Death is something I’m just not good at. I don’t mean dying. I might be very good at that, hell I might be the best at it. We don’t know yet. Hopefully not for a while. But death as in dead bodies. Or even the idea of something ceasing to exist. It gives me the willys. Maybe if I’d taken up hunting or worked in a butcher shop I’d get over it, but for now, ugghhhhhhlehhhhhagagagh. Yuck. I’ve even considered becoming a vegetarian because sometimes while eating I start thinking about my food as dead animal flesh and just about puke in my mouth. It’s an issue.
Unfortunately I’ve found that sometimes death is inevitable, and chances are your going to see it. I’ve managed to avoid it as much as possible. Besides seeing my poor cat Mocha dead I have very little experience with those who have “ceased to be”. While working as a maintenance man for an apartment community I dreaded entering an apartment to find a dead resident. That does happen by the way, all the time. It happened to some of my coworkers at another property in fact. Not to me. Thank god.
I’ve found that my dogs don’t have the same aversion to death. Making something that is running away into a chew toy is high on their list of priorities. A successful grab makes them so happy its hard to be mad at them. I wish we could get a little more Disney around here and maybe sing some songs with the local rodents but alas, they prefer biting and shaking.
Late one summer night I let the dogs out and instantly there was crashing in the bushes. The dogs dove right in, snarling and teeth snapping. Lilly my black lab popped out with her head held high, holding something gray and wriggling. Before she ran out into the night I saw a long hairless tail whipping about. My first thought was, “Oh thank god it wasn’t a cat,” my second was, “Ugh a possum, gross.”
I managed to get the other dogs in after some shouting and threatening. Lilly wasn’t having it though. She was off playing with her new friend. I find myself once again in a position where I’m going to embarrass myself by admitting my behavior. Ah well. I yelled for her to come back for a minute. Then I went to the back window of my home, and with the use of a flashlight, tried to locate her in the darkness. I saw her pawing at a limp pile of fur. She barked at it a couple of times and then decided it had become too boring to bother with. In a minute she was at the glass slider, mouth full of course gray hair, thrilled with her adventure. Again gross. That’s just what I want, filthy possum hair all over the place. I sent her straight to her cage.
I went back to the window with my flashlight. I prayed that it was up and wandering off. Of course not though, it lay where she’d tossed it. I could just make out the fuzzy curve of its back and it’s rat like tail. I watched for a while (don’t ask me why), and then spent some time thinking about the situation. I couldn’t leave it. I couldn’t have the gf remove it. I do have some pride (and she may have picked up a rabbit the month before). I wasn’t going to call animal control either(the pride thing again). But I really didn’t want to. I mean really didn’t. I mean stomp my feet and throw a fit didn’t want to. After a few minutes I gave in to the inevitable.
I left the house armed with a shovel, rake, bucket, trash bag, flashlight, and thick leather gloves. I’d put on jeans, long sleeves, and boots. I might have had to do the unpleasant chore but I was going in prepared. If I had owned some type of protective mask I would have put that on too.
The night was cool and breezy with very little moonlight. The leaves of the giant maple trees in my back yard sounded like distant waves. The beam of my flashlight whipped back and forth over grass that hadn’t been mowed in too long. Suddenly there it was, limp and still and very much dead. The way the light struck the possum was… well it was creepy ok? Its white face glowed and its eyes were beady, black, empty. It’s pink lips curled back in a snarl showing white needle teeth. I turned around and went back on the deck. I needed some more time to think.
After a few minutes of motivational self talk and deep breathing exercises I headed out for round two. The possum lay there, looking like some little hell spawned demon sent to test my manhood. I was determined to remove this carcass from my property. That’s what I’d taken to calling it in my head. A carcass. I crept up on it from the back, so it wasn’t staring at me, and dropped my trash bag. Taking my shovel I stretched forward and slowly, slowly I touched it. And its stupid little hairy side moved slightly. I yelled something that rhymes with, “FUDGE TREE!,” dropped the shovel and swiftly retreated.
So I was back inside, at the window with the flash light. It was still laying there. My nightmare had become… well, a worse nightmare I guess. It seemed that I was faced with a new and much worse situation. That of killing this creature myself. I considered letting the dogs out to finish it off, but realized that was a horrible idea for so many reasons. Images of me beating this thing to death with a shovel were bringing me damn close to tears. It seems that my home is short on killing tools. I don’t have any guns (except for the tons of guns I keep in case someone breaks in, you hear that you robbers?) and there really isn’t any other way to make a good clean kill. For a moment I considered bloodying my replica sword but the image of skewering a possum on my blade was so ridiculous and weird. I turned to a much more modern weapon. Google.
I looked up “my dog got a possum” and was greeted with tons of stories. Evidently this is part of being a dog owner. I read all sorts of tales. In fact I got so caught up in them that I managed to chill out a bit. And I was learning. Possums excrete a foul-smelling substance when attacked. Well that explained why Lilly was licking her chops and looking ill. I made a mental note to let her out and get her a drink as soon as possible. Possums have too low a body temperature to harbor rabies. Also good to know. Things were looking up. Then I saw it, a fact most everyone knows but which had slipped my mind in all the excitement. Possums play dead. They’re not just good actors either. They actually go into a little coma. Their hearts barely beat and they hardly breath. “Oh please,” I thought, “please make the possum be faking.”
I got up and went to the window. My flashlight found the trash bag, and unbelievably there was no possum next to it. I quickly scanned the rest of the yard. My tools and a couple tufts of hair were the only evidence that anything out of the ordinary had taken place. I said a quick “thank you” to the man upstairs and went to bed feeling down right cheery.
That possum doesn’t know how close it was to getting beat, crushed, stabbed or impaled by medieval weaponry. Instead modern technology, in the form of the worlds foremost search engine, saved it’s life. Not to mention my poor sensitive mind, I don’t know how I would have come back from that. Thanks google! It was too close though. I’m terrified that the time is coming where I might be faced with having to put an animal down myself. I’ve had nightmares about it. I read a short story that addressed that topic, I believe by Stephen King, and it was horrible! I’m getting a gun. (Besides my hundreds of robber shooting guns which are always loaded and close at hand.)
P.S. I know I’m a big baby, I told you I was no good at death. I keep this blog anonymous for a reason. It keeps me honest. If I wanted to make myself look cool and tough I could, but where’s the fun in that?