Playing Possum

We pulled up in our driveway from the gas station up the road. On impulse, I slumped into the back floorboard of the car. My head laid pressed against a McDonald’s toy, but I didn’t dare budge. I inhaled the smell of plastic with each breath. Both Mom and Dad got out of the car.  


And then Dad let out a sigh. “Well, I guess she fell asleep again. Let her sleep. We’ll come check on her in the mornin.”  

I squeezed my eyes tight and bit my lip listening to their footsteps walk up the porch. The front door of the house clicked shut. Now what? I tried to imagine myself being frozen in a block of ice, but it was too hot out for the image to stick. I bought time by closing one eye at a time, shifting back and forth between left and right, and watching the beige carpet of the floorboard rise and fall. The back of my knees began to sweat, and I could no longer control my breathing. 

I was curious to see how long I could struggle there. I had watched a scene in a T.V. show where a woman was buried alive in a coffin, screaming frantically as she began to hyperventilate. Dad said that in those cases, it’s best to stay calm and save your air supply. He recommended families put a bell in the coffin just in case. He had already made this request known to all of his family. It’s true. I’ve seen it scribbled on a big, yellow tablet titled, “My Funeral.”  

With my dad’s wishes in mind, I used this time in the floorboard of the Maverick to practice my breathing and tried to recall “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handy just in case I ever found myself in a coffin without a bell to ring. Eventually, the game got old. I finally crawled out of the car. My head was indented, my arms burned from carpet rash, and my sleepy legs kept buckling with every step.  

I came around the front of the car and saw my dad sitting on the porch with a soft smile. “Hey, Possum. Have a good nap?” 

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