It was Saturday night. The possum that had invaded and terrorized my house the night before was encased within my basement wall. The trap that we borrowed from a friend was patiently lying in wait for the beast. The worst that could happen is that it would just stay in there, die, and stink up the place.
So I went to bed. That was that.
Three hours later I woke up to relieve myself. Discovering my wife was already in the bathroom, I waited impatiently for my turn to arrive. The house was the sort of dark and quiet you’d expect from 3 o’clock in the morning. But that would not last for long. When my turn came I shuffled into the bathroom silently and did my duty in the dark. Had I turned on the light, I might have noticed it sooner. Instead many seconds passed before the possum caught my eye.
It was sitting in my daughter’s plastic training potty. It was looking at me.
I backed slowly out of the bathroom, not stopping to flush. Closing the door as delicately as possible, I scampered off to the bedroom and my slumbering wife.
“You wanted to help yesterday? Well now’s your chance!” I said maniacally. To this, she was understandably confused. “It’s in the bathroom!” I clarified. “What is?” she replied. “The possum!” “The downstairs bathroom?” she asked. “No! The one you just came out of!”
That snapped her out of it. But she still needed to see the thing for herself. So she popped her glasses on, sat up, and crept to the bathroom door before opening it a crack.
The possum was still in the potty. Looking at her.
The door closed, but we didn’t stop to figure out how this had happened. We couldn’t. It was go time. So, as rapidly as possible, we readied our weaponry. You know, brooms, buckets, that sort of thing. This time the Family Miller was teaming up! And this hapless possum wasn’t going to stand a chance. So, with possum-capturing tools at the ready, we opened the bathroom door and strode forth to meet our destiny.
And that’s when the possum crawled back into the wall.
“No, no, NO!” I cried, seeing the tip of its hairless tail disappear behind the broken wall tiles. It was back in the walls again, and we had to assume at this point it could get to any room in the house. Panic and despair set in. Instead of fretting over something dying in the wall and stinking up the joint, we were now living in fear of a creature that could move about our house freely. Suddenly the number of rooms the possum could maneuver in and out of raced through our minds. The bathroom, the basement, the laundry room, the utility room, the attic, the living room, and…
Oh god. Our daughter’s room too.
My wife and I immediately set to completing the following list of objectives as quickly as possible:
- Set up Audrey’s pack n’ play and move her into our bedroom (a room we were fairly certain had no holes for the possum to emerge from)
- Move the trap from the basement to the upstairs bathroom and hope the beast comes back out for a snack
- Stop up any holes we could find
- Turn on the lights everywhere except the bathroom
- Patrol those rooms with brooms and buckets at the ready
- Curse the cats for once again being completely useless in such a situation
It took some effort, but we completed these objectives with swiftness, and Audrey was only marginally awake as a result. This freed my wife and I up for some good old fashioned second-guessing.
Maybe we should move the trap to the laundry room. It can access that room more easily.
Maybe we should be quiet so it feels safe to come out of the walls.
Maybe we should bang on the walls instead?
Maybe we should put more food in the bathroom to coax it out.
That sort of thing.
Hours passed. My wife and I passed the time mostly by shaking our heads in dismay, openly expressing our panic, and taking guesses as to how much money and time we were going to spend expunging this hairy intruder from our house. It was a good time!
Thankfully, around 5 o’clock things picked up. My wife had been periodically peeking in the bathroom. I was squeamish of this activity for fear it would prevent the possum from exposing himself. But, like her, I was impatient for progress, so I didn’t protest when she looked inside once more.
It was sitting at the mouth of the trap. Looking at her.
The Family Miller sprung back into action. Not about to fall for the same trick twice, we grabbed two wooden boards, entered the room, and blocked the hole in the wall. Success! The possum could not escape. Now all we had to do was get it in the trap. So, with my wife manning the door, I broomed the little guy toward the trap. But the thing simply maneuvered behind the trash can. This forced me to stand on top of the toilet, reorient the trap toward the possum’s new hiding spot, and flush the animal out.
And flush him out I did. Right into the trap.
Unfortunately for the Family Miller, the trap didn’t close. It was designed for much bigger animals and the possum’s weight was not enough to trigger the door. So with the thing running around inside the trap like it had been set on fire I gingerly reached down and closed the door. Success!
Let it be known that at 5:08am I let out a primal war cry. Atop a toilet, with broom raised, I screamed like a victorious blood-drenched warrior on the battlefield. The ordeal was over. The battle had been won.
Needing a breath, and remembering the friend who lent me the trap, I left the room to grab my camera and honor his request for a photo. This didn’t take me more than ten seconds. I was walking on sunshine after all. I had a rainbow for a smile. So, all fancy free, I reentered the bathroom with camera in hand.
The trap was empty.
I knelt down and took a closer look.
The trap was still empty.
All I could muster in response was, “Ummm…?” My wife must have sensed something in my tone. “Don’t tell me it’s not in the cage,” she said.
“It’s not in the cage.”
Suddenly all the panic, fear, and dismay came crashing down upon us tenfold. We had come so close! How did this happen?!? But we couldn’t dwell on this. We had to keep on him.
Noticing that the boards I had used to block the hole had been toppled in the process of “trapping” the possum, I lifted them back up. And saw the beast making its escape yet again. I slammed one board down like a guillotine, blocking its exit with less than an inch to spare. I then used the other one to sandwich it, trapping it long enough to toss the big–and apparently useless–trap out of the room.
My wife then made the biggest save of the night.
While getting a bucket and broom ready, the possum got free once again. It darted behind the toilet, past my reach, and toward the door. With nary a second to spare, my dear wife stuffed the beast with a bath towel, preventing it from making its escape into the kitchen and into my nightmares. The possum then double-backed, and this time I was ready.
I got the bucket on its side.
I broomed the possum into it.
And I then tossed the towel on top of it.
Unwilling to take any further chances, I dropped the board over the bucket’s mouth, picked it all up, and raced to the door and out.
At 5:13am I dumped out the bucket in my driveway and watched the wee possum shuffle off slowly into my neighbor’s back yard.
“Ride off into the sunset, little buddy!” I cheered, before blasting off another, more successful war cry into the pre-dawn air. If any of my neighbors had heard me, they would have been very confused indeed. But I wouldn’t have cared. The ordeal was over.
The possum was gone.
It took a while to get back to sleep that night. Probably didn’t happen until around 7. But it’s hard to relax after an ordeal like that. All you can see when you close your eyes, is possums. All you can think about, is possums. And all you can talk about…
I joked that I had said the word “possum” more times in those 24 hours than I had in the entirety of my life. But it was true. This one pint-sized rodent had flipped our whole house upside down. In the end, however–through a remarkable combination of tenacity, cooperation, and luck–humanity won out once again over its vicious animal oppressors.
And it was all thanks to the Family Miller.
(Just don’t tell my neighbors about the possum in their back yard.)