heinz. I could tell that it was a generic catsup,” but I decided to play along. I patted him on the back and said, “Yeah Possum, that’s good ketchup.”