Issue #17 |

One Sunday the Possums Swarmed Central Florida

They poked at dripping garbage bags with blunt, white nails. They nosed squirrel carcasses in the street. They chased down mice and chewed them up on the spot, their yellowed teeth raised triumphant in the air. We hadn’t thought they liked food fresh, but we could see them in our gardens plain as the Lord’s gospel, snacking on our basil, our cherry tomatoes, our low-hanging tangerines.

We hated them. For some of us the problem was their bulging eyes, for others their naked tails, for all of us the way their tongues, clumsy, slipped out of their mouths whether they gnawed on dead turtles or watermelons. They were confident in their foulness. They seemed to believe that it was right, that it was natural, that it was nothing to be ashamed of.

They’d once been so afraid of us they’d act out their own deaths to avoid confrontation. Back then, we’d gotten scaring them down to an art. We’d tossed tennis balls at them, sprayed them down with hoses, run at them with our arms flapping in the air. They’d fall on their sides like staggering drunks, teeth bared and eyes wide open. They’d lie still until—some time between when we packed our dishwashers and turned on our TVs—they disappeared.

Now when we rushed them, they ignored us. They kept ripping off our hibiscus flowers, digging up our strawberries, climbing our trees to reach the ripest grapefruit. They stared us down with eyes black as slugs while they chewed; they lumbered behind us as we ran to our cars; they sniffed at our front doors. It was as if we were interrupting their lives and not the other way around.

Most of us gave up. We already had racoons, so what harm were their uglier friends? We looked the other way as they snacked on half-crushed bodies of egrets. We duct-taped our garbage cans closed. We covered our orange trees with mesh. We figured the Lord Almighty had dealt us a bad hand. We figured we had to learn to live together. We figured our job was to bluff our way to acceptance.

But a few of us couldn’t stand the possums. The few couldn’t bear the sight of them in daylight, lurching around with patchy fur, proud as Adam and Eve before the fall. The few felt sick at the thought of long, wet snouts on our fruit, our trash, our roadkill. Our things, all of them, the few said. So they decided to take care of the infestation themselves.

 

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Sophia Huneycutt is a Florida writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Her fiction has appeared in Nashville Review, Jabberwock Review, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She is the winner of the Porch Prize, judged by Kevin Wilson, and the Helen Earnhart Harley Creative Writing Fellowship Award, judged by Christine Sneed. She holds a B.A. in English …

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