One of our readers sent me the following story some time ago, and I decided it would be a good idea to include a section on our website devoted to short stories about opossums. If you have written a story about an opossum that you would like to submit for publication on the website, please write to ask for information on sending it to us. I won’t promise to put everything online, but we would love to help expand the literature.
A ’Possum Moment
by James Gaskins
A hunter, while paused in a wooded area, had an encounter with an opossum in a weird yet serendipitous manner. This September morn, he was enjoying his forty-fifth birthday while on a deer hunt. He had been quietly walking, peering and analyzing during his search for animals, and was now sitting on the trunk of a downed tree after about four hours past his 5:00 a.m. entry into the woods. It was not prey that he sought, as he had long since altered his feelings toward killing wildlife. He had begun his hunting habits, as did his brothers, on a trip with his father when he was about seven years of age. The game they bagged contributed toward their table spread and was, most often, a welcomed addition. His meditative stillness gave no clue as to his presence. Unnoticed, an opossum had wondered close to his feet at the same moment he had repositioned his aching buttocks that were pressing against the rough bark of the log on which he was sitting. In a startled awareness of the human, the opossum turned and faced the hunter with a hiss. It remained wary as it cautiously backed away.
“Don’t worry little fellow, I have no desire to cause you harm.” the hunter said.
With those words spoken, the little animal, surprisingly, appeared to relax. After a few moments of stillness, an unsettling sound broke the silence when the opossum clearly stated, “It is unique that I am startled by whom I seek. However, I was expecting your compassionate response and I am pleased.”
The numbed hunter defensively smiled to show he was aware of some trick that was being enacted, in case there were observers. But he realized, except for the voice, everything was too real to be staged. He reasoned it was a dream. It had to be a dream. Though confused, he knew this was not an illusion, unless he had gone insane. He sought assurance by examining his gun and then looking at the trees, searching to find something to support a state of illusion. He remembered the camaraderie with friends at breakfast and felt no determinant to suggest any wane of saneness.
The creature interrupted the muddle as it said, “Don’t feel frightened. You and I have an opportunity to communicate. It seemingly is a rare occurrence, although I cannot be certain.”
Still seeking some explanation or hint of what was happening, the hunter looked at all the circumference of his surroundings and into the treetops but found no elucidating clue to ease his apprehension.
“Your speechless response is what I might expect, but please feel free to talk. You are more than a mile from any human, and you will not be observed as a man losing his marbles.” the opossum said.
“I can’t believe this is real. It must be a dream, but my prudence convinces me that this is no fantasy.” he answered with trepidation.
“Your judgment is sound, and you will find more ease as we converse.” his new animal acquaintance advised.
“I can’t believe this is real.” he repeated, dumfounded beyond any other thoughts.
After some pause and regaining some calmness, he asked, “What is happening? What is this? What’s going on?”
“I really do not have all the answers and still ponder for explanations, Dwight.” the opossum replied.
“How did you know my name?” Dwight promptly inquired.
“You will understand in due time.” the opossum answered.
“Do you have a name?” Dwight asked.
“Not really, but you can call me Pogo. It is a name that would seem appropriate.” it answered as Dwight interpreted a smile on its animal face.
“Are you a male or female?” he responded.
“As an opossum, I am a male, but as an angel, I have no gender.” he answered.
“Angel? You are an angel?” Dwight astonishingly queried.
“Yes,” was his answer, “maybe you have not believed in angels, or perhaps you have a different idea as to how they may exist.”
Pogo knew that this response would stimulate the inquisitive Dwight. Dutifully, with angelic powers, he had witnessed many thoughts of inquiry that Dwight had made during conversations with acquaintances and during nights of exploring the rationale of existence.
“Well,” Dwight answered, “I really do not know. I certainly reason that angels could exist, more than I can believe in any charitable deity. And now, I sure the hell have had a lot of my reasoning totally screwed up.”
Amused, Pogo assured, “Not really, you are just being assisted in your exploration to the meaning of life.”
“How do you mean that?” he responded.
“Think back”, Pogo began. “Remember one time when you were hunting, you shot a squirrel and it fell onto the river bank? You had not cleanly killed it and, as it struggled, it slid into the water with only its head partially submerged. However, its mouth and nostrils were beneath the water and it had not the strength to retract. It struggled a bit and then drowned. This hurt you, and you vowed not to kill anything else unless it was painless or interpreted as necessary or of supportable worth.”
“I remember that!” Dwight surprisingly exclaimed.
Pogo continued. “You then began reasoning that life begins with no choice in existence or form. One cannot priorly deny or elect its form or any quality. Deformity, insanity, beauty, intelligence or type of creature, or whatever one may be — there is not a choice. Accordingly, you held that nothing should be destroyed without just reason, for it had no choice in its existence, whatever its form.”
“My God, was I correct?” he bedazzledly burst. “Do you have the answers to all my thousands of questions?”
“Unfortunately, no.” Pogo responded. “I am as ignorant of reasons as you.”
“I don’t understand. How did you get to be an angel?” he continued to question.
“Maybe the best answer is asking how you became the thing that you are.” answered Pogo.
“Well, who were you before you became an angel?” he persisted.
“I really don’t know. It is possible that I have always been an angel or, perhaps, I once existed as an opossum without any angelic qualities. That remains a mystery. I muse over the many possibilities. As stated, maybe I was an opossum, maybe a human, maybe another angel, maybe a tree — I have no idea.” Pogo responded, “I am not aware of any permanent form. I only know what form I have at the moment and sometimes I cannot identify the form in which I exist.”
Dwight probed, “What do the other angels look like when you talk to them?”
“They can be in any form.” Pogo answered
“What will you look like when you are no longer an opossum?” he queried. “What are you naturally?”
“Physically, I don’t know. What is a thought? It is real, but what form does it have? I, as well as other angels, often meet in the form that is assumed for the task at hand. For instance, I am now a ’possum. I will remain such until my task is finished. If I wish to talk to an angel, I simply begin to talk, with or without any sense of sound, and the answering angel may be in the natural “nothing” form or in any imaginable form.”
“Will I become an angel?” Dwight asked.
“I have no idea,” was the reply. “I am as perplexed as you in regard to the nature of the actions of the universe. I have conversed with my peers in a myriad of existences, not knowing what it is, where it is, when it is, or how it became. We share a level playing field of intellect in our exchange, and whether I am talking with intelligence far greater or lesser than the level in which you and I communicate, I cannot say.”
“You have given me material to keep me cogitating for a lengthy time,” Dwight pondered.
Pogo inwardly smiled as he explained that it would be a lengthy time, indeed, as he had not been able to resolve the riddle during his unknown time of existence. Moreover, none of his spirited peers had admitted significant conclusions in such inquiries.
“Pleased to have conversed with you, Dwight, but I am being summoned and have to go now.” Pogo said as he turned and began to amble away.
The perplexed hunter watched as Pogo disappeared behind a clump of bushes, and with a voice raised in order to emphasize his anxiety, asked, “Will I see you again?”
There was no reply. There was not even the sound of the rustle of leaves that would have been expected by the exiting opossum.
A couple hours later, Dwight was back at the hunting cabin conversing with friends and offering them an excuse as to why he had not bagged any game. One of these days, he thought, he would openly admit that he was no longer interested in killing the animals he sought.
That night he lay awake, long after his companions had fallen asleep in the bunkhouse. He could not tune out the thoughts of his experience. He had never napped while in the woods and, therefore, was unable to rationalize that this happening was a dream. However, he couldn’t fully conclude that his experience in the woods was not the production of such a onetime slumber. Some dreams are so close to reality that, as time passes, one often has difficulty in assurance that some past experience was a fact or was a dream. His being was permeated by a deep certitude that he was gifted by a visit from Pogo. Such a gift could never be shared. He puzzled if others had ever experienced a related phenomenon.
Copyright © 2006 by James Gaskins. Used by permission
by Gloria Jean Childers
There's a possum in my pantry.
Oh what am I to do?
I know she is no bother,
Just looking for some food.
She is not a very handsome sort,
The long nosed Mrs. P;
I will not speak about her, as
Perhaps she thinks the same of me.
She really is no bother,
Though she has a row of teeth.
I hope she does not use them—
The bite would be quite deep.
I have heard that if you scare her
She will act quite very dead.
I have seen it thus, quite long ago,
But once revived she was on the go.
I do hope she does not like my house,
As we cannot share this home.
She has her ways and I have mine,
But a Possum in my pantry was not What I had in mind.
A cup of tea, a ginger snap,
A lemon tart — it will all be right from my heart.
I will gladly share what I have with Mrs. P
But please don't let her live with me.
Copyright © 2008 by Gloria Jean Childers. Used by permission.