The Possum Pillow
NARRATOR: A direct result of my early release and indirect result of my smart mouth was that I began attending both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. There are three things you ought to understand before we proceed.
One, I am not an alcoholic.
Two, I am not a drug addict.
Three, I am not “in denial,” thank you very much.
I like to drink and, on occasion, have drunk too much. But after attending a series of AA meetings I can say I am not in the same league with the people I’ve met there. In baseball terminology, I’ve dabbled a bit in double-A ball, while these boys have had whole careers in The Show.
I remember a cold November morning; the usual suspects were joined by an old man, maybe in his 60s, and who had the grizzled quality of a long-ball hitter. Loving our last remaining addictions, everyone stood around for a while before the meeting started, chain smoking cigarettes and drinking cup after cup of a half and half mix of strong black coffee and sugar. After the meeting started, the old man walked to the front and explained that he’d thought about coming to meetings on many occasions in the past but had never done so. But then something happened that changed his mind.
A short time ago he’d come into a little money and was celebrating with some friends. They started at a couple bars and things got a little blurry after two or three in the morning.
Two days later about six-thirty in the morning he woke up. He was covered with snow that had fallen the night before and slept across the railroad tracks at a downtown crossing.
And, he was using the frozen body of a dead possum as a pillow.
Still drunk, half frozen himself, he was taken aback when the possum suddenly opened its eyes and spoke to him with what he recognized as the voice of Robert Young on the old TV series “Father Knows Best.”
NARRATOR USES CALM REASSURING VOICE FOR POSSUM AND GRIZZLED OLD GUY VOICE FOR “CARL”
“How are you, Carl?” The possum asked.
“Uhhhh… not too good. Kinda cold.”
“Head hurt a little, does it?”
“Yeah, a little.”
“I’ll bet. Listen, Carl….”
“I don’t mean to lecture or put any pressure on you but… well… look around.” The possum said.
Carl looked around.
“Do you think it might be time to go to one of those meetings, Carl?”
Hard as he tried, Carl couldn’t think of an argument to offer the possum.
The story circulated among my friends for the next month or so and became our code for someone getting a bit too familiar with recreational intoxicants. “Now there goes a candidate for a possum pilla.” One of us would say. “I heard that.” Someone would add.
Kathy with a K
A WOMAN IS SITTING IN THE FRONT DESK 2ND ROW
NARRATOR: Kathy with a K sits at the front, sort of in the middle of our angry little group. Kathy with a K teaches English Literature at an area high school and is in her fifth year of finishing her doctoral dissertation. She has had four short stories published and is working on a novel, a secret she keeps from her dissertation advisor.
She has a younger brother and an older sister. Kathy’s father died about seven years ago. Her mother still lives in the house they all grew up in. Her brother lives in Ohio and owns a failing record store. Her sister lives in Los Angeles and is married to a man who is a successful casting director.
If name-dropping were an Olympic event her sister would be the captain of the US team.
Kathy’s sister spoke as if everything she said was a part of an impossibly long sentence that would only end when she died.
KATHY’S SISTER: [OFF STAGE, SPOKEN AS FAST AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE] SowewenttoSpagotohaveanearlylunchwithMartyScorseseandSeanPenncamebythetableanditwasmaybeaquartertoonebuthewaseitherdrunkorstonedorwhateverandashelefthebumpedintothetableacrossfromusandspilledwateralloverthatnicegirlfromwhat’sthatshowwithDavidSpade?.Anyway,sothenthatguyfromAmericanIdolwhowasatthebarwithwhat’shernamefromthatshowohyouknowtheone….
KATHY WITH A K: [VOICE RISING TO COVER THE LAST BIT OF HER SISTER’S RUN-ON SENTENCE] Arrrrrrggggghhhhhh!!!!! [PAUSE]
What I want to tell my sister is that I’m happy that blind luck tossed her into the path of the same idiot that blind luck tossed into the path of a good job, and happy that the lack of condoms in extra-extra-small has her ankle-deep in enough yuppie larvae to make California’s community property laws seal the deal.
Let’s hear it for the wonders of a thoroughly random and impersonal universe.
But, like so many people who find themselves beaten with the good end of the luck stick, she talks about her good fortune as if it was the result of thought and effort, complex planning, years of hard work!
I understand that I am not the first person in class to say this, but [ALMOST PLEADING] I am not a violent person!
The holidays are hard enough, aren’t they? I’d had a few drinks before we all sat down, a couple glasses of wine during the turkey and yams and the traditional bean casserole. I was so close to escaping into a nice tryptophan coma when she gets into this manic lecture mode – I swear she was doing coke in the goddamn bathroom all through dinner – and suddenly, this… this… moron who represents everything I detest about Twenty-First Century America is explaining to a room full of our relatives everything I’m doing wrong with my life…. [PAUSE… THEN PICKING UP SPEED AGAIN] And in this screeching fingernails-toenails-finishing nails-roofing nails-on-a-chalk-board-voice…. [PAUSE]
I just wanted her to shut up.
I just wanted her to stop talking.
I just wanted her to finish this inventory of my bad life choices.
[SHE STARTS SLOWLY BUT QUICKLY BUILDS TO A SHEER EXPRESSION OF RAGE] I just wanted her to tell everyone that she has her life because she regularly sacrifices Girl Scouts to Satan and that the simple reason that most major motion pictures suck beyond the realm of suckitudeness is because everyone involved in the industry is the exact same in-bred El Lay dip-shit mouth-breathing mentally defective dick-head that her idiot husband is!!!
EMBARASSED BY HER OUTBURST AND ASHAMED BY HER CONFESSION
But I… um… I didn’t say anything. There was this serving fork for the turkey on the table in front of me and I… uh… picked it up and jammed it right into her Botox-filled forehead. [NERVOUS LAUGH AS IF STILL THRILLED BY THE MEMORY]
LIGHTS DOWN ON KATHY
NARRATOR: It was a superficial cut, but head wounds bleed profusely and as the blood poured onto the dishes and tablecloth and her sister screamed, Kathy with a K threw the fork on the floor and started shouting at her mother that there was Botox on the fork now and she could never use it again.
Her brother-in-law called the police who arrested Kathy and took her away in handcuffs as the paramedics loaded her sister into the ambulance with her husband.
Her mother and her brother sat on the couch drinking Grey Goose vodka straight from jelly glasses.
As her mother lifted the glass to her lips the blue and red flashing lights from the police car fell on the painting of Wilma Flintstone on the side of her glass.
She was wearing a spotted dress and she was smiling.
She seemed happy.