My Possum Problem, and How it Finally Ended

The first time I saw the possum I screamed like a girl and ran back inside. I had just stepped out for a midnight smoke, and when I opened the back door, the possum was heading for the hole under the back porch steps and under the house, where, I would later learn, it lived. We both paused mid-step. Its little possum eyes stared at me. Then I screamed and it squealed. I shot back inside the house and slammed the door and the possum shot under the stairs and into the hollow space beneath our house.

“What was that?” my wife said from the other room.

“Possum,” I calmly informed her.

“Possum?” she said. I could hear her turning pages in her book. I knew it would be one of those books with a bare-chested man on the front, looming over a half-dressed woman. Either that or an alliterative detective novel whose author has either three names or two initials. It would not be a book about possums, which I decided I needed, as my mind had begun to consider rabies, and my two daughters sleeping upstairs.

Then I screamed and it squealed. I shot back inside the house and slammed the door and the possum shot under the stairs…

“Possum,” I confirmed.

“Was it cute?” she said.

I rolled my eyes, then realized she couldn’t see me. “Cute is not a word I would have thought of first,” I told her.

I spent the next few hours, until dawn or so, peering out the window, or smoking with the door slightly open. Before my wife went to bed she yelled from the bedroom, asking if I was smoking in the house. She doesn’t like me smoking, and I am strictly forbidden from doing so in the house, but this was different.

“There’s a possum out there,” I said.

“Give it a cigarette,” she said. Her light went out. Our two daughters were already alseep upstairs, so I decided to sleep on the couch near the back door — in case the possum tried to crawl under the door or force it open — although I didn’t actually sleep until my wife and children were awake the next morning, after dawn had convinced me the possum wasn’t going to sneak in the back door and kill us in our sleep.

A few days later I saw the possum again. I had forgotten about it, and wandered outside. It was sitting a few feet away. It began hissing at me. I didn’t quite scream, but I did run inside, slamming the door after me.

“What’re you doing?” my wife said, and “Possum,” I replied.

“Again?”

“It’s looking for something,” I told her, then realized it was true. I watched it wander around the back yard. There is something unnerving about a possum — the hairless tail, the beady eyes. After a while it went under the house. All night, I thought I could hear it.

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