It was me or him.
(Yes, grammarians, I know it was I or HE, but I'm setting atmosphere here. Okay?)
I have a live-and-let-live attitude toward other members of the animal kingdom. I eat more meat than most of my fellow Buddhists — but, basically, if they aren't biting me, pooping in my yard or gnawing at the foundation of my home, I ignore my fellow creatures.
But it is that whole home thing. The territorial imperative resides deeply in most of us, whether we admit it or not. I have dressed in camouflage only when it was necessary for self-preservation. I don't own or like guns. I prefer my meat to come the way the Universe intended it to — in reddish rectangular blocks wrapped in clear plastic wrap and displayed in grocery stores between the imitation crab meat and the yogurt shelves.
And I never get up before sunrise, other than for the reason most middle-aged and older men do: to perform natural functions and then leave the seat up just to keep our wives on their toes, so to speak.
But if you are in my territory, whether you are a centipede in my boot, a wasp under my eaves or a rattlesnake in my garage, we have a conflict. (Okay, in the rattlesnake scenario, the conflict would be between the snake and whichever of my neighbors who does own a gun and hears me screaming like a little girl and can stop laughing long enough to come over and shoot it.)
So the opossum had to go.
My wife feels even more strongly than I do about critters in the house. I am not allowed to use the m-word in referring to the occasional rodent intruder because Yankees, apparently, have some fear that the presence of the cute little things has something to do with poor housekeeping.
To that end, we just pretend that the occasional nibbled garbage bag is actually the result of shortcomings in the fine art of garbage bag manufacturing, and that the disappearance of little store-bought trays of green pellets is a phenomenon directly attributable to visits from the Decon fairy. And if you say "rat" in our kitchen, there had better be a "tatouille" rolling off your tongue right after it, or, quite possibly, other parts of your anatomy are in grave danger of coming up missing.
Add to that the information that I am basically lazy, so when I heard scrabbling, scraping and other noises coming from inside the wall dividing our bathroom from our kitchen, I preferred to just assume that the house (it IS an old house) was haunted, until my wife brought it up.
"It's probably just a m—"
"Don't even think it," she said, "and besides, whatever it was ate an entire loaf of bread."
"Then maybe it was a r—," I said before noticing that one of her hands was quite near the cutlery rack and was beginning to twitch.
"It was a possum," she said. "I saw it."
"Then there is no problem," I said. "They are actually considered the bringers of good fortune in the homes of your Irish forbearers."
"Possums aren't Irish," she, well, growled.
"Sure they are," I said. "Possum. Opossum, O'Possum. Get it?"
(Yeah. She didn't think it was funny, either.)
Long story short. I bought a $50 trap and baited it with candy orange slices, which a more critter-knowledgeable friend assured me were irresistible to possums or O'Possums.
Within a few hours the trap sprang and, after assuring our daughter through several long-distance telephone conversations that my intentions toward the animal were nonlethal, I released it far away, near the home of a troublesome former friend.
Now if I can just get UPS to deliver the orange slices.