Playing (with a) Possum

by Debbie Harris — One Saturday on my way out, I stopped by a neighbor’s for a moment before I left. As I walked to my car from two doors down, I could see an animal under the rear of my car. My first assumption was that it was one of the neighborhood feral cats, who would skitter away as soon as I got closer. But as I got closer, this one didn’t move and didn’t look familiar to me. Odd. In close range, I peered under my car and saw that the creature was a possum (ok, really an opossum). It just lay there with beady, glossed-over eyes and an open mouth, with its tongue sticking partway out. I’d heard about these animals “playing possum,” appearing to be dead when they really weren’t, so I looked carefully for breathing but didn’t see any movement. Its blank eyes stared straight ahead and its toothy mouth seemed to form a wicked smile. Was it taunting me? “Believe I’m dead and put your face down in front of me so I can jump up and bite it.” After a few moments, I came to the uncertain conclusion that this animal was dead.

My next thought was to call animal control to come retrieve the deceased. But would they come on a Saturday? The terse young woman at Animal Control said that the office was closed and that most people just picked up the dead animal with a shovel and put it in their garbage. Seriously? I really didn’t want to do that. She conceded that she could send an officer by for a pick-up. I thought that was a good idea and said that I would even move the critter out of my driveway onto the sidewalk to be sure I didn’t run over him (yes, in my intense examination to determine signs of life, I noticed that it was a him). The woman on the phone sighed and told me in a distasteful tone that this call would be low priority to all the other police calls of the day. Police? I thought she meant an animal control officer would pick up Chuckie. I didn’t want to bother the police with a dead possum. Sigh. I conceded to shoveling Chuckie into my garbage myself and hung up.

I found a shovel and brought my garbage bin to the front yard near the corpse. How did Chuckie end up there anyway? Had he had a fight with his girlfriend, went out for some air, got hit by a car and staggered into my driveway? Had he eaten tainted garbage and decided to take a rest under my car — an eternal rest? Had he been the loser in a dancing animal street fight, like the opossum version of West Side Story? I’d never know.

I’m not a wiz with a shovel but I’d seen someone shovel up a dead animal before and it looked like a pretty fast and easy movement. Well, though I confirmed that Chuckie was dead, he must not have been dead for very long because when I pushed with the shovel, Chuckie’s soft flesh jiggled, and moved away. A successful Weight Watcher member he was not. Rigor mortis would have been helpful at that point, but Chuckie didn’t have it. Try as I might from different angles, Chuckie was not about to get into that shovel. I needed leverage. I got a rake and pushed Chuckie with the rake on one side, while I scooped with the shovel on the other. Finally in the shovel, I carefully moved Chuckie to the trash and dropped him on a full Glad bag.

Chuckie departed my premises on garbage day. I checked after pick up for his vacant eyes and toothy smile. He was gone. Maybe I should have made a mold for a Halloween mask. It would have been pretty creepy. Happy Halloween!

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