Farewell to a Friend

It was September of 1974, my first day at a new school. I was 15, but I looked 11. My last class of the day was Drama. I was late. I got to walk in after everyone else was in their seats, so I was completely the center of attention. I made my way awkwardly into the room, trying to look less nervous than I was. One of the girls loudly said “Oh, he’s so little! We can use him as an elf at Christmas!” A loud voice erupted from the back of the room. “I got dibs on Santa!” A big guy was sprawled on a sofa against the back wall. He had absurdly large muttonchop sideburns, and was, improbably enough, wearing a dark green choir robe over his shoulders like a cape. That was my introduction to Wally Oden.