S h o r t   F i c t i o n  /  E s s a y s


4 a.m.

I've not been sleeping well tonight. For some reason I can't now recall, I woke up after two hours. Then two hours later I was wakened again by the sensation of something skittering across my head. It made no real sense, because the apparent something--if I hadn't dreamed it--had felt as large as, say, a tarantula. And luckily we have no tarantulas here.

I was tempted to just roll over and go back to sleep, but then I began to think, 'What if it actually was something?' I sat up, turned on the light and started bemoaning my restless night. Eventually I got up and went into Paul's room to see if anyone was awake there (usually Ben will be up at this hour.) Since I saw no initial light, I took my little MagLite and shined it toward the computer where Ben was likely to be sitting...

And there he was, perched on the back of Paul's chair: the scruffy little possum who's been in the house before, and who I'd spied earlier in the evening in the pantry where he'd gone to munch on the cat food. At that point I realized that something had actually run across my head.

Scruffy seemed bewildered, and Paul (who had gone to bed but wasn't yet asleep) and I tried several methods of containing the little guy. Eventually, wearing Ben's welding gloves, I was able to pick him up by the tail and then coax him onto a towel (they like to cling to things.) He stayed quietly on the towel until I was able to transport him to the back door... which was closed, and which explained what Scruffy was doing wandering around the house; evidently Steve had closed the door when he went to bed, cutting off Scruffy's usual exit. Once I'd set the towel down outside and stepped back, Scruffy trundled down the back steps and off into the night.

He still seems so small and young that I continue to wonder if it's normal for such a little possum to be on his own. But I noticed that he didn't open his mouth at me and show me his teeth in a gesture of threat this time, as he had on the first night we'd caught him on a chair in the kitchen, so he must be getting somewhat used to us. My guess is that we haven't seen the last of him.


UPDATE: over a period of about six weeks Scruffy visited the pantry almost nightly (the back door is left open to cool the house on warm nights), always right at 10 p.m., munching on cat food and then slipping back outside and disappearing into the night.  During that time he grew from 'in the hand' size to about the size of a size 7 women's shoe.  Then he suddenly stopped coming.  We haven't seen him since.

UPDATE 2: A year later, one evening I opened the pantry to discover a nearly full-grown possum in the cat food bin, munching away.  His fur had a distinctly mussed look to it, and for about a week he visited every night... at exactly 10 p.m.  I'm betting anything it was Scruffy.


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