Friday, September 19, 2008

Our spate of dead possums

Tuesday night, A. was taking out the garbage while I was finishing the dishes. She came in with trepidation in her voice.

A.: S.? I think there might be a dead animal in our yard. Like a mouse or a shrew or something.

S.: Where?

A.: Out there, on the walk. In the shadows.

(S. goes out to the patio in bare feet and peers down the darkened walk)

A.: I'll do the rest of the dishes if you take care of it.

S.: Can I wait until morning, when I can see it? (comes back inside) You don't have to do the dishes.

A.: Yes, sure, just so long as I don't have to do it.

S.: This is where my secret butch powers come into play.

A.: I don't think there's anything secret about them. You went to dead animal camp. I went to music camp.


In the morning, there was the usual September getting-ready-for-school oyster carnival, so the dead animal was still there in our path as I was finally ready to drag Z. from the house to school. A dead possum, a young one, larger than a mouse or a shrew, maybe a little smaller than a squirrel (not counting tails.) How to keep her from seeing it? I eyed it from afar. I flicked and pushed and pulled the elements that set the stroller up, and put my three-and-a-half-foot three-and-a-half-year-old into the stroller while still on the patio five stairs above the street. We rolled down the walk until I needed to lift the stroller up and over the remains.

Z.: Why ah you doing dat?

S.: Because there's something on the path. (Returns the stroller to ground)

Z.: What is it?

S.: (Opens gate) A dead baby possum. (Pushes stroller through)

Z.: Why is it dead?

S.: (Lifts 50+ pounds of kid and stroller down stairs.) Something killed it, another animal, you know how some animals eat other animals to live. (Deposits stroller on sidewalk.) It was probably an animal that wanted to eat it.

Z.: But it DIDN'T eat it. (Stroller is rolling towards school.) I thzink it prwobably smelled bad.

S.: I'm sure it does now.

Once home, I used the spade and a Whole Foods bag to deal with the problem. Trash was still on the curb, so I counted my blessing as I deposited the paper bag into the can, and when the garbage truck rumbled in place in front of my house, I had the happy thought that the possum was on its way to return to the earth, and not the earth in our yard, either.

In the bath that night, Z. told me she wanted me to have my arms around her when she died. I told her that one of the special things about mamas and their babies is that whenever the baby dies, even if she lives a long life and she's an old woman when she dies, is that she can feel her mama's arms around her then. Even if her mama has already died, she can feel like her mama is holding her. Z. told me that after we both die, she wants me to hold her.

I promised her that I would.



Epilogue:

Hunter Dog has still been taking a suspiciously long time to return to the door when we call her in, and her digestion has not been of the best. Last night she whined me up in the middle of the night to visit the outdoors and this morning I came downstairs to a note on the door from A.

"Hunter Dog has apparently been getting at the possum again. I put it under the big flowerpot in the middle of the patio so Z. wouldn't see it. :(, <3 Thanks! A."

A nest of dead possums? Either Hunter Dog is living up to her name or there's a killer cat on the loose on our block.

3 comments:

(un)relaxeddad said...

That (you know which part) made me cry.

kathy a. said...

oh, dear. your words to Z were gorgeous.

Tall Kate said...

That is so beautiful! Kudos to you for handling a sometimes-somewhat-touchy situation with grace and sensitivity.