Interlude: The Possum

       "I wish you would step back from that ledge, my Friend..."

       We sing along with the radio as the truck bounces down the road. Josh is driving; he's the only one of us who has a license. Lydia's riding shotgun, Ben and I are in the back seat.

       " could cut ties with all the lies that you've been living in..."

       We're celebrating. Tonight was the second performance of "The Music Man," and we were all in it. Lydia's been invited to a party out in the country, and has been told to bring some friends.

       "...and if you do not want to see me again..."

       As we top a hill, we see a crossroads ahead. We're surrounded by open fields, so we can see almost a mile down the other road.

       "It's okay," says Ben, "nothing's coming."

       "...I will understand..."

       The truck barely slows down as it zooms through the intersection and climbs another hill.

       "...I will understand..."

       Suddenly, Lydia yells, "Animal!" I look ahead and see the glitter of eyes in the headlights.

       "Cat," I yell, "Cat!"

       Ben has better eyesight than I do, and he sees what it really is. 


       "The angry boy, a bit too insane, icing over a secret pain..."

       The truck jolts as Josh swerves to miss it. Ben and I aren't wearing our seatbelts. We're thrown to one side.

       " know you don't belong..."

       The possum starts to cross the road as we bear down on it.

       "...You're the first to fight, you're way too loud..."

       The truck finally skids to a stop. We all sit there for a moment, stunned. Then Josh reaches down to undo his seatbelt. Lydia grabs his arm.

       "Don't go out there, Josh."

       Josh shakes her off and gets out. We watch him walk back to the bottom of the hill.

       "...You're the flash of light on the burial shroud..."

       "We can't let him see it. We have to stop him," Lydia insists. But Ben and I are in the back seat. We can't get out in time. We hear a sound from behind the truck. It's a sound of anguish, halfway between a cry and a sob.

       "...I know something's wrong..."

       Slowly, slowly, Josh walks back to the truck, opens the door, gets in.

       "I've never killed anything before."

       "...Well everyone I know has got a reason..."

       He starts the engine and drops it into gear. We move forward again, but slowly. 

       " say..."

       The truck starts jerking. Josh is shaking. So are his hands on the wheel. So is his foot on the gas.

       "I've never killed anything! Ever!"

       "...put the past away..."

       Ben speaks up. "Are you okay, Josh?"

       "I've never killed anything!"

       "...I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend..."

       The atmosphere in the truck has changed.

       " could cut ties with all the lies that you've been living in..."

       Five minutes before, we had been happy, relaxed. We had been singing along with the radio. We had even been listening to the same song.

       "...and if you do not want to see me again, I will understand..."

       All of a sudden, we're upset, tense. All of a sudden, the evening is no longer fun.

       "...I will understand."

       All of a sudden, the song seems very different.

This is a true story, and my first-ever attempt at writing seriously.  Everything depicted in the story really happened, up to and including the music that happenned to be playing at the time ("Jumper" by Third Eye Blind).  One mistake I made was that I kept it too factual--I used my friends' real names in the story.  This turned out to be a source of some embarassment for Josh and Ben, though Lydia understood.

It was going to be longer--this was only intended to be the first half.  Originally, I included what happened at the party.  As I read it, however, I realized that a bunch of drunken hicks trying to console and convert Josh (who practices Wikka) just didn't carry the emotional power that four friends and a song did.  So I cut it--fully half of the story.  I'm glad I did, too.

This story won the 2000 Pen and Ink--Columbia City High School's highest literary award.

"Interlude:  The Possum"
©1999 by Dan Frioli
Please do not reproduce this story in whole or in part without my permission.