Two score and 18 weeks ago we loaded up a wagon with all of our worldly goods and migrated over the great hills of Hollywood to live henceforth in the land known as “The Valley.” We waved goodbye to poke restaurants to which we could walk, and streets that received weekly cleanings, and sighed hello to the warm prevailing winds of change, and also of burning smoke from a land almost constantly on fire.
Just a few short moons after arriving at our new homestead, we encountered the previously unknown-to-us beast known as the opossum. He and his brethren murdered our flock of hens, drowned in an errant empty pot, and came to untimely ends falling out of trees into our trashcan. But one of these loathsome creatures met its fate in a way that has stuck with me, and stuck to the ground, for quite some time.
I shall say that the possum is an animal that I do not appreciate. I do not appreciate his black, beady eyes; nor his pale, dirty, carrot-like tail that looks as though it was just plucked from the depths of the soil; nor his long fingers, which outstretch from entirely too human-like hands to grab trash and consume it as though it was a glorious roman feast. I do not appreciate you, fair possum! I shall rejoice when you dispatch forthwith from my homeland never to return again!
But, dear creature, you have lived, and you have loved, and you have tried so hard to establish a home for yourself and your children in this industrial wasteland of human excess. I acknowledge your dedication, I applaud your tenacity, I never hoped for your suffering. I truly never meant for you to meet this fate.
For whence you tried to cross the freeway off-ramp, perhaps to get slightly closer to the riches of cheese that awaited you in the Taco Bell parking lot, your struggle ended abruptly and I’m quite sure, painfully. The sight of your bloodied corpse from the window of my carriage did not bring me joy, sir. It did not bring me joy.
When I saw your desecrated body there upon the road again the next day, I was truly disgusted, though not with you or your kind. Disgusted by the sight of your entrails, and by the fact that you remained there for lo now 24 hours, uncared for. Un-buried. Un-dead in a sense. It brought me sadness. It caused me to reflect upon your struggle, and really all of our struggles. Who am I to judge you, god’s creature? Are we not the same? Are we all not engaged in a great struggle to survive and also sometimes to get to Taco Bell?
When in a fortnight your body still remained un-interred upon the barren off-ramp of the road known as the 170, I became concerned. Concerned for my city, uncaring to clean your surely diseased corpse from this intersection of human experience, this great crossroads of lives? I considered donning the costume of the gravedigger, lifting you with gloved hand into a strong sack and laying you to rest in a peaceful bin, but alas the danger was too great. I feared I would meet your same fate. So I did nothing. My child gazed upon you in wonder that you were no longer bloody, and had grown rather flat. What message was I sending her? Is life worthless? Is there any meaning in anything? Do we have no responsibilities? Don’t we owe even our filthy vermin enemies some dignity, some overarching kindness?
I posted a notice about you in the town square, hoping the criers would take up your cause! But the townspeople on nextdoor.com saw you as a symbol of everything wrong with our outpost; of disassociation from public services, a lack of caring, a sense of doom about the future. I removed myself from the town square before the hysteria grew too great. And still, you remained, growing flatter and grayer and sadder as the tides changed, the moons grew and shrank, even as the sun shaded over and eclipsed your memory. You slowly turned to dust, dear opossum, as we all must eventually.
Upon the fine morning of yester, I rose like any other morning and proceeded to dispatch my child to her place of education so as she could continue her studies in hopes of rising herself to a world not littered with the desiccated corpses of opossums. It hath been 12 moons now that we have seeked out and found your body with our eyes, it has become a light post to us, a signal that we are almost home, a fine point on the end of our daily voyage through the hills and desert to our family’s land.
But alas, yesterday you were not there! Our signposts have broken, our north star hath dimmed! What change! What monumental shift in the fabric of space and time! Let it be here known that upon Monday, the 18th of September, the year of our lord Two Thousand and Seventeen, you, dear opossum, valued friend, confidant of our deepest fears, gateway to the afterlife, were street-swept from the median and risen to the heavens, where you shall live out your days as a hero in our hearts!
My soul feels wiped clean! A new season is upon us! A new hope arises! From ashes we come, and to ashes you have returned. May you rise from them ever stronger! Godspeed, dear possum! Godspeed.
The image of the adorable possum is by Paul Canon, and can be purchased in print form here: Fine Art America.