- ABOUT US
Megan Rossman, Photography Editor
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
By Megan Rossman
November 14, 2013
There are a lot of things you don’t see coming. Maybe even most things. They may not be extraordinary or life altering, but I do find myself taking note on a frequent basis of all the things I would have never guessed I’d be saying, hearing, and seeing.
I’m not sure how it would have shaped my future if someone had come to me in my youth and said, “One day, Megan, a opossum will urinate on a bowl of Butterfingers in your Oklahoma City living room.”
Depending on how old I was when that news had been delivered, I might have been excited by the Oklahoma part. After visiting Oklahoma for my grandfather’s funeral when I was four, and upon returning to Washington State, I delivered sermons to other children on the cows, horses, spiders, funerals, and heat of Oklahoma. “Nowhere is hotter than Oklahoma,” I told them. “If I could live anywhere besides Washington or Hawaii, it would be Oklahoma.”
I guess dreams do come true, because I eventually did find myself living in Oklahoma. With my very own living room, no less. What I could not have predicted without prophetic aid is that my charming, albeit neglected, little home would also be headquarters to a stream of furry vagrants.
When I first moved in, I was bewildered in the early morning by scratchy, scrambling noises in the ceiling above my bed. Energetic rats or squirrels or maybe even birds, I guessed. Being a renter, I figured this was not my problem unless I could see them, and given the clearly visible structural issues of this house, probably the least of the homeowner’s worries.
It was not until last winter, when the other side of the duplex had been vacant for months, that the occasional thumps and scratching started to bother me. These noises were louder than their predecessors and became a daily occurrence. It sounded like a golden retriever had found its way into my walls. I could hear things crashing above me, tumbling around in my ceiling.
What can possibly fall over in a ceiling? Maybe a lot of things can, I don't know, but it made me nervous. It’s one thing to hear a little pitter pattering, it’s quite another to hear the steady trot of feet above you.
I eventually confronted the intruder one night along the walkway in the front yard. A crawl space cover leading to my basement kept falling off the front of the house, so I was outside trying to wedge it back on by the light of the moon. When I turned around, a opossum was shuffling toward me. He paused, uncertain, raising his long snout to the air. We both stood there for a second. I took an exaggerated step toward him, he took a step back but didn’t flee. He was bolder than I expected. The word “rabies” shot through my mind. I had finally come face to face with my squatter.
“It’s you!” I yelled. “Get out of here!”
And as quickly as he appeared, he was gone, shambling along with rapidity I would not have guessed he was capable of. But it didn’t take long, maybe an hour, before I heard his clumsy step in my ceiling again. In the days that followed, we had many standoffs in the front yard, as he somehow managed to get back into my basement and ceiling over and over. He would not be thwarted. My neighbors were probably starting to wonder who I was threatening outside every night.
Things eventually came to a head. I was sitting on my couch when a stream of water abruptly began pouring from a crack in my ceiling into a bowl of Butterfingers. I sprang into action, jumping up to rescue the candy. I held my hand under the stream of water, watching helplessly as it eventually slowed to a drip. The situation struck me as odd, since it had not rained in weeks. The smell of the water was also unsettling, like a dirty hamster cage. Very stagnant water—how long had it been collecting? It was then, right above me, that I heard the soft tromp of feet moving away. My confusion turned to disgust as my brain registered what was trickling along my hand.
I called my landlord the next morning and let him know that a opossum had peed through the ceiling. He brought a humane trap over, sprinkled it with miniature marshmallows, and left it in the backyard. The next day I got his report: The opossum was captured, and he would transport it to a park, or somewhere.
Not more than two days passed before I heard trotting in my ceiling again. I reported this to my landlord, but—to my knowledge—he never returned with the trap. And so the marsupial remained, and, to this day, has not emptied his bladder through my ceiling. I hear him traveling about in the evenings and tumbling around in the basement. I sometimes fear that I’ll go down there and find out the ruckus is the result of something more threatening, like a wolverine or a pintsized clown hobo, and my opossum problems will seem small in comparison.
I heard a particularly loud crash in the basement this weekend, and I dashed down the stairs to surprise whatever it was making the sound. I was not surprised to see a large ratlike creature scurrying along a ledge. I announced to the opossum that I could see him, and he dodged behind a stack of cardboard boxes in response. I moved closer. He was small, maybe the size of a cat. He stood frozen, sniffing the air, shaking, panicked breaths audible from several feet away. It made me think of the saying I heard a million times as a child: They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.
It suddenly dawned on me: I was the monster in the basement, chasing this animal and yelling at him. And really, what trouble was he causing me, aside from the time he or one of his relatives soiled my candy bars?
It’s getting cold. I think I’ll let him stay.