It was the kind of little shack that had no use whatsoever. It stood behind their house, just off the alley out back, and when the old retired farmer and his wife decided, once and for all, to get rid of the thing, someone came along, picked it up, and hauled it off.
Unearthing thereby a nest of opossums suddenly turned up, four or five joeys (little possums) totally incapable of escaping the back of the old lady's spade. Our kids were kids, and they were out back, witness to the carnage. The old woman showed no mercy. They came home heavy with grief, anger, and total disbelief.
Me? They were only opossums.
I hit one with our brand-new, silver '64 Impala, just weeks after getting my license. I was driving a party of teenagers around to school that night, on our way to the prom, specially selected as cool sophomore servers. I know exactly where I hit that beady-eyed beast--it was just a couple miles from Hingham. Whack! Thump! All night long I heard that sound. That death haunted the prom. And it was only an opossum.
Truth is, I've often wondered what kind of joke the Lord perpetuated on us when he created the opossum, ugly rooters with eerie pink hands and a fleshy pig snout to match. What a mistake.
When I was no older than my kids were that day in the alley, I saw one shot dead. I was out on a trap line with a loving man the prototype for the father in my first novel, Home Free.
His father gave him the flashlight, aimed, and squeezed the trigger of the .22. The shot was muffled, silenced. They stood there, waiting for the motion to cease. The animal pawed at its forehead, at the perfect hole between its eyes, as if somehow it could scratch out the lead. "Possum," his father had said, as if it were some kind of eulogy.My words, my sentences, 36 years ago, drawn from my childhood experience of the first murder I'd ever seen. But it was only a 'possum.
So 'possums and me, we've got enough of a history, enough for me to recognize this little one coming up the trail toward me yesterday (see him up top?) on a sunny winter solstice afternoon. I knew 'possums didn't see well, and the wind was at his back, not mine. So I stood still, camera in hand, while Joey snooted around along the well-traveled back road along the river.
In fact, kept coming at me as if I weren't there, kept coming until I barked at him to let him know that I wasn't just some cottonwood. He snarled a little and wiggled off--opossums come from the factory with only low gear.
So I shot this little one with a camera, walked back home, and opened the files.
Now pardon me for giggling. But what I found is a regular portrait gallery. It was as if Joey is coming up on graduation, and he or she wanted a senior portrait. I might not have chosen the season (first day of winter) or the place (a foot of snow on a river bank), but this Joey in buffalo coat was determined. I don't know why I say it, but this he has got to be a she.
So here's Joey, class of '17, River Floyd High. She needs something comely for the high school annual. I'll send her proofs today. I know where to find her.
Got a favorite? Here's a sexy little peek-a-boo.
This one left her a bit more exposed. Darling pose though, isn't it?
Got a couple of her outside the weeds too.
Tried something full body, with less than wonderful results. That winter fur makes you think her roots are gray. They are, I guess. But I'm thinking there's something in this pose a little cheeky for a high school girl, don't you think? But then, nowadays. . .
My favorite? Something close up, even though I think I'd have preferred a bit of powder on her nose.
Now at least she's got possibilities. I hope she's not too picky--she didn't seem to be yesterday.
I swear I always thought the Creator of Heaven and Earth simply released possums out into the world about a week or so before he had the design down.
But I've got to admit it--this Joey is almost cute.