I wanted a possum grin.
My second favorite TV show, after Zeebo the Clown, was Uncle Elihu.
Uncle Elihu had a little puppet sidekick named P.J. Possum.
The only way to get a possum grin from P.J. Possum was to be on the show.
Most of the kids at school had already gotten a possum grin, some more than once, and I was still without one. You received a possum grin by sticking your index finger into P.J.’s mouth and letting him nibble on it.
I was certain that getting one would be a life-changing experience, one that would imbue me with a special aura reserved only for we lucky few possum grin veterans. From that magnificent moment on I would inhabit a higher plane of existence.
I conceived a foolproof strategy for getting on the show, which involved a campaign of non-stop begging and whining until Mom agreed to take me to the station.
The day finally came when I joined the other kids upstairs in the Chicken Roost, waiting for our turn. Uncle Elihu told his stories and played his ukelele for what seemed like forever while we squirmed in our seats.
Finally, it was time. We came down from the Chicken Roost and lined up for our possum grins.
There were dozens of kids ahead of me. I worried that the show would end before I got there. My turn came at last. I stood before P.J., stuck out my finger, and…
P.J. chomped on my finger a couple of times. There was a little hole in the bottom of P.J.’s mouth, and a man’s thumb slipped out of it while I was getting my possum grin. It felt weird and creepy.
I was stunned. I returned to my seat in a daze.
On the way home I sat in my seat in silence, staring at my finger. I could still feel that big ugly thumb pressing on it.
Did you get what you wanted? Mom asked.
Yeah. I guess so. Kind of.
When we got home I ran to the bathroom and washed the possum grin off.