, September 2023

May 1968, Massapequa, Long Island, New York

“Do you think it’s offensive?” Ethel asked her husband, Charles, both standing in front of the just-delivered two-story fiberglass statue depicting Big Chief Lewis, Native American warrior, adorned with feather headdress and peace pipe ready to be torched, standing on a square of AstroTurfed concrete, flanked by disproportionately smaller statues of a horse and bison, the display intended as an advertisement for the Big Chief Lewis Insurance Company of Massapequa to motorists on busy Sunrise Highway and passengers on the Long Island Rail Road Babylon line beside it.

“Offensive?” responded Charles, newly appointed Executive Vice President of Big Chief Lewis Insurance. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. It just seems kind of… I don’t know… cartoonish?”

“Cartoonish? Just what in the goddamn hell do you mean by that, Ethel?”

“It looks like one of those statues you see at that little amusement park up in Lake George, you know, with the statues of Snow White and the Seven dwarfs, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Captain Hook—”

“What the hell, Ethel? We spend a fortune hiring that Quaker nutjob out in Pennsylvania to build this thing not only as a symbol of our great company, but as a beacon celebrating the culture and heritage of The Greater Massapequas, and you have the nerve to stand here and say it looks like a goddamn Walt Disney cartoon?”

“We’ve lived here over a decade, Charles, and I’ve never once seen an Indian at the mall or at the grocery store or at the Club or at church. Everyone here looks exactly like us. And the statue just looks like something designed to humor children. If I was an Indian, I’d be a little offended.”

“So, if we built a statue honoring you holding a tray of your famous blueberry muffins, you’d be offended?”

“If it made me look cartoonish, then yes, I would be offended. And my muffins aren’t famous, Charles.”

“Good God, Ethel, what color is the sky in your world? But I guess I shouldn’t expect a woman to understand the way the world works. Women don’t even buy insurance, for Chrissakes. Men buy insurance, Ethel, and they will understand the power of this great symbol, and they will equate it to powerful insurance policies that will protect them and their families should disaster strike. I suppose that, if women were the ones buying insurance, I can see how they would be more impressed with a statue of a housewife holding a tray of muffins, or pushing a vacuum, or gossiping on the telephone with friends from the Club… Ethel, are you okay? You look a little flush—”

“I just saw a Negro drive by.”

Charles looked around, then back at his wife.

“Well, I didn’t see him,” he said. “But they are allowed to pass through, Ethel, as long as they don’t stop. Probably just on his way back to Amityville. Anyway, he’s gone. It’s safe now.”

“Can we go home now, Charles?”

“Okay, but, hold on, let me get the Kodak out of the car.”

Charles went over to the Buick and came back with the camera.

“Well,” he said, looking up at Big Chief Lewis, “I for one don’t know who in the hell would be offended by such a symbol of power and security. You see, Ethel, that’s what insurance is all about: security. If something were to happen to your home, life, or automobile, Big Chief Lewis has you covered. And I’m telling you, Ethel, people are going to drive out of their way to see this thing and snap photographs in front of it. Hell, it’s already the greatest tourist attraction this hamlet has ever seen, except maybe for the zoo and the mall. Maybe someday there’ll even be a photo of it in the AAA Travel Guide. Now, Ethel, I’ll stand over here, and you go over there so you can get the whole statue in the photograph. And be careful with the camera, it’s a very delicate, expensive instrument. So, okay, go ahead and snap the photo, and then we’ll go home and I’ll mix some drinks and you can make some houer d’oeuvres and we can relax. And, if you’re good, maybe I’ll even have sex with you after supper.”

“Okay, Charles,” Ethel said, carefully taking the camera and walking with it towards the designated shooting spot while her husband posed in front of the statue. ▪