I had never given it a name, which is unusual for me. I name everything from boats and cars to houses, but just as I was thinking up something appropriate, it was over.
The possum died.
Now I hate referring to the animal as an "it" instead of having a name. I don't even know if it was male or female. For several months the animal, so ugly it was cute, came up on my front porch at dusk or a little later. It was suppertime, and I rarely disappointed it.
Our friendship, made through the window, became special to me, which probably only proves how exciting life at Posey Lake is. More than once I saw the possum walking slowly from the field across the road and down the length of my two-acre yard. Then there would be considerable hesitation before it sensed it was the right moment to ascend the porch steps.
I don't know if it ever really saw me through those tiny slanted eyes, but I am sure that he knew there was a friend with food. That is one reason I felt sad when I found the possum dead next to the front porch. That afternoon I was surprised to see it on the porch nosing around as if for something to eat. Then it went down the steps and I believe under the porch. I quickly got two pieces of bread and tossed it where I thought he would see the food. The bread had disappeared the next time I checked.
A few hours later, when I went out on the porch to take it some food, there it was, on its side. Could the possum be playing possum? They do lie on their sides to feign death and hang their tongues out. No, it was not.
Of course my first thought, or hope, was that he didn't die of hunger or thirst. That afternoon it had acted strangely, as if disoriented. If it ate on other porches in the neighborhood it could have been poisoned.
I will never know, but Dr. Nancy, our vet, said that if a possum is out wandering in the afternoon it probably is sick. It could have had rabies, although information from the Missouri Department of Conservation states that possums rarely get rabies. Our vet added that of all the animals in the kingdom, a possum would not be her favorite, or her choice for a pet.
It wasn't a pet. It was just an animal I enjoyed helping, knowing it could go back wherever it lived with food in its belly. Don't bother to e-mail me that possums can be mean. I know that, but they also get hungry, and they are interesting.
There is no doubt in my mind that it came to my door that afternoon for help. No, I am not crazy enough about wild animals that I would have picked it up or even touched it, but I could have given it some water or milk.
Now a large stray gray cat has taken over the possum's dish, and it too comes on the porch at dusk. The cat is not nearly as charming as the blonde possum, but if it is hungry, my porch is always open.
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