About three months after the encounter with that first possum (see my Sept. 28 column), and right around the beginning of the Great Multi-Apartment Remodel Project of 2005, a war of epic proportions began.
My apartment was all tore up from ongoing renovations some friends and I were making. Tools and debris were lying everywhere. The stove and refrigerator were dragged into the living room. Boxes of tile and grout and 10-pound bags of thin-set were scattered about.
It was a difficult time for me. For one reason, I'm certainly no carpenter. Secondly, I just couldn't get used to waking at 6 a.m. Hell, I don't even usually go to sleep until 4. So in the days of the remodel project, I spent many hours tossing and turning trying to fall asleep by midnight.
On one particular sleepless night I was woken by the familiar sound of something-something not feline-eating cat food. I threw off the covers angrily, stepped over some boxes of tile, navigated around the stove, crawled over large bags of thin-set, banged my toe on something, muttered a series of expletives and turned on the kitchen light to see not one but two possums looking up from the cat food bowl.
I knew in an instant. These were the babies of the first possum. That's why she was so big and ornery. And now her offspring have grown and returned to the place where they know the cat food is.
The following morning I phoned Dave from 1-800-CRITTER, who arrived with two rectangular metal boxes. He placed the traps at the foot of the refrigerator (in the living room). Then he spread dry cat food all around the outside of the trap and applied a large swath of peanut butter inside. And the first major military operation of the war was in place. It was called Operation Skippy. And it seemed to work because we caught the first possum on the first night.
But the second possum eluded the traps for days. And every night it was the same thing: Just when sweet sleep would come, I'd hear that old crunch, crunch, crunch crunching again. It was a nightmarish cycle that went like this: Hear crunching. Wake up. Navigate appliances and debris. Bang toe on something. Mutter expletives. Flick light switch. Possum hides. Shout out derogatory, anti-marsupial insults such as, “You scum-sucking son of an alley cat and a rabid kangaroo!” Go back to bed. Toss and turn. Eyes shut. Sleep comes. Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. Wake up. Stumble around in dark. Bang toe. Curse loud. Flick switch. Possum hides. Attempt sleep. Then crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch again, and I'm wondering, Why, oh why, won't you go for the Skippy, oh delicious Skippy peanut butter, so creamy and yummy.
Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, again and again, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, reverberating through the house in the middle of the night like Satan chewing on John Gacy's bones, and it's sun-up now, time to drag myself out of bed, make coffee, get dressed and meet possum at the time-clock.
“Morning, Ed,” he says, punching out.
“Morning, Ralph” I say, clocking in.
In this way do all the nights all meld into one, and now it's the fifth night (I think)-the night of the infamous military engagement called Battle at Front Door Front.
Battle at Front Door Front
I'm watching Law and Order with W. The possum has grown accustomed to us and is fearlessly meandering about the house. In a stroke of luck, he wanders toward the front door. This is fortuitous because, while the wooden front door is wide open, the security screen door is closed, and it occurs to me that this can be used as a trap. As he walks up to the screen door and looks outside, I slam the wood door shut, locking the possum between the two doors.
Furious now, the creature begins scratching and scraping fervently. I open the door a crack to see the little bugger digging into the floor underneath the screen door. He's already got his head through, followed by his neck, then shoulders, then torso, until all that remains on my side of the door is his tail. Without thinking, I leap to the ground, grab the disgusting hairless appendage and tug him backward. It's a firefight now, with him hissing and spitting and clawing and me pulling him backward until he pops out from under the screen and now I'm holding him in the air by the tail while he wildly snaps claws and jaws, and just before he gets a piece of my hand-flesh, I drop him into a laundry basket and close the lid over his head. Victory is mine.
Sleep comes easily this night. I dream I am sitting on a throne at the base of a giant, sphinx-like monument with the head of a cat and the body of a rabid kangaroo. It is Marsupius-God of Possums-and I am his chosen one. Standing before me are millions upon millions of possums waiting for my announcement.
“I am the Possum King!” I say as they hiss and spit their approval. “I can do anything.”
The next morning, I called critter-catcher Dave, who arrived in his Critter Catcher Mobile. I showed Dave the laundry basket, which was now on the front stoop. He opened the lid to get a look at the possum, and the possum-as effortlessly as Hogan pulling a fast one on Klink-sprung out of the goddamn basket and wriggled itself through a possum-sized opening under my goddamn house.
To be continued. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and copy editor@SDcitybeat.com.