Playing Possum

One morning, I walked around the back of our yard and I discovered a dead animal. I poked it with the toe of my sneaker to make sure it was really dead and it wasn’t just playing possum. But as they say in “The Wizard of Oz,” it was not only merely dead, it was really most sincerely dead.

Naturally, the first thing I did was take a headcount of all our pets to make sure the furry, stiff thing outside was not one of ours. I had a busy day planned and didn’t really have time to go out and buy any replacement lookalike pets. Then, I accounted for all my dog’s stuffed toys to make sure I wasn’t freaking out over something that had never actually been alive.

Finally, reluctantly, I went outside and approached the dead thing. It was bigger than a squirrel and smaller than a breadbox, which incidentally is kind of a stupid comparison because no one I know has a breadbox, so I’ll just say it was about the same size as a cat.

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The dead thing, in fact, turned out to be a dead possum. As far as I could tell, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it—aside from the fact that it was dead. This, of course, was an issue. But the biggest issue, aside from its deadness in our yard, was the fact that there was no one to remove it from our yard except me. Normally, when I find dead things around the house or outside of it, I leave them for my husband to deal with. It comes with his job description. I make the meals, pick up the dry cleaning, do the laundry, and take out the garbage—and he disposes of dead things. But my husband was not here, and the dead possum was smack in the back of the yard where the dog likes to run around. The dog also likes to eat, play with and roll around on dead things. You can see how this was a problem.

So, I did what any sensible, suburban woman with a similar problem would do. I called the police.

“Hi there. I have a dead possum in my backyard. Can you send someone over to pick it up?”

There was a pause. Then someone on the other end snorted, said, “No,” and hung up. Honestly, I didn’t actually think they would come, but I thought it was worth a shot.

Regrettably, I realized there was no one else I could call and I was going to have to do the deed. So, I put on rubber gloves, a ski mask and a radiation suit I happened to have lying around the house and went outside.

I nudged the possum with my toe again, but it didn’t budge. I nudged harder, and nothing happened. This is when I realized that the possum was actually petrified, as in hard-as-a-rock-petrified, not scared-petrified, and stuck to the ground like a fossil in bedrock. It occurred to me that the possum may have been there, at the edge of my backyard, dead, for quite some time, and may have even actually taken root.

I thought for a minute and then went into the shed and got a big shovel. I jammed it under the possum and heaved, but nothing happened. Then I threw all my weight on the shovel. This time the dead possum lifted out of the ground, onto the shovel, into the air and in a perfect arc, flew over my neighbor’s fence.

Problem solved.

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