Thursday, April 5, 2012
Sitting Shiva for Possum Dearie
"Honey - come look. There's a 'possum playing dead in the front garden!"
This is what greeted me when I returned home last night from teaching a genealogy class.
In Shaker Heights we had squirrels and birds and the occasional raccoon. But central and southern Ohio are ripe with opossums, henceforth to be called possum, and they are, for the most part harmless when alive and at their worst, road kill and ripe when laying dead by the side of the road.
The husband pointed into the day lily patch in front of our porch and sure enough, in the midst of fresh green growth was an adult sized possum.
"How long do they play dead?" the husband asked.
"How long has that one been there?"
"He was there this morning," husband stated.
My husband is brilliant and bright and pure of heart, so it fell to me to tell him that the flies swarming the body were an indicator that for this possum, if it were playing dead, it was giving us an Oscar caliber performance. It was not just playing dead, but it was dead.
We stood there for a moment, both of us trying to ignore the proverbial "elephant in the livingroom", which for us was the "opossum in flower bed," and when neither of us volunteered to speak up, I seized the day and said what needed to be said: "When are you going to scoop it out?"
"ME?" responds my strong, handsome man like a school girl asked to pick up a booger. "Why do I have to deal with that?"
I explained to husband that since I was the one who had to clean the drains in the house - because the black muck harvested from a clogged drain makes him - quite literally - hurl, AND that I was the one who crawled up ladders to clean out the gutters - again, its the rotting muck - that it fell to him to remove said possum from the garden.
Just then, three police cars came to a screeching halt in front of the house where "Diane From New York City" lives (she never joins in the conversations with the Committee of the Middle of the Street, and she is totally psycho, and has a mouth on her that would Belle Barth blush) so the husband had a handy excuse to look away, and change the subject. And after the police left, there was an impromptu meeting of the Middle of the Street Committee because you know that people love to speculate why the police show up as they did. So Possum Dearie spent another night in the sylvan splendor of the flower bed.
This morning, Possum Dearie was still resting in the flowers; husband assured me he would get to it this evening and off to work he went.
This meant that I was home, alone with a dead being laying ten feet from the front door, and the weatherman was telling the viewing audience that while the temperature today would be cool, the sun would bright and would warm up the sidewalks and the ground. Taking it one step further, that would heat up the possum and draw flies, and I didn't want to be the house on the street that had a fly problem. People on this street will and do frequently talk, and I for one would rather do the talking instead of being a topic at the next meeting of the Committee of the Middle of the Street.
Considering everything he does for me - and its more than most husband would do for their spouse under normal circumstances - I put on my shoes, grabbed the shovel and harvested me one dead possum. Rigor mortis had set in the corpse was heavy, its wee tiny claws clenched. As I tried not to drop him into our lawn, his body moved as one unit, like a toy or a rock and I was thankful for that. Had his furry legs and arms failed about it would have reminded me that this had been a living being.
Still, I wanted to afford our uninvited guest some level of dignity. So I put him in a Trader Joe's paper bag, dug a deep hole out back behind the garage where the dogs, cats and raccoon's couldn't get to him and buried him (or her) and took a minute to look at myself.
"How," I asked myself, "did a child of Shaker Heights ever come to this - burying a dead possum?"
As I could find no answer that was profound or even funny for my selfish question, I pushed the dumpster back over the spot when the nasty little thing was buried and headed back towards the house. Nature would have its way with him and he would return to the earth from which he crawled or walked or whatever a possum does to get from one place to another.
And then it struck me - anyone else would have thrown the body in the dumpster, but I went the extra mile and buried it where another animal wouldn't dig it up and leave the carcass for me to find tomorrow or the day later. And I didn't throw it away because you're not supposed dispose of dead animals in the dumpsters that our fair city has for us to use in the alleys. That I followed the rules or propriety, and did the right thing to do instead of the expedient thing, reminded me that I did the right thing. Had I still been in Shaker, I would have called for someone from the city to do it. Seriously, would my father or brothers ever been able to do this? Not just no, but Hell No!
My self congratualtory moment was disturbed when I heard a "yoo hoo" from one of my neighbors. It was so shrill and off tone that I wondered if the possum could hear it.
"What ya doing,"called out Storms A Brewing Corliss over the fence that separate our yard from her's. I explained that I had just gotten rid of the possum.
"Possum? And you threw it away? Possum's good eatin'!" she replied. "Ever had it? Tastes good - tastes just like chicken." I wasn't sure if she was saying it jest, or not, but I was hoping she was.
Once inside, I called the husband and told him he was off the hook, that I had covered the mirrors and set out uncomfortable wooded crates for us to sit on while we sat shiva for the thing.
"What did you do with it?" he asked.
"Corliss saw me and gave me a recipe for dinner," I explained. "You know what they say - Possum is good eatin'."