Lessons learned from a dead possum

>> Sunday, April 24, 2011

On my way home yesterday, I came across I sad sight: a dead possum in the street. At first, it looked like a big ass cat or a fox. But when I looked again, I could tell it was a West Alameda possum.

I've gotten use to all sorts of critters in our neighborhood. I even have a truce with the Alameda Raccoons (don't F– with me and I won't F– with you).

Dead possum in the street

This possum is just laying in the middle of the street between Longfellow Park and Longfellow (NEA) School. He can't be "playing possum," I think to myself. With cars constantly going by, I'm going to get him out the street before somebody (else) hits him.

I find a discarded bag from a donut on the ground. I fold it up and use it as a glove. I grab the possum by its tail and carry it onto the sidewalk. I place him on the ground in front of the park.

Now, leaving a dead animal in front of a park frequented by children is not the business. "What should I do for the dead possum?" I figure there are two options, (a) bury him; (b) call animal control.

Alameda is known for its wildlife. Last fall, there were a series of highly publicized incidents with gangs of raccoons. When I was in high school, dozens of cats on Navy property were executed by the government.

But a lesser known group of critters are possums. The first possum I ever saw was on Third Street in West Alameda. I was walking to Encinal High and I saw a wet possum in the rain, just chilling on someone's lawn. It was cute in a very rabid way.
On my way home, I see two young men walking. One used come to the after-school program I used to run in the Esperanzas. I greet them both and keep heading home. My plan: get the shovel.

I turn around as I pass Lowe's Market on 5th, and they're taking pictures of the raccoon. I knew that would happen.

I ask my Mom for the number for Animal Control. When I tell her my plans to bury the possum, she says, "Boy, are you crazy? Those things will give you rabies." Y'all know a thing like rabies don't scare Reg.

Grabbing the shovel, I walk back and the two boys are still taking pictures. "Hey," I yell, "don't be messing with that possum."

Meanwhile, I had called the number to Alameda Animal Control my mom had given me. It forwarded me to Alameda Police. The woman on the line asked where I was at, my name, etc, and said she'd "send and officer when she could."

As approach, I see they've taken woodchips and scattered them on the possum's body. "Come here right now," I say to them, like a big brother or uncle might. "Why y'all do that?" I ask.

Of course they snitching on each other and "don't know." He continued, "I was trying to bury him." Riiiiight. The other explained how his older brother and his friends attacked a possum in front of him before.

Now, I wasn't going to do a Janazah for the possum, but I felt he deserved something better than to just laying on the ground while people threw shit on him. And I wasn't waiting for Alameda Police to come. They were likely too busy pulling over motorist to be worried about a possum. Besides, we know Alameda Police have serious training issues when it comes to dealing with other living creatures.

"Throwing wood chips on the possum is not the proper way to bury anything," I said. "You wouldn't want someone doing that to your cat or dog, or even to you, right? I'm going to show y'all how to properly bury a possum."

Taking the shovel, I dug a whole. One of the boys (there are four watching now, by the way) says, "We need a flower." He runs to a nearby yard and grabs one.

One of them starts talking about ghosts. I say that the possum has a spirit too, and that, in order to get forgiveness, he has to help dig the hole. Otherwise, I say, the Spirit of the Possum won't rest. "I hope his ghost comes back and gets whoever got him," the boy says, after both he and his friend dig up dirt.

After we dig the hole, I put the possum's body inside. "Do any of you want to say a few words about Mr. Possum before I begin?" I ask.

"I'm sorry for throwing wood chips on you." "Yeah, me too." "RIP Mr. Possum."
Here lies Mr. Possum

The third boy, probably 3 years old at most, just watches, eating his candy bar. I begin the funeral service:

"In the name of the Creator of all life, we are gathered here today in the memory of Mr. Possum. Paul the Possum. He was a good possum. He ain't ever hurt no body. He was our brother. Just like we like to play in the park, we liked to play in the park. Mr. Possum lived off the land. The same planet that feeds us gave life to Mr. Possum. From the earth we come, and to the earth we return. We pray for his family and hope they can cope with their loss, because possums need love too. All life is valuable. We must respect all life. Mr. Possum, may you rest peacefully.

I cover the hole with dirt. After I pack down the dirt, one boy puts the flower over the grave site. Next, everyone leaves and goes on about their day, but not after first paying respect to one of God's many creations. At the corner of Linden St and Lincoln Ave in West Alameda, Here lies Mr. Possum. Happy Easter.



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Insight into my daily regimen. Obviously of a different specimen. Me, myself & I. So fly. Welcome to the Daily Regiment.

This blog is an outlet for me to write about my life experiences. While there will be consistent themes in my writing -- because I am what I project in written form -- the topics will vary from day to day, and post to post.

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