An O’possum Named Turd Blossom

Very late one night, I was on the phone in the kitchen with Suzanne because she called, and the kitchen is where you’re supposed to keep the rotary phone. The guy from the phone company tried to strong-arm me into having the phone in the back bedroom, but that’s just because he was lazy and didn’t want to run a new cable under the house. He thought he’d get me to change my mind by screwing the phone cable around the outside of the house when I refused…he failed. So, I was sitting in the dark, gabbing with Suzanne, and I heard rustling out on the front porch. The longer we talked, the louder and more insistent the rustling became.

We had a very wet Winter, and I didn’t buy enough seed ration and alfalfa to feed the beasts until it was too late to transfer easily, so I had five big 50lb bags of whole corn, sunflower seeds, salvia, and more butted up against each other on the porch. Every time I brought feed home, the hillside was too slick to safely carry feed bags up to the barn, so there they sat, opened and inviting, lined up for the morning routine.

I told Suzanne to hold the line whilst I went to investigate the ruckus, turned on the lights, opened the screen door, and there on the porch with his whole body stuffed tightly inside an overturned feed bag was a big, fat, obviously well-fed possum with the shiniest, healthiest coat I have ever seen on a wild animal, especially in the middle of Winter. “Shoo, you!” I bellowed, grabbing the outdoor broom from its wall cradle, and taking a swing. The portly possum turned and snarled at me, beady black eyes glinting under the lamp light. “Nope! Not for you! Off my porch,” I yelled, taking another swipe. The possum growled and climbed up and over the side wall of the porch, then disappeared into the black night, grumbling angrily as he left.

Since that first encounter, I moved all the feed up to the barn in shifts using five-gallon feed buckets to lessen the risk of an injurious fall, but that has not stopped the possum from returning with shocking regularity. He likes to come drink the vinegar-laced water from the chicken feeder on the garden wall, he nibbles on my rosemary, chews my daisies into gummy bulbs of petal-less yellow paste on top of mangled stems and he steals my pansies even when I’m standing right there watching. He’s learned that my broom swinging is all bark with no real intent to beat him into compost material, twice now I have caught him at dawn curled up with Sissy in the broken farm store rocker on the porch after nights when she’s decided she’s not coming in, and he has met me on several early mornings at the barn door standing on his hindquarters, tiny paws held up imploringly, steel eyes daring me to refuse him, intent on sharing the chickens’ breakfast before toddling off to put himself to bed in whatever den he inhabits.

I have named this little monster Turd Blossom.

I don’t touch him, never pet him. I give him his own small pile of feed away from the hens when he comes begging breakfast so that Clarence (my rooster) is less inclined to peck him to death in jealous rage. I hate anthropomorphizing wild animals (mostly), but I’m pretty certain that he knows damned good and well that my declarations about letting him live only because he helps the chickens keep the tick population in check is total bullshit…I’m absolutely certain that I’ve caught him laughing at me on not a few occasions.

I haven’t seen hide nor hair of T.B. in over a week now, and I’m getting worried. For several weeks we have had intermittent torrential rains that have killed all of my veggie plantings and fostered weeds around the lilac bush that come up to my chest now. I went walking in my woods earlier this evening and found no scat, no tell-tale bark scrapings, no ravaged hens-and-chicks mushrooms hanging in shreds on the trees. I came back down to the barn perplexed and a little worried as I shut the chickens and the goats in for the night. I genuinely hope he hasn’t drowned or been eaten by the coyotes.

I’m such a pathetic soft touch, I left a pile of black oil seeds and sprouted oats on the porch wall tonight before going to bed. It’s raining cats and dogs, and another in a week’s long series of flash flood warnings broke the stillness of this night.

I love stormy weather, but this is ridiculous. If this weather has cost me my possum, I’m gonna be pissed. I really wanted to get him to the point where I could dress him up like Mrs. Tiddly Winks and take pictures….Damned rain.

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