Fire Truck

Now before I start ramblin’, all you googlers, fact-checkers, and score-keepers – let it go.

Relax.

This little tale has been pressed through a 40-year-plus filter of memory. If it’s not perfectly factual and accurate…as the very fine Kentucky songwriter Mitch Barrett puts it; “I ain’t lyin’, I’m tellin’ you a story”.

Or as another fine Kentuckian, screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue explains; “If I have to choose between the truth and a good story, I’m goin’ with the story every time.”

Groucho Marx tells how he ended up in show business.

“I saw this advertisement in the newspaper for a job. I needed a job. I ran 15 blocks and up 5 flights of stairs and I knocked on the door. This fellow answered the door wearing lipstick and a dress. I thought; ‘How long has this been going on?’”

I suspect most theatre participants have a similar moment of truth.

Mine?

When I was in high school, I had a part time job in the children’s department of the public library in Lexington. One afternoon, my duty was to read and tell a book to several Head Start classes visiting the library. I think there were 80+ kids in that session. I read the story and then selected several kids to act it out. There weren’t nearly enough parts for all the kids. Two six-year-old boys on the front row were raucous in their desire to participate. (RAUCOUS PARTICIPATION IS ENCOURAGED – wouldn’t that be a great title for someone’s biography?) I pointed to one of the six-year-olds and asked him if he could play the fire truck mentioned in the story. He roared; “YES!” and began to wail his “siren” and wave his arm as a ladder. His partner and lifelong friend (six years old, remember) was crushed to left behind. I asked him what color the fire truck was. “Ray-udd!” he shouted, and with my extraordinary but certification-lacking linguistic dexterity I instantly interpreted that as “red”. I asked if he could be “red”. He leapt to his feet, stood next to his fire-truck-playing friend, made “jazz hands”, and danced frantically around his friend. The room and I went graveyard silent in sheer awe and admiration.

That was my Groucho Marx moment.

“How long has this been going on?”

At that moment, I wanted to grow up to be that 6-year-old.

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