This story has little relevance to children or parenting. What it is about, is a possum. And it’s just too terrifying not to share.
It all began this past Friday night. My wife and daughter were in bed and I was in our basement enjoying a few episodes of “Breaking Bad”. I decided that a late snack of ice cream would be a perfect supplement to my viewing spree so I ventured upstairs for a bowl. Upon returning to the basement I noticed my cat Monty in the back door.
Now, for those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting my humble abode, the basement back door looks out onto our back yard. It’s level with the grass and is a favorite resting spot for Monty and our other cat, Ike. On this particular night, the back door was open but its screen door was closed. Now, normally this is not the status quo once the sun goes down because Monty has had a number of run-ins with other wildlife there. These encounters typically take place nocturnally. And one–where a skunk literally sprayed Monty in the face through the screen door–was so bad that we decided never to leave the back door open at night ever again. Well, so much for that plan. That skunk incident was a few years back you see, and last Friday night the rule was not being enforced at all. Only the screen door stood in Monty’s way.
So with ice cream in hand the thought crossed my mind that I should close the door. But since I was only going to stay up another twenty minutes or so I decided I’d wait.
What could possibly go wrong?
Ten minutes later, I heard it.
I immediately leapt up off of the couch like a roided-up wrestler entering the ring. Running full speed to the back door, I slammed it shut with a bang. Monty fled in the process, stopping a few feet away. But this time I could tell something was off. Instead of walking off in a huff, as per usual, he had his back to me instead, and wasn’t moving. In fact, all I could see was a giant ball of back fur; Monty was hunched over and heaving, like a werewolf in bloodlust. He also seemed protective of something.
That’s when I saw the tail. A hairless one.
He brought in a rat, I thought with dread. So I wiped my brow, reached for the nearby broom, and used it to nudge Monty off his catch. That’s when I realized it wasn’t a rat.
It was a baby possum.
It was lying on its side and had a wide gash along its midsection. It was also quite clearly dead. After muttering a few choice expletives, I worked up the gumption to grab something to scoop the body up and find a place for it outside. Not exactly what I wanted to be doing on a Friday night, but at least it’d all be over in just a few quick minutes. No problem.
I then saw its ear twitch.
I then saw it flip up onto its feet.
And I then saw it tear toward the back corner of my basement like a fur-covered Tron bike.
Desperately I swung my broom at the beast, but to no avail. It was on nitro fuel. It was a Jamaican sprinter. My aging body stood no chance.
Then it hit me. The damn thing wasn’t dead. It was playing possum! And I fell for it. Like a big dummy I fell for it, and it was now scampering all over my basement.
Just a few minutes ago I was happily digesting ice cream. Now I was in a war zone. What a world.
Now the back corner of my basement is a great place for file cabinets, various sewing supplies, and meteorites. (Yes, meteorites.) It’s also apparently quite a good place for a small possum to hide. So when I wasn’t completely freaking out about the fact that there’s a wild, possibly rabid animal in my house, I was busy exposing the beast by tossing various clutter out of the way. But each time I did this, it would emit this horrible seizure-inducing hiss and run away. Have you ever heard a possum hiss?
This did not help my mental state.
Scarred by all the possum hissing, and sweating to an obscene degree, I was heavily encouraging Monty to finish the job at this point. I didn’t want the thing dead necessarily, but I didn’t see much alternative. If I flushed the thing out of the back corner it was just going to find a litany of new places to hide; many of which involve wires and home entertainment technology. Assuming I could jump that particular hurdle–not exactly a given–I would then have to get the thing up five steps before out the back door. This didn’t seem likely for a man in my condition, so I kept nudging Monty to go in there and kill the poor thing. But noooo! Monty wasn’t having it. He didn’t need to kill it right away. Of course not! He was content dragging this less-than-stellar chapter of our lives out all night long.
I wasn’t, however. I wanted to get to sleep at some point. Monty playing with his prey was not going to be an option.
So, cursing my cats for both being useless–at least Monty remained interested, Ike just went to sleep–I worked up the courage to take an innocent, albeit hissy, life. Now the thing most protecting the possum’s life at this point was the radiator it was hiding beneath. This prevented me from smashing the thing with an overhand strike. Therefore, I was left with no other option.
I was going to have to spear it.
I looked around our basement for something that would meet my life-taking needs–even considering the decorative harpoon that adorns the wall behind the TV–and settled on a long, paint roller attachment thingy. It was long enough, and strong enough, to let me bash the poor thing to death at a distance and get this ordeal over with.
So I got this normally unassuming tool of death and destruction and readied myself for a memory I would most likely wish to forget. And it was then that the possum–my prey–must have realized its predicament. It must have heard straight from the mouth of the Great Possum God because right then the thing twisted around and POOF!
Up and vanished into the wall.
I must have blinked five times in the span of two seconds. The possum was gone! He had found a one inch square hole in the wall where the radiator pipe goes behind the dry wall. Now I must admit I experienced a small bit of relief at this juncture. I wasn’t bashing its brains in, after all. But it quickly dawned on me how much worse the situation had gotten. It was now in my walls. Good god.
Nevertheless, the way the back corner of my basement is constructed, I was sure it had little room to maneuver back there. It was going to either die in that exact spot, or come back on out of the hole. So I took a towel and stuffed it in there so as to not let it escape overnight. I then reinforced the towel with a few heavy meteorites. (Naturally.) The end result: Mr. Possum was not going to escape.
Not until I wanted him to.
The next morning I obtained a Havahart trap from a friend of mine. It was far too big for my needs–he caught two ground hogs in it for criminy’s sake–but it was free and worth a shot. So I placed the trap near the hole, put some bread and honey in it, and constructed a possum-proof wall behind the trap so as to contain the beast. I then moved the cats out of the basement, turned off the lights, offered some words of encouragement to the wee possum, and went to bed Saturday night in the hopes that I would wake up to a trapped varmint.
It was a good plan. Definitely worth a shot.
But I never would have guessed what happened next.
Stay tuned to Part Two of this crazy tale later on this week. You won’t regret it.
In the meantime, let’s answer a few key questions:
I’m confused. How did the possum get into the house exactly?
After some careful research, this is what I believe happened: Monty saw the young possum right outside the screen door, thrust his massive feline bulk at the door, popped it open (without breaking it), grabbed and then maimed the poor animal before bringing it inside. All within the span of about two seconds.
While I am disappointed he didn’t finish the job, the fatso’s quite the ninja.
Why didn’t you wake up your wife?
My wife was admittedly pretty upset that I didn’t enlist her help. And believe me, I would have at any other time in our lives. She’s great in situations like this. A regular Sigourney. I would have loved to have had her on my side.
But the problem here is that she’s ready to pop. Our second child could arrive any day now. And with the heat and humidity lately, she was in really bad shape that day. She needed her rest. Plus, the thing might have been rabid. I couldn’t risk her coming into contact with that.
All that said, she definitely got her chance the second night–one of the most surreal experiences of my life. So check back in later this week for Round Two of Night of the Possum.