I'm Not Playing, Possum
Hey Bookworms! It’s my dad’s birthday this week so I thought that I’d tell a little bit of family folklore. I’d like to start this blog by saying that my dad is a wonderful human and my hero. Although he horribly traumatized a child for years to get me to behave, I don’t want you guys to hold it against him. I mean, something was going to emotionally scar me eventually; it might as well be family, amiright?
I was a nerdy little kid, so psychological terror was hardly a necessary parenting tool. All I wanted to do was ride my bike, read R.L. Stine books, and memorize every glorious word of Paula Poundstone’s game-changing stand up special “Cats, Cops, and Stuff”. My brother, on the other hand, was a shameless hooligan who vandalized one teacher’s home so frequently that the teacher eventually snapped and engaged him in a low speed vehicle chase down a darkened country road. The escape vehicle was an old pickup truck with a wooden bed liner. Said liner caught fire when the ruffians riding in the back started firing illegal fireworks at the embattled teacher. It was a redneck Mad Max situation up in there. Clearly, I was the problem child.
Now that I think of it, my brother grew up to be a pillar of the community so maybe my dad has been right this whole time? When I was around eight, he moved to a house out in the country. The nights were pitch black and all manner of critters were roaming around at all times. I had previously been a city kid, so I had no idea what to do with my new surroundings.
One day my dad informed me that he met someone very interesting while out for a walk and I pretended to pay attention while watching “Monster Squad” for the seven millionth time. Bookworms, my life changed forever that day. Dad had met the POSSUM KING. Not only that, but he had made a deal with the possum king. The details of this deal were not fully revealed to me but the gist was that, when I misbehaved, my father could call the enormous shamblin horror that was the possum king and it would wrap it hairless, rat-like tail around me and then pick me up and haul me off to it’s burrow.
What would happen to me after that? Maybe the PK would eat me up. Chew on my bones like a candy cigarette and then go on with his day. Maybe he would put a spell on me that would transform me from charming little kid to a feral marsupial that roamed the night chowing down on bugs and roadkill while my very own rat-like tail waved around in the wind. What a nightmare. It sounded like camping but much, much worse and I had zero interest in exploring either option.
When I sassed him, insisted on practicing my sweet Poundstone bits for too long, or what have you, my dad would sing “Oh, possum! Poooossssuuuuum” in that drawn out singsong tone that only ghostly children in horror movies sing with. I would try to play it cool. Then I would hear the thud of it’s scaly feet approaching the house. Let me tell you, I lost all semblance of cool and did whatever was required to make sure that I wasn’t dragged screaming into the night by that vicious beast, Sometimes I could even hear it’s long, dirty nails scratching on the walls as it made its way to the front door. You can bet your sweet Aunt Sally that I fell right in line for weeks after such a close call.
Of course, I figured out later that my dad was secretly thumping his hand on the back of the couch or raking his own nails against something to make me think that my nightmarish demise way nigh. Still, he could call for that possum when I was in my 20s and I would still get shivers up my spine. Heck, I was sitting on the porch last night remembering all of this and I creeped myself out.
I know this seems like a weird way to shout out a loved one, but that whole story is pure evil genius. I’ve spent so much of my life reading, listening to, and telling stories it only seems right that my dad told me the first story that I’ll never forget. I think that’s pretty special. So, Bookworms, let’s all raise a glass to my dad and wish him a happy birthday. May his days be bright and may a giant possum never devour him. Cheers! He’s going to be so embarrassed when he reads this.