*An editorial note for you amateur etymologists: there is a difference between an opossum and a possum. The possum is an animal native to New Zealand and Australia. The opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. However, I have never heard an American, and certainly not a Southerner, refer to the country rat as an opossum. So, for this story, possum it is!
I went out with a group of friends last night to celebrate the birthday of L-, a sweet and lovely woman, transplanted from the heart of Texas. My friend C- was driving us home when she hit the brakes to avoid hitting a fat possum who was waddling across the road. "Oh, God!" I yelled, "I hate possums!"
I do. They're hideous, mean, disgusting looking things with their hairless tails and pointy teeth and beedy eyes. They bear an unsettling resemblance to a giant R-A-T, and you may remember how I feel about those awful things.
Honestly, look at this thing and tell me it wouldn't make you almost poopy if you saw it face to face in a dark alley.
Before I started writing this piece, I knew three things about possums:
1. They are ugly as shit.
2. They are mean as shit.
3. They are the only marsupial native to North America.
Also, they are all over rural North Carolina. So it was not surprising to see one lumbering across the road the other night. He crossed safely, and then my friend C- started telling us a story.
Some years ago, there was a local celebrity who told the story of his wife, who performed roadside rescues. But not the kind you might think; she didn't aid motorists or pick up hitchhikers or give out sandwiches or fix flat tires. When she would see a possum that had been hit and was dead on the side of the road, she would stop, get out, and check to see if it had babies with it.
Let me repeat that: She would go up to a dead motherfucking possum and check it for babies. If there was a litter of babies, she would take them home and raise them until they could be released back into the wild.
Look, I am an animal lover. Okay, 'lover' might be strong, but I am definitely an animal liker. But there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that I would poke around a roadkill anything, let alone a possum. I'm pretty sure I might fall over in a dead faint at the mere suggestion.
C- is telling this story, and talking about the baby rescue, and our friend L- says what may be the funniest thing I have ever heard in my life. She says, "So, would she do a c-section?"
Now I am picturing this middle aged, well off woman in a cardigan and pearls, bent over a dead possum, performing a c-section. I am crying, I'm laughing so hard, and C- (who is so much nicer than I am) says, "No, they have a pouch, like kangaroos. She'd check the pouch."And poor L- is yelling, "I am not a country person!", while I roll around in the back of the minivan laughing like a hyena.
I think checking a dead possum pouch might actually out-gross performing a dead possum c-section, because it requires more touching of said dead possum. Although I suppose she may have used tongs (probably just those little ice tongs, not big barbecue tongs). It seems to me that if a lady is the type of lady who will rescue baby possums and raise them in her home, she is probably the type who wouldn't have a problem touching them.
Apparently, there are all kinds of people who love possums, and even keep them as pets. In doing research for this post (I assure you, it was sloppy and incomplete), I learned that there are all kinds of people who check roadkill for babies. I find this incredibly disturbing and mildly nauseating. People! If God didn't want possums to get killed crossing the road, he wouldn't have made them so stupid! I see anywhere between one and three dead possums every week. This tells me that:
1. Possums are stupid.
2. God hates possums.
3. People need to stop rescuing possum babies, because they are messing with God's plan.
What would Jesus do? Jesus would stay in the g-d car.
But here is the most horrifying thought - possums play possum. When faced with danger, they can go into a catatonic state, becoming rigid with bulging eyes and a protruding tongue, and a foaming mouth. They can stay that way (appearing dead to a predator, or well meaning woman in a cardigan), for up to four hours.
Say you're super helper lady, scrubbing in for your dead possum c-section or perhaps just prepping your tongs to check the dead possum pouch. Then, all of a sudden, the possum wakes up, freaks out, and attacks you. Was it really worth being attacked by a man-eating possum on the off chance that you could save a couple of rat babies? NO! The answer is NO!
Stay in your car. Keep driving. Thank me later.
20 hours ago