An Opossum Tale

The opossum isn’t a rat. I repeat this mantra to myself as I stare out my mother’s glass door at the creature happily eating from the dog food bag on the porch. Opossums aren’t rats. Mentally, I understand this, but it is a difficult fact to come to terms with. My mother seems to agree. Equally horrified, she joins me at the door to stare.
“They’re actually not related to the rat family at all.” My words of wisdom fall flat as we stare at the long pink tail sticking out of the bag.
The evening had started quietly enough.  I was returning a baking dish to my parent’s house and secretly rejoicing in the momentary freedom of being out without the kids, when the attack happened. As I approached the back door, I heard a rustling from the dog food bag, then a low hiss as the angry possum bared his teeth and snapped wildly in my direction.  The vile creature had stealthily hid in the  bag and had waited ’till the dark of night to make his move. Narrowly escaping the total loss of my right arm, I retaliated by screaming mercilessly, waving my hands in an erratic manner, and diving for the door.
Now glued to the window, mom and I consider our options. We both realize something has to be done to get rid of him, but neither of us is altogether eager to tackle the situation. The first and most obvious course of action was to send Daphne out to handle the affair. Daphne is my parent’s bulldog. The bulldog is a noble breed, known for their loyal nature, their dignified intelligence and above all, their courage and resolution. Daphne is known for none of these. In fact, if one were so inclined, it is possible to glimpse the great Universal Void simply by staring her directly in the eye. However, it is not recommended as she has the foulest breath known to man.
The most beautiful Daphne in all her glory.
The most beautiful Daphne in all her glory.

Also, she stinks, she’s ugly and she is constantly digging up my bedding plants.

Even so, this falls under her job description, AND the nasty little varmint was eating her food, so I felt she had a vested interest in rectifying the situation. So with the slightest sense of guilt, I cracked the door and ever so gently shoved Daphne into the night to face her opponent. Mom and I were tense, the opossum was silent, Daphne was…. confused. As with most situations, it took her a minute or two to acclimate to her surroundings, but she did finally catch the scent and turn to face the creature staring at her from no more than 2 feet away.

And now we brace for….. nothing.  As it turns out, the two are long time acquaintances. Not so much as a growl. Daphne gently approaches the rat creature, they sniff at each other , then turn to mind their own affairs. Either Daphne believes this to be the cat sporting a new look, they have met previously, or perhaps she is merely pleased to finally encounter an intellectual peer.

“Well, now what?” Mom asks, still hovering directly behind me. Together, we are mesmerized,  peering through the glass door at the perfectly contented couple outside. Opossum eating heartily, and stupid Daphne lounging by the stairs.

“I guess we’ll have to shoo him off ourselves.” I decide. It’s not my favorite option, but still I leave Mom to keep watch while I search the garage for my weapon of choice. My husband would later inquire why I chose the fluffy headed mop over the shotgun, but I stand behind my decision. Partially because I failed to see how adding a hole in the wall and a massive leg wound would benefit the situation, but mainly because the thought never occurred to me. Any well documented woman vs. vermin scenario I had ever seen featured a broom, mop or other such cleaning device.

Armed and ready, I pause for a mental pep-talk and strategy debate. Ultimately, I settle on the “poke and scream” method of removal. It’s a simple procedure really. Mom remains glued to my back while leaning ever so precariously forward to crack the door. I then steady myself, jab the opossum with the mop and scream in unashamed terror. Mom echoes, and the process repeats.  What it lacks in effectiveness, it makes up for in commotion. A few good “poke and screams” later and we succeed in knocking the opossum into the food bag head first where he decides to play the waiting game.

I understand that America has a no torture policy. I respect that. I also stand solidly behind our commitment never to negotiate with terrorists, but our options were dwindling,  it was time to make the tough decisions.  Water-boarding is a last result, but sometimes a necessary evil to ensure the peace and safety of the general public. And so, the new plan of attack came down to dowsing both opossum and dog food with water until the beast surrenders. The first cup of water hit home with no effect. The second was equally uneventful. It was the salad bowl filled with ice water that finally got him to sit up and take notice. Literally. His tiny, white face now peered at us over the food bag, but in place of fear seemed to be a look of determination as I have never seen on any rodent’s face. He may be wet, but he was far from defeated.

There’s only so much a person can bear, and to be taunted by a thieving, nomadic  marsupial was quite frankly, more than I was prepared to live with. It occurred to me that we had made a poor impression by allowing ourselves to be held hostage in the living room. The only thing a bully understands is brute force, and I was prepared to give it to him,  in the form of a vase filled with decorative floral rocks. Luckily, on a previous occasion, I had purchased said rocks for a lovely floral arrangement. They proved to be a good investment, both for adding character to rose bowls and for extracting pesky opossums from the front porch.

Mind filled with indignant rage, and fists full of floral rock, I made my final stand. War is an ugly thing, and this proved to be no exception. I entered the night, flailing wildly, screaming and throwing at anything that dared to move within a 10 foot radius; all the while darting behind lawn furniture for added protection.  I imagine it was the sight of this crazed 5’10” blonde banshee and not the stoning itself that ultimately convinced our furry friend to seek better lodging. As he finally vacated his hiding spot and fled into the night, I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction. I had stood toe to toe with a wild beast and had emerged the victor. Sure, it would have been more impressive if my assailant had a few more pounds on him, but still, a victory none the less. I would hold my head high. I would  retell the tale with pride.

And I would most definitely carry that mop with me to get back into my car.

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Flat-Tire Monday

Well, its “Flat Tire Monday”. Not really a weekly celebration, more of a “happens only on frigid, snowy mornings after you’ve trudged up a hill with a four-year old and are late for pre-school” kind of deal. This year it falls on December 9th, but as it is an off-year there is a possible recurrence in mid February. Be sure to mark your calendars.

With the whole Christmas  thing first and foremost on my mind, I completely forgot to check all tires for said holiday; but it all clicked into place about 2 miles into our drive when I couldn’t decide if it was just the ice packed roads making that horrible sound, or if they had decided to install rumble strips right in the middle of my lane. That shaking feeling was a little “off” as well.  My powers of deduction clicked into place immediately eventually and I pulled into our neighbor’s drive. It’s a long, steep, winding drive that climbs  to meet a beautiful home on the hill.  I’ve always loved this house. It was built in the French Chateau style and overlooks the valley and river. I’ve often wondered what it must be like in the winter to try to navigate that drive. I’d have my answer in under 30 minutes, but that’s skipping ahead slightly.

The tire had moved well beyond flat and into the realm of nonexistent – somewhat detached from the rim and bearing the shape of one of those surreal melting clocks in all those Dali posters people hang to prove their deep understanding of art.

We weren’t driving anywhere on THAT, and so it was time to marshal  the troops. A few quick calls and mom was on her way to take a panicked Thatcher to school, Brian had called a tow truck and I discovered that I did, indeed have a spare tire hidden in the secret floorboard of my trunk. Who knew?

Nothing to do now but wait for help and enjoy the warm car and a little solitude. It took a minute for me to notice the grey Jeep creeping down the hill. Apparently the driver had managed the first leg of the journey only to find herself sideways at the first bend in the road. Seeing as how I was squatting at their mailbox, I thought it prudent to introduce myself and assure them that I had the situation completely under control. I had nearly closed the distance between us when the Jeep began to creep forward, and then to slide. As the vehicle slipped past I calculated the wide-eyed, panic-stricken driver to be all of 17. In those few seconds we had a lovely conversation the went something along the lines of:

“Hello. Who are you?”

“My name is Nicole. It’s nice to meet you. I have had bit of car troubles but have contacted a tow truck and will be out of your hair in no time. And, as you can see, I have the situation completely under control.”

“Yes, well, I am not so certain I care all that much at this moment seeing as how I am careening to my death – and toward your car incidentally.”

“Ah, so you are. Well, I’ll follow you down I suppose. Don’t panic, as I’ve said, it’s completely under control.”

I figured the best plan was to try to follow as quickly as possible and offer helpful driving advice such as “make sure its in low” and “do you have it in 4 wheel drive?”. My words of wisdom fell flat, her tires remained locked and she picked up some serious speed. I was silently bidding my little silver car a fond farewell when the miraculous occurred and the Jeep found its footing, the inevitable collision avoided by inches.

I never did get her name, but I deduced from her cell phone conversation that she was the daughter of the establishment and she was none too happy with her mother for making her drive to school on this fine winter morning. We said our goodbyes and I sent her off with assurances that she should be fine from here on out, then retreated to the warm safety of my own car.

It wasn’t 5 minutes later when a little blue truck pulled up beside me. The couple inside spoke English just about as well as I spoke Spanish, but luckily we were both fluent in charades and one word sentences. I came to understand that they were concerned for my well-being (thank you kindly but as you can see, I have everything completely under control) and secondly they were headed to work at the house on the hill. I convinced them to reconsider such actions by dramatically retelling the Jeep’s story as a cautionary tale. After a quick call up the hill it was decided that the lady of the house would simply come down and pick them up.

As I had just seen this story play out I decided to take up shelter behind the safety of the over-sized brick mailbox. Peering cautiously over the top I watched as the black Suburban followed the previously worn path, slide right on cue and come to rest quite perfectly between myself and the little blue truck. When all parties had come to their senses and examined the situation it was agreed upon that it sure was slick out today, that it was in fact a very cold morning, and that yes, I did have a flat tire but was perfectly fine and everything was completely under control.

As all three piled back into the Suburban, the tow truck arrived and I saw my prospects for surviving this adventure intact steadily climb. My savior du jour’s name was Bill and he had quite a Monday himself. We swapped war stories about flat tires, cars in ditches and the growing epidemic of keys being locked in cars. He nodded sagely as I confessed to being a recovering  key locker     myself; once having stranded myself twice in one day. I felt a bond with my new tow truck friend and wished him well. We parted ways, me with a new tire, and him to further exploits sure to bring him fame and fortune. Or at least, I hope,  a kind smile and an appreciative wave from some other poor soul who, just like me, forgot to double-check her tires.

A Word, My Dear

My Dearest Isla,

Kindest greetings as always cousin.  It is with a troubled heart that I write to inform you of a somewhat distressing discovery I have just recently made. Are you aware that “bunny” is pronounced just as such? Precisely as that. Bunny. Until this point in time, my parents were perfectly content in letting me walk around with that darling stuffed rabbit  calling him “bun-oo” without the slightest correction. Can you imagine. All the while,  I have been introducing Bun-oo to countless visitors with the confidence that I, being the proud owner of said animal would know his proper name. As it stands I seem to have been the only member in attendance completely ignorant of the truth.

Not only that but my beloved “kit-oo” is actually a kitty and as you may have already guessed the “pup-oo” is, in fact a mere puppy.

I find myself not only embarrassed but somewhat at odds with Mama and Da, supposing that is what they are truly called. How is one to further trust a couple who seem to be willing participants in such an elaborate ruse as this.

I realize this must all come as quite a shock. Please do advise quickly. I grow increasingly suspicious of the integrity of not only my parents, but possibly even Grammy and Granddad, as they been more amused than seems necessary when I ask to see the “horshes” at the barn.

All the best,

Your cousin Chandler