It all started at three a.m. on Friday. Mulder gave out one of his ferocious growl-barks that tells me that something is really wrong. I heard him hit the back gate with a crash, and I flashed back to his attack a few years ago on the idiot who tried to get into my house. But more likely would be that he found someone tagging our brick wall that faces the back alley. Before I could pull myself out of bed, Bailey dashed out of my room, adding her barks to the chorus.
When I stepped out into the backyard, sure enough, I could hear a hissing, like someone using a spray can. My pulse quickened in anger as I strode to the gate, ready to do battle with the little punk. Both dogs were at the gate, but Bailey wasn’t acting like the culprit was on the other side. She was looking at the top. I’m not sure if it was relief or disappointment that I felt that I wasn’t going to catch a tagger red handed. Instead, there was a small possum on top of the gate, too terrified to move. The only thing it could do was hold on for dear life as the gate jolted under Mulder’s assaults and hiss at them.
I picked Bailey up and brought her into the house, with Mulder obediently following me, albeit grudgingly. From the kitchen window, I saw the little possum finally move on towards the neighbor’s house. When the little guy was out of sight, I released the dogs and went back to bed, thinking that everything was okay. Boy was I wrong.
I had a heck of a time going back to sleep until my alarm went off. Then I fell asleep, getting 10 minutes of REM at a time. Why couldn’t this have been my Golden Friday? I groggily showered, fed the dogs, and got ready for work. Just as I was leaving my room, Bailey came prancing into my room. She only prances like that when she has a new toy or a treat. I looked closer at what she had in her mouth. The baby possum. No!
She dropped the body at my feet, and I heard a sound that broke my heart: a painful mewing. It was still alive but not moving. What the hell was I going to do with it? I ran out to get gloves and paper towels, still not sure what I was going to do. I hoped it would still be there on my bedroom floor when I got back, that it hadn’t been “playing possum” and would be hiding somewhere in my room. Or that Bailey wouldn’t have grabbed it again and brought it up on my bed so she could play with it some more. It was still there.
I gingerly picked it up and cradled it in my hands, the pragmatic part of me glad that it was still alive so that any ticks or fleas wouldn’t jump off. I’d never looked closely at a possum, and OMG they are cute! It alternated between crying, hissing at me, and panting, kind of like the sounds I was making. It had a puncture wound on its neck and another on its lower spine. I recognized Mulder’s handiwork there. Both areas were bleeding profusely, and it was obvious that it was mortally wounded. I knew I should have just snapped its neck, but then it made eye contact with me and mewed again. It was suffering, but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I wimped out and dropped it in the garbage can outside. I figured that it would be dead in a few minutes. I was late for work and there was still blood on the floor to clean up. I needn’t have worried about the blood… Bailey kindly licked it up for me. Barf.
I couldn’t shake the thoughts of the possum all day at work, and when I got home, I told my sister about it. Together we went out to the garbage can and peeked at it. It was still alive. WTF? This time it was me that let out the pathetic mewing. I asked Janice to get me something to kill it with, and she brought me a breaker bar – a long narrow tool that I use to cut through roots, hard dirt, or cement. Perfect.
I begged the possum’s forgiveness and apologized over and over as I slammed the blade of the breaker bar down on its neck, figuring that beheading it would be a quick and thorough kill. Wrong. It took a few strikes to completely sever it.
I’ve “dispatched” mice that have been caught in traps in my office at work, and with the quick kills, I didn’t feel like a murderer. I’d simply put them out of their misery. But this one was different. Maybe it was that it had been in my room, crying in pain. Maybe it was because we’d made eye contact. Maybe because I’d held it in my hands. Whatever the reason, this one took a piece of my heart with it.
Janice, ever quick with a joke to lighten things up, pointed out that I’d fulfilled one step in the homicidal triad: animal torture. The other two in the triad are bedwetting, and fire starting. In turn, I pointed out that I’d nearly peed my pants when I had to kill it. And, I am the BBQ maestro and play with that fire … so I’ve fulfilled all three parts of the triad. Mwahahahahah!