Saturday, March 2, 2013
The Road Not Taken
Joyce and I are in Enid, Oklahoma, the town where I was born in 1944. (We left Enid in the summer of 1956 to move to Hiram, Ohio. I had just finished the sixth grade.) We are driving along Broadway Avenue, pictured here, left to right across the picture. We are having car trouble.
It's nothing serious. It's just that the odometer has suddenly begun blinking on 000000, and I'm not sure how to stop it. Somehow, Joyce has now become the driver (I don't remember switching), and seems to be going somewhere; the plan is that she will go on to wherever she's going, and I'll wait here in Enid. The issue of where I'll stay does not seem to be on our minds.
And then, unaccountably, we're both pushing the car, which is full of her things--papers, books. She must have a presentation or something later on. It's not hard to push--not any harder than a shopping cart. As we are passing Longfellow Junior High (pictured), the school I would have next attended had we stayed in Enid, I remember the little ice cream shop right across the street beside the school (look closely: you can still see a business there). It was called Weibel's in my day. Kids would hang out there after school. My friends and I, afraid of the Big Junior High Kids, would try to time our visits to avoid them.
As we push our car by, I peek inside Weibel's. It looks the same as I remembered it. Soda fountain. Booths. I tell Joyce to wait a minute--I want to go in.
I do. There are lots of teens hanging out, the boys wearing jeans and white T-shirts, the uniform of my day. I approach a young man, say I'm going to tell you a story. He looks at me. I smile. I know, I say. It's weird. But one day when I was about ten, I was in here. He looks at me. I'm nearly 70 now, I say. He seems friendly. Some others gather around. Curious.
And I tell them about the time I came in there, tossing my basketball up in the air, not thinking. The ball hit the ceiling fan. A blade broke off and helicoptered across the room, missing everyone. It could easily have decapitated someone. I ran like ... a scalded cat? No, a chicken-hearted cheetah. One of my friends gave me the ball later, told me the FBI was looking for me.
One of the boys now points to a scar on the wall, says This is probably where it hit. We all laugh, knowing that can't be so.
The teens turn back to one another; I turn for the door, happy I've told the story. Happy I've had an audience.
But now ... where is Joyce?