Opossum

 

The opossum on our front stoop is neither dead nor playing dead but simultaneously immobilized and trembling from its core. I put my hands up at first, defensively, and backing away through this boxy house of ours to call Animal Control, I have a moment of clarity: I love you, Babs, I say. How could I ever live without you? Returning a few minutes later, I find the animal gone without a trace. ‘Your presence was the shock of life it needed,’ you write to me, ‘to crawl away to its final resting place.’ I scan the yard and peer into leafy depths of rhododendron. I shine a light under the house. You write that no animal dying a slow death will let me see its remains. Not if it can help it. From start to finish, the nature of every animal is akin to our own personal integrity. Think about it. Who’s ever seen the corpse of a bear while traipsing through the wild? You’d have to find one someone had shot, and even then, shooters take their quarry with them. ‘Meet me at Gardenias, Babs, for an asparagus risotto,’ I write, ‘and a glass of Riesling.’ ‘I can do it all and look great doing it,’ you answer, ‘if there is good lighting.’ How easily I picture you in your dark studio, surrounded by your clay figurines, doglike mammals made to look like they’re in motion. Wounded bears crawl away into dusky groves to be drawn up to heaven in the dark of night by the thousands.