The opossum isn't a rat. I repeat this mantra to myself as I stare out my mother's glass door at the creature happily eating from the dog food bag on the porch. Opossums aren't rats. Mentally, I understand this, but it is a difficult fact to come to terms with. My mother seems to agree. Equally horrified, she joins me at the door to stare.
"They're actually not related to the rat family at all." My words of wisdom fall flat as we stare at the long pink tail sticking out of the bag.
The evening had started quietly enough. I was returning a baking dish to my parent's house and secretly rejoicing in the momentary freedom of being out without the kids, when the attack happened. As I approached the back door, I heard a rustling from the dog food bag, then a low hiss as the angry possum bared his teeth and snapped wildly in my direction. The vile creature had stealthily hid in the bag and had waited 'till the dark of night to make his move. Narrowly escaping the total loss of my right arm, I retaliated by screaming mercilessly, waving my hands in an erratic manner, and diving for the door.
Now glued to the window, mom and I consider our options. We both realize something has to be done to get rid of him, but neither of us is altogether eager to tackle the situation. The first and most obvious course of action was to send Daphne out to handle the affair. Daphne is my parent’s bulldog. The bulldog is a noble breed, known for their loyal nature, their dignified intelligence and above all, their courage and resolution. Daphne is known for none of these. In fact, if one were so inclined, it is possible to glimpse the great Universal Void simply by staring her directly in the eye. However, it is not recommended as she has the foulest breath known to man.
Also, she stinks, she’s ugly and she is constantly digging up my bedding plants.
Even so, this falls under her job description, AND the nasty little varmint was eating her food, so I felt she had a vested interest in rectifying the situation. So with the slightest sense of guilt, I cracked the door and ever so gently shoved Daphne into the night to face her opponent. Mom and I were tense, the opossum was silent, Daphne was…. confused. As with most situations, it took her a minute or two to acclimate to her surroundings, but she did finally catch the scent and turn to face the creature staring at her from no more than 2 feet away.
And now we brace for….. nothing. As it turns out, the two are long time acquaintances. Not so much as a growl. Daphne gently approaches the rat creature, they sniff at each other , then turn to mind their own affairs. Either Daphne believes this to be the cat sporting a new look, they have met previously, or perhaps she is merely pleased to finally encounter an intellectual peer.
“Well, now what?” Mom asks, still hovering directly behind me. Together, we are mesmerized, peering through the glass door at the perfectly contented couple outside. Opossum eating heartily, and stupid Daphne lounging by the stairs.
"I guess we'll have to shoo him off ourselves." I decide. It's not my favorite option, but still I leave Mom to keep watch while I search the garage for my weapon of choice. My husband would later inquire why I chose the fluffy headed mop over the shotgun, but I stand behind my decision. Partially because I failed to see how adding a hole in the wall and a massive leg wound would benefit the situation, but mainly because the thought never occurred to me. Any well documented woman vs. vermin scenario I had ever seen featured a broom, mop or other such cleaning device.
Armed and ready, I pause for a mental pep-talk and strategy debate. Ultimately, I settle on the "poke and scream" method of removal. It's a simple procedure really. Mom remains glued to my back while leaning ever so precariously forward to crack the door. I then steady myself, jab the opossum with the mop and scream in unashamed terror. Mom echoes, and the process repeats. What it lacks in effectiveness, it makes up for in commotion. A few good "poke and screams" later and we succeed in knocking the opossum into the food bag head first where he decides to play the waiting game.
I understand that America has a no torture policy. I respect that. I also stand solidly behind our commitment never to negotiate with terrorists, but our options were dwindling, it was time to make the tough decisions. Water-boarding is a last result, but sometimes a necessary evil to ensure the peace and safety of the general public. And so, the new plan of attack came down to dowsing both opossum and dog food with water until the beast surrenders. The first cup of water hit home with no effect. The second was equally uneventful. It was the salad bowl filled with ice water that finally got him to sit up and take notice. Literally. His tiny, white face now peered at us over the food bag, but in place of fear seemed to be a look of determination as I have never seen on any rodent's face. He may be wet, but he was far from defeated.
There's only so much a person can bear, and to be taunted by a thieving, nomadic marsupial was quite frankly, more than I was prepared to live with. It occurred to me that we had made a poor impression by allowing ourselves to be held hostage in the living room. The only thing a bully understands is brute force, and I was prepared to give it to him, in the form of a vase filled with decorative floral rocks. Luckily, on a previous occasion, I had purchased said rocks for a lovely floral arrangement. They proved to be a good investment, both for adding character to rose bowls and for extracting pesky opossums from the front porch.
Mind filled with indignant rage, and fists full of floral rock, I made my final stand. War is an ugly thing, and this proved to be no exception. I entered the night, flailing wildly, screaming and throwing at anything that dared to move within a 10 foot radius; all the while darting behind lawn furniture for added protection. I imagine it was the sight of this crazed 5'10" blonde banshee and not the stoning itself that ultimately convinced our furry friend to seek better lodging. As he finally vacated his hiding spot and fled into the night, I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction. I had stood toe to toe with a wild beast and had emerged the victor. Sure, it would have been more impressive if my assailant had a few more pounds on him, but still, a victory none the less. I would hold my head high. I would retell the tale with pride.
And I would most definitely carry that mop with me to get back into my car.