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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
By Justin Stalcup, Gulf High
This is a story of humans and possums, and unfortunate meetings when they tread the same path.
I was traveling along Fletcher Avenue that chilly Sunday afternoon on my little yellow scooter, my knitted orange scarf flapping as I reached 45 mph, the speed limit, and my scooter’s max speed.
It was a jungle of traffic out there, but I was not worried about that as much as I was my failing math grade. I was just trying to go with the flow of the cars around me.
A moment later, I was flying.
I had plowed into the back of a red Buick, which had slowed down. Abruptly. To avoid hitting a possum.
James — the jaywalking possum, I came to call him — survived his spontaneous Sunday stroll across Fletcher.
I survived, too, barely. My helmet-covered head had smashed through the Buick’s rear window. I rolled off the car trunk, the ground around me covered in bits of glass. Oh, my poor scooter. It lay there bleeding gasoline, utterly demolished, mechanical organs spilling from its inside.
“Are you okay?” someone at the scene asked me. “I don’t know,” I replied. I really didn’t.
Thanks to James, I was suffering, as the paramedics put it, from a grade-three concussion. I thought I was fine, but they insisted otherwise. I tried to remember the details of the accident to please the nagging police officers who seemed to show no sympathy for my disorientation. In fact, one of the officers cut me off during our discussion to ask the other driver if “the possum was okay.” Thank goodness, James was free to continue his little possum day.
I, on the other hand, was not free to continue my day. After resisting because I was worried about unpayable hospital bills, I was forced onto a stretcher by a paramedic. “Calm down. You’re full of adrenaline and we just want to help,” he said.
“Look guys, I’m fine,” I protested, unaware that the cuts on my forehead were releasing blood at a pretty quick rate.
Once I was hoisted into the ambulance where the temperature dropped 40 degrees, the adrenaline wore off and I began to feel again. “How do you feel?” a paramedic asked. “Like a wreck,” I replied.
My folks were contacted using my cellphone, which one of the paramedics found in pocket. “Tell my mom I’m okay!” I demanded. The last thing I wanted was for my mother to have a heart attack worrying.
My family entered the hospital room. I told my mother to stop crying, and explained what happened.
Witnesses said I flew a good distance. The police report said I was “following too close.” (A judge later ruled in my favor.) The doctor said that the helmet saved my life.
You’d think such an experience would spur some revelation or spiritual discovery into the meaning of my life, but I left the hospital bruised, confused and $6,000 in debt. Life felt a little insignificant, just like a possum crossing the road.
• • •
A month later I was driving my father’s Silverado to catch a movie with my girlfriend when out of nowhere, a possum stepped onto U.S 19 in front of me. I couldn’t stop in time.
I pulled over and watched the dark irony. The injured possum froze, seemingly dead but not dead yet, before turning to crawl back to the side of the road.
The possum couldn’t have been James. Or could it?