Years ago, my friend Tom lived across the street. One day he constructed a plywood vault in his garage and sound-proofed the walls and ceiling with thick carpet, protecting the neighbors from the loud music we used to torture out of an array of musical instruments. Our circle of friends got along well with Tom’s mom, and we were allowed to hang out in the garage even when Tom wasn’t home.
Returning from an escapade late one evening, Tom and I approached the vault and found a note impaled to the door by a plastic dart, a desperate message scrawled by one of our friends:
“Good gravy! There’s a freaking possum or something inside. Watch out!”
The note puzzled us. It had to be a joke. Did a wild animal truly lurk beyond the threshold, waiting to descend upon us, savage our flesh, and infect us with vile pestilence?
We gathered weapons for protection. Tom produced a rifle that might have been unearthed from a World War I battlefield, and probably would have exploded if he fired it. I seized a hatchet with a handle wrapped in electrical tape.
Kicking open the door, we entered the vault and explored the dank interior, covering all attack vectors with our weapons. Shadows loomed around us, distorted and threatening. I looked in the corner behind my guitar amplifier.
Hungry eyes glittered in the darkness.
Tom and I moved the amplifier to one side, exposing the possum. Its face twisted into a fanged and angry devil-mask.
“HisssSSSsSsSsSSSSssSSSSsSSSSssss!” Devil-Possum hissed.
“Mother of All Things That Have Mothers!” We nearly dropped the amplifier in our haste to return it to its original location, sheltering the creature once more.
A battle of wits began. Tom and I simply wanted Devil-Possum to leave. Devil-Possum wanted to stay. Perhaps it wanted to kill us.
For our opening salvo, we deployed a tempting trail of sandwich meat leading from the vault, through the garage, and to the freedom of the outer world. We hid around the corner and settled down to wait, confident in our superior human intellects.
When Bob arrived and saw the trail of sandwich meat on the garage floor, with Tom and I huddled alongside the vault, cackling in mad glee, his brow furrowed. “Uh…what are you guys doing?”
After we told him, he agreed to an alliance with us.
Then we waited.
And while we waited, the fiendish Devil-Possum devoured every slice of sandwich meat except for the last, then returned to the vault, spurning the freedom of the outer world.
The discovery dismayed us, but it only hardened our resolve.
We decided to use more sandwich meat to lure the creature into a plastic garbage can. After trapping it inside, we would carry it into the forest and release it.
We laid the garbage can on its side next to the shelter where Devil-Possum mocked us. Tom and Bob took up a position on either side, one of them armed with the garbage can lid. I hung back, ready to step in should the creature catapult itself into a berserk rage and decapitate one of them in a crimson spray.
We dropped sandwich meat into the garbage can.
Claws skittered across green plastic. Brave men struggled and shouted. A garbage can lid slammed into place. Tom and Bob started carrying the captured creature toward the forest, congratulating themselves on our victory.
Lingering in the vault for a moment, I looked behind the amplifier again.
Hungry eyes still glittered in the darkness.
I intercepted Tom and Bob before they reached the street.
“Are you guys sure you have the possum in there?” I asked.
They shook the garbage can, gently so as to avoid harming the creature inside. “Oh, yeah, dude. I can feel him moving around.”
“Then he must have had a friend, because there’s another possum behind the amp,” I said.
When they opened the garbage can—no creature, no sandwich meat, nothing—just the emptiness of another thwarted plan.
With our final hope in ruins, we called it a night, leaving the vault door open in case Devil-Possum deigned to return to its infernal realm. We never saw it again.
But on restless nights, when I shiver and clutch at tatters of elusive sleep, hungry eyes still glitter in the darkness…
* * *
Has a creature of the wild ever infiltrated your picnic basket? Has a beloved pet perpetrated a scheme to plunder food from your counter-top?
Share your triumph.
Share your defeat.