Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Invading opossum brings terror, but little humor

Home invasion!

That's what went through my mind when I heard my wife scream loudly from the living room where she was asleep on the couch. (Not marital discord … hard mattress.)

Instantly awake (not a frequent state of affairs for me) I wondered at first if I had dreamed the scream or if she had been having a nightmare, something she rarely does.

"Get out of here," she screamed as I rounded the corner coming out of the bedroom, "Get off me!"

Mentally gauging the distance from where I was to the knife rack in the kitchen, I knew instinctively that all of the big ones would be in the dishwasher, and a subsequent news story headline would say something like, "Aging Retired Columnist Attacks Intruder With Paring Knife; Services Wednesday," so I looked toward the couch to see what I was up against.

My wife was standing on the couch and shouted, "Opossum!" Okay, that's not all she said, but this is a family newspaper, and newsprint and ink aren't cheap so you can fill in the adjectives and other expletives.

All of the fuss, it would seem, was because the categorical and territorial imperatives had clashed somewhere in the middle of my wife's chest, and she had awakened feeling sharp claws and looking into beady eyes surrounded by a furry face. That in itself isn't unusual at our house, but she could tell right away, I guess, that it wasn't wearing cologne or wheezing.

I mention the clashing imperatives because Kant's belief that right actions are (or, I guess, should be) part of our innate behavior without regard to social mores or even personal inclination bespeaks in part a lack of desire to do anything harmful to animals whenever it can be avoided. Robert Ardrey's The Territorial Imperative indicates that all animals are sensitive about what they consider their territory and will defend it at all costs.

(I am sure philosophers and naturalists reading this are grinding their teeth at my over-simplifications of those definitions. I offer in my defense that if I had a real education, I would be drawing a much larger pension.)

But this wasn't the first opossum incursion into our home. We had one about a year ago, and we finally trapped that after substantial garbage rummaging and sightings of what my wife swore was a really big rat and I thought might be a really small Volkswagen.

All that was handled quickly with a humane live trap and a bag of gelatin candy orange slices. (Those orange slices are like crack cocaine to opossums.)

I was trying to get her to see the humor in the situation while she stood there on the couch, but I saw her eyes measuring the leaping distance across the coffee table to where I was standing, and affected the appropriate amount of concern.

I knew it wasn't the last opossum, because this one was much smaller and has a habit of issuing a disconcerting cross between a snarl and a hiss while baring his teeth. (I am using the generic "his" here. I'm not sure I know how to determine the gender of a opossum, and he or she acted as though I should expect resistance to any of the standard methods of checking.)

A night later I had placed the trap on a kitchen counter, and my wife moved it to the floor but left it disarmed. Before I went to bed I baited and armed it, and was awakened the next morning by screeches of "OH MY GOD!" from the kitchen. I bolted in wondering if she had gotten bad news on the phone or if CNN had torn itself away from the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor long enough to report some real and frightening news, like Sarah Palin entering the presidential race.

I asked what was wrong, and she answered, "There is an opossum in the trap."

Perhaps a little grumpily, I explained to her that the juxtaposition of trap, bait and opossum was pretty much the intent of the whole operation, and the capture probably could have been announced calmly over a cup of the morning decaf (which I know does me absolutely no good, but when a placebo is all you have, you have to go with it).

Several readers wrote after the column about the last opossum hunt that it is illegal in Florida to relocate wildlife unless you have a special license, and that my plan to dispose of that animal by dropping him off near the home of an old girlfriend and sending her a gift box of orange slices was criminal as well as tacky. So I did the best I could to block up the hole in the wall through which I am pretty sure the critters were gaining access — prompting my wife to point out that my carpentry skills are right up there with my ability to play Bach on a banjo or to perform neurosurgery … to wit, not impressive.

I responded by saying that I was pretty sure that I had been successful and that we would never hear from or see the creature after I took him outside and released him.

"Besides," I said, "what is the worst that could happen? He gets back in, and you wake up again with a opossum on your chest."

My wife is not without a sense of humor.

She actually smiled at that.

Well … anyway … her teeth were showing.

Invading opossum brings terror, but little humor 10/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 10:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention


    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  2. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  3. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  4. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.