Detail from “Untitled” (Opossum Family Nesting in Wall of Abandoned Lazer Prison) by Timmy Reed
Opossums terrify me. They are proof that monsters do exist and are hiding in your garbage cans.
When I was in college, I used to leave pizza crusts out for the stray kittens that infested this trashy patio around an unkept pool that sat in the center of my building like Melrose Place if Melrose Place was a stack-a-shack in South Carolina. I was on the first floor, so I would just leave the box outside my back door. Once I heard something chewing and rushed to the door, hoping to find a pile of kittens. Instead there was this one fat opossum with eyes like rabbit turds if rabbit turds could scowl. He hissed at me over a finger of crusty bread. I could see his teeth. They were like needles. I spent the rest of the night in my apartment, besieged by the awful thing. The next morning, I set the pizza box on fire rather than touch it. I knew I was being silly, but I couldn’t help it. I was traumatized. That opossum really caught me off guard.
My father likes opossums though. One summer, there was a huge one that built its nest in a tree above our trash cans. The nest was built out of our family’s refuse. It was actually very colorful. An interesting sculptural piece. Part of me was jealous and wished that I had made it. My dad became friends with the opossum. He took over my garbage detail so he’d have an excuse to go outside and talk to it after dinner. I would go up on the roof to smoke and I could hear them whispering to each other. It was funny but kind of scary at the same time. I could never tell what they were saying and I didn’t want to imagine it. After awhile, our neighbors called Animal Control and the opossum was put down. I started taking out the trash again.
I am not a fan of opossums, but I can dig how they play dead. I do that too. Only I don’t play dead, just asleep. Asleep is good enough for my purposes, which mostly involve not talking to people. Sometimes my cell phone plays dead too.