I assaulted a 'possum a few years ago. It's a rather often told story in my circle of friends.

I lived in a small duplex in The Short North and we had cats outside. They were all generally strays (one eventually became a house cat) and my wife fed them all regularly. We'd amassed quite a pack of cats and kittens, at this point, and it was very important they were fed and watered daily. I began to see a possum for few days… caught it a few times stealing cat food out of the bowl. I chased it back beyond the fence to the neighbor's yard and cursed it constantly. I hated them.

I'd had enough.

So I snuck out one night and waited for it. I had no weapons, no baseball bat, no gun, and no hatchet, not even a sledgehammer... only a spade that I used in the yard. I crept to the shadows, spade in hand, and waited for it to come into the open... when I saw him I hesitated... could I do this? I’d never thought I would have a problem killing something like that before - in fact I'd seen it done several times at home... My mind flashed up the image of one of my Mom’s friends grabbing one by the tail and bashing it in the head with a hammer… this would be a piece of cake, I could kill this thing from a distance... good.

When he got out in the open, I moved forward and brought the flat of the spade down on his head


The spade sounded like dissonant bell; it echoed across the alley, against the houses, back to me...

The possum moved back from me a little bit and I swung again - CLANG!

More bells, more echoes -

A spot of blood began to well on the top of its head where spade met skull... I hit again - CLANG! I saw the smear of blood across the back of the spade in a rusty line. The possum shifted backward into the shadows and came up on its haunches. I knew that if I let it get out of my sight I'd lose it for good - I took the flat of the spade and pushed it back into the light. It was heavier than I’d imagined, more solid, it felt like a lump of meat that scratched at the metal. It looked up at me with those odd, beady black eyes. Accusingly, it hissed. I never knew they made that particular sound. I’d pissed it off.

It now started to move forward at me so I, like a coward, moved back... the spade in my hand now held defensively... I remembered then that the spade had a pointed end... I could use the point and cleave the bastard in half. I pulled the spade back like a spear, the point aimed at the creature’s neck -

It glared at me with those eyes again and my murderous intent began to dissolve… I didn't want to use that point of the spade... I couldn't deal with the blood, the screams... whatever. I didn’t like the cold disgust I was feeling.

I raised the spade again (samurai style) and brought the flat down on its head again - CLANG! That one was seemed a little better, it seemed more solid… I felt like throwing up.

It began a retreat. The tiny speck of red on its head had now swelled to a dark stain that dripped down the side of its pointed snout... the eyes glared through blood, it hissed and backed away... tho not very well. It wasn't moving too well at all; and in fact it looked more like it could only drag itself out of harms way... out of my way.

I realized that I couldn’t kill this thing. This miserable sight... instead of a clean kill I had turned this into a torture session. I took the flat of the spade and nudged it toward the fence. It didn't move well and the hisses were coming out in huge terrified gasps. It tried to bite at the spade as I moved it closer to the edge of my yard and it failed to defend itself as badly as I failed to move it.

I shoved it into the shadows and retreated back to the house... sick and wretched at what I'd done. In my mind I kept thinking, “how could I do that?” And “You have to go out and put that creature out of the misery you caused.” I couldn’t.

I fled into the house and put it out of my mind – tried to.

A few days later some friends and I were sitting at the table on the back porch and I saw something moving in the bushes. I knew what it was but I’d thought, “If that tough fucker can live after what I did, he was welcome to all the cat food he could eat”. I watched amazed, at first, and saw the head of the possum poke out and move away from us. The blood on its face had dried to a light stain and wasn’t very visible; but I didn’t see the blood after it emerged from the bushes… it was dragging itself along the grass by its front paws. The back end of it, now paralytic and rotting, was covered with maggots and flies that ate him alive. I recoiled… it lifted its head with each struggling pull and I knew I’d done that… I could see the bloodstain on its face… could see the dead, limp legs dragging lifelessly behind it… maggots… good God. I didn’t need to do that.

Cat food is cheap. Next time, I’ll share.

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