Playing possum*

My dogs bark at night. Often all night. This is nothing new, as they’ve done this consistently since baby Noah came and they were shepherded out to make sure the newborn was safe from anything that might have fangs or fleas.

Our cat was lucky enough to stay indoors until his jealousy over the baby caused him to pee all over my wife’s laptop. And one of our new(ish) leather couches. After that, he joined the dogs outside and they’ve become a band of three again, for the most part. The cat wanders both the open front and fenced back yards as if he owns the place.

The dogs, resenting his freedom, bark when he’s not in the back yard with them. Especially at night.

Or that was my theory until last night.

Since the cat — how should I put this? — earned his freedom, my wife and I noticed he was eating more food, yet losing weight. We attributed this to him living a much more active lifestyle — stalking squirrels and birds, playing with the dogs, strutting like a flamboyantly gay man in a Pride parade — you know, that sort of thing.

That’s until I left an open bag of dog food on our carport.

Listen, I admit that I’m a remarkably lazy sod. It was easier just to leave the food out (on top of a chair), with the top of the bag rolled closed than to make an extra trip inside, right? Right, yeah.

So last night the dogs would NOT shut up. Our answer for that is to shut them in a large building we have on our property. It’s cool enough so that they will be comfortable, and there’s an added benefit that they think they’re inside the house, so they lie down and SHUT THE HELL UP, so Misty and I can get some sleep. I went outside to corral the dogs, and on my way out the door I saw their food bag begin to turn sideways.

“Great,” I said to myself. “The cat’s gotten into the dog food …” when a large, round something came scurrying out of the bag and headed right for me.

It was definitely not the cat. Instead, there was a large gray possum heading straight for my bare ankles. A possum. Wiry hair, pointy nose, sharp teeth. No, not that one. That’s a senator. You know, possums look like this:

What an actual possum may look like. Bugger looks pissed, doesn't he?

Did I mention the little fanged freak was heading straight for me? That’s when I discovered something unique about being an overweight, 40-year-old white guy. When it comes right down to it, I still have a good vertical leap. (Good means that my feet actually came off the ground, not that I got any significant hang time.)

Not good enough to clear the possum, mind you. But the subsequent thud when my feet landed on the concrete was enough to make the possum take a sharp right turn and skitter under the car. I don’t blame him. I was looking for a place to hide, too.

Now look, I know we live in Alabama, and I should expect the occasional squirrel/mole/assorted yard varmint. But our house is in the middle of town. Granted, Tuscaloosa isn’t midtown Manhattan, but you really wouldn’t expect to see a possum wandering around, scavenging for food.

I quickly flipped the carport lights on and looked under the car. Beady little eyes stared back and me, and then the porky, portly rodent turned his doublewide ass to me and shuffled off into the night. The best part of all this, however, was our cat’s reaction. As soon as the possum was gone, our cat scampered out from under one of our other cars and crouched at my feet. His head was down, back tense and tail extended straight up, as if he were saying, “That’s right! And if you come back again, I won’t go so easy on ya!”

And then he looked up at me, and I looked down at him. There was, perhaps for the first time in recorded history, a moment of perfect and shared understanding between a human and cat.

“Nah,” I told him. “I wasn’t scared, either.” And with that, he turned his hiney toward me and strutted away. I put the dogs into the shelter, and we all got some rest. However, with the morning comes realization: I have to do something to get rid of this possum. So I’ve decided to do what men of my geographic location have done for generations.

It’s time for a possum hunt. I’ll get a buddy, we’ll get some beers and some weapons and stake out my carport. When the vile, ugly beast returns, we will kill it or capture it — or possibly be too drunk to do anything other than launch beer cans at it. (Man rule: If you’re going to drink while you hunt, the beer should be in cans. I don’t know why this is a rule. It just seems to be.) I texted my buddy Stu to see if he’d be interested in helping me.

Me: Ever hunt possum?

Stu: Pretty much every day.

Me: So … wanna help me catch a possum tomorrow night?

Stu: OK, so I don’t know how to say it any other way, but I will have out of town company all weekend, remember?

(Stu has to constantly remind me that he has things to do, because if something doesn’t directly involve me, I forget about it. Or even if it does directly involve me. In this case, his effeminate hipster friend Brooks is coming over to stay for the weekend. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Don’t ask, don’t tell.)

Me: Bring him along. Every hipster should have his own possum.

Don’t knock it. This could be the new planking.

*Yes, I know it’s technically ‘Opossum,’ but there is some conjecture about where the ‘O’ in the possum’s name came from. My boyhood idol, Lewis Grizzard, maintained that the ‘O’ originated from the animal’s historically bad luck when crossing the two-lane highways of the South. The animal would look up, see the headlights of approaching vehicle and think “‘O Hell, I’m a goner now.”

6 thoughts on “Playing possum*

  1. Funny! There is a possum that loves to waddle around the flower beds in the front yard when my dog is in the window simply to irritate her. I swear I have watched the possum stand there, look up at Izzy, then stick its tongue out at her.

  2. I was actually schooled in the difference between oppossum and possum when I wrote a similar story about a “possum” hanging out in my yard in suburban Atlanta. My niece, never one to let an opportunity slide by when she can sound smarter than me, pulled out her handy Google app to share this info…

    The possum is actually a similar animal (though a different beast altogether) that lives in places like New Guinea and Australia. Our little North American oppossum was named by Captain John Smith (right, the dude from Disney’s Pocahontas). So years later, when another explorer, Captain Cook (Cook, not Hook…different captain altogether) was hanging out down-under and saw the giant oppossum-looking beast, his botanist named it a possum thinking it came from the oppossum tribe.

    I think it doesn’t really matter because most of us call the little guys, with the big O shaped eyes, possums anyway.

  3. Well we caught a possum in our trap last night and we don’t want to let it go any where beside my house we live in hocking county what should we do? He has been eating all of our camping food and has been getting into totes of paper plates and bowls !! And we finally caught him!! Yay

    • Catch possum. Put under washtub for 2 days to excrete. Kill and dress possum. Stuff with corn pone and onions. Salt. Arrange on roasting pan with sweet potatoes. Bake 1 hour 30 minutes. Bon appetit!

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