Playing Possum

Every now and again this comes up so I figured I would go ahead and put it out for all to see: this is the story of the day I knew, absolutely, conclusively knew, I was actually living in the country…yes, this was the day we discovered the possum in our bedroom closet.

(I feel inclined to note that this is a one hundred percent true story, or at least insofar as I can remember it.)

Now, this goes back to the days that we lived in the trailer. It was a 14’ by 70’ castle for the first fifteen years or so of our lives together, and like every mobile home it had its warts, one of which was that the plumbing was, at least, suspect. Every so often the pipes would freeze or spring leaks, generally spraying upward onto bottom side of the floorboards. This eventually caused those slabs of plywood to swell and warp, so much so that eventually we ended up with a kitchen that resembled the rolling hills of west Texas. Also there was (and still is) an actual hole in the hallway between the laundry area and the master bedroom that could, in a pinch, serve as a hatchway to the underworld. But that’s another story.

As it happened, our commode became disabled during one of these plumbing emergencies and for a time we would have to do our duties (doodies?) in the yard, or in the case of solid waste, up at Momma and Daddy’s house. I know, I know, too much information, but still. I must also add during this time that our son Preston was subject to sleepwalking, and often we would find him wandering in the wee (wee) hours of the morning. Sometimes he ended up outside. Maybe he was looking for the loo.

No, really, these things do go together.

After a while we finally got the commode fixed (well, for a time anyway) and life resumed. And then…one morning I woke up and found the back door standing open. Not just unlocked, not merely ajar, but wide open. Quickly I darted to our son’s bedroom to check and see if he was still there. He was, and with a sigh I left for work and didn’t give the matter another thought…

…till I got a phone call from my wife that afternoon, telling me she thought there was something in our bedroom closet. I told her I’d see to it when I got home. By the time I arrived, she already identified it as, you guessed it, a possum, and then the events sort of clicked…PJ had left the door open, and a possum had the run of the house. 

All night long. While we slept blissfully. For all I know, PJ may had played with it. We didn’t have a cat at the time.

So. Possum in the closet. How does one exorcise a possum?

I can tell you one thing: the business about “playing possum”, that’s overstated. Maybe they do it, maybe they don’t. Ours most certainly didn’t. She stood her ground till I managed to sweep her from the closet (literally, I was using a broom) into a chute we’d hastily constructed from disused waterbed frame rails. Don’t laugh, it worked. Except…she headed into the bedroom rather than toward the back door, as we’d hoped.

Thinking quickly—if perhaps foolishly—I grabbed her by the tail. 

She proceeded to wrap the rest of that prehensile appendage around my hand and wrist and just sort of hung there.

I have to admit being at least bemused. Here I am, mid forties, born and raised in the greater Chicagoland area. Prior to moving south I’m not sure I’d ever seen a possum alive before. And here I was actually holding one! Culture Fu! 

Anyway. There I was, standing in my bedroom with a possum dangling from my wrist. What a picture that would’ve made! Mind you, if it had happened today—and I’m not inviting this, mind you— we’d have had a phone handy and it would be memorialized forever. As it was, Shell was shouting, “Let me get my camera! Let me get my camera!” I was all for it, of course; this was a Kodak moment if ever there was one.

The possum, though, had other ideas. She decided she’d had enough of socializing with humans and slowly angled her body upward, teeth bared, rarin’ to do battle with the ugly creature that had gotten hold of her and didn’t seem to want to turn her loose. Her intentions clear, and my rabies shots being mostly out of date, I figured it would be prudent to turn her loose. I walked to the screen door, held her out, and let go.

But…she didn’t want to go.

I shook my arm. Still there.

It was a standoff for a few anxious seconds, before I suppose she figured she’d made her point. She landed, catlike, on all fours, and waddled off. We cleaned the possum poo off the bedroom carpet and life proceeded apace.

Now, no pictures exist of this event, except for those in our minds. But I assure you, it is true. And it wasn’t the last we saw of her either. We ended up naming her Penelope, and she would show up by the porch almost nightly for weeks, looking for food, figuring she knew an easy touch when she saw one. She was right too…we put out pans of chow for her till she finally stopped coming round. We figure she went off to start a family. Hopefully they all lived happy lives.

Nature traipsing through our yard is now commonplace. We have several deer that reside in our field, there are raccoons all over–except for the ones I trapped and escorted off the property for slaughtering our chickens (and therein lies another tale for another day–and of course I have seen many, many possums since. Coming upon one in our trash can is always entertaining and usually startling. But I’ve never looked at the critters in quite the same way, and I never begrudge them a snack at my expense. After all, they don’t remark on our wardrobe choices, and God knows they could.

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