Playing Hooky

He leaned against the doorway and mused about skiing.  How far away was the best snow right now?  I remembered skipping school to go skiing.  We chatted about powder and cheap lift tickets and raccoon-face tans.

Then he brought up cross country skiing.  There was a golf course he knew that converted to a cross country ski course in the winter, and wasn’t that cool?

Yeah, cool idea.  But that sounds like work.

I was still drifting through high school memories…

Suddenly I blurted out, “Hooky Bobbing!”.  Now there was a fun winter sport!

He threw his head back and opened his mouth wide. Laughing with his own memories.  I could see his fillings.  He resembled a happy Muppet, and I couldn’t wait to hear whatever story was about to come next.

“My dad…” he began.  (For the record, I love dad stories.)  “We would get home and he would find gloves stuck to the back bumper…” (I grinned.)  He interrupted himself, “Nowadays, bumpers aren’t the same.  There’s no place to grab on.  It’s too bad, because now they are made of plastic, and gloves wouldn’t stick to them anymore.”  (I loved that he had considered this!)

He continued, “Dad would get so angry that the kids were doing this.  So as soon as we would turn onto our street, he would gun the engine.  He flew down the street, catching air over intersections.  He looked like a madman gripping the wheel.  When he would catch a glimpse of any kids poised between cars, he would floor it and begin to swerve left and right, fishtailing the rest of the way home to throw off any kids who had managed to grab on.  I still remember kids flying into snowbanks.”

His eyes twinkled and the Muppet-like expression remained, so I knew there was more.

“Most people (uhm, yes) drove cautiously down the icy residential streets.  And they would especially slow down if they thought kids were attached to the back bumper.”

I nodded.  Most of my hooky bobbing experience had been done on the back of friends’ vehicles on icy parking lots for just that reason.  John Q Winterdriver was never much fun.

He went on, “But my dad (paused to laugh) was VERY popular with the kids!  They would wait till they saw him coming, grab on and hang on for dear life.  He was the funnest ride in town.  My dad was kind of a legend.”

By this time, I’m sure I had taken on that same Muppet smile.  But I wondered, if his dad was trying to keep the kids from hooky bobbing, and his crazy driving ultimately made him more popular, why would he keep doing it?

I didn’t have to ask.  He offered up the rest of the story.  “When we got home, I would always jump out first and grab any mittens still attached to the bumper.  I waited until Dad was inside, and I would lay them out on the bottom step next to our house, and the kids would come by and get them.  Dad always claimed success because he never saw any more gloves.”

I had to ask, “So he never knew?  You never told him?”

“Oh no.  Dad was mean.  He died knowing that he had won.”