Monday, February 22, 2021

When You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 22, 2021] ©2021

There are times when you just have to lie. 

All right, I can hear my many lovely devout friends shaking their heads and saying, “No, it is never okay to lie.”   So let this be my mea culpa

I lied. But if I hadn’t lied, I’d probably still have a dead possum in my front yard.

The day started out innocently enough as I hustled the kids out the door to be dropped off at school on my way to work.  I was, at the time, a divorced working parent with two grade school kids.  Getting to my university clerical job was essential to our survival. 

My then-nine-year-old, Rory, was the first to see it:  the huge dead possum lying on its back, feet in the air, in our front yard. 

“Cool!” said Rory, racing over to have a closer look.  “Can I bring it to school for sharing?”

Seven-year-old Henry caught up. “Neat!  Let’s name him Bob.” 

“Do not touch that!” I yelled, in hot pursuit.  I swear this possum looked like it had been happily meandering across the yard then keeled over of a massive marsupial infarction.  Its big eyes were wide open. 

Like most kids of divorced working mothers, my kids were latch key kids after school. I can say this because the statute of limitations is past. It was usually only 15 minutes before I got there. Who can you get to watch your kids for 15 minutes? Neither the school nor my boss were willing to change their hours.

But a lot can happen in 15 minutes.  Especially when you have a child as diabolically creative as my older son Rory.  The Rory stories in our family are plentiful and usually just referred to in family shorthand: “the Jolly Jumper baby brother slingshot disaster,” “the spray painting Henry silver crisis,” “the Jack in the Box ketchup explosion,” “the dropping the big rock down the chimney onto the metal grate two feet from where Mom was reading prank”, “The Cleveland airport debacle” (hopefully the warrant has expired), “the Chinese restaurant fiasco,” “the 15-inch rubber penis in the guest bath during Mom’s dinner party event,” and yes, even “the Bomb Squad incident.” In Rory’s defense, the HazMat guys should have realized right away it wasn’t a real bomb before they cordoned off the area.

Best case, I could see Bob tucked into my bed wearing my nightgown. It was imperative that the possum not be still there when the kids returned.  Rory Home Alone With Dead Possum Named Bob?  There were no good possibilities there.

Turns out that it is not so easy to get rid of a dead possum.  It’s against the law to put it in your trash.  During my lunch hour, I called every agency I could think of who might come get it, even Project Wildlife.  They pointed out that they don’t deal with dead wildlife.  Only live wildlife. Hence their name.   I realized I should have told them it was still breathing. Already my mind was operating in perfidy mode.

But finally I connected with the Dead Animal Recovery Bureau.  And yes, there is one.  Absolutely, they said.  We’ll come and get it.  I was massively relieved.  I gave them my address and noted that the decedent was in my front yard.

There was silence.  “Sorry, m’am.  We don’t go on private property.  We only take animals off of public property.”  And before I could say anything further, he said, “No exceptions” and hung up.

This was a dilemma.  Kids are going to be home from school in three hours, with lead time on me. I told my boss I had a personal emergency and raced home.  Donning rubber gloves I went out to the front yard and surveyed the situation.  Between the yard and the street was a three foot high fence.  There was clearly only one alternative.

Who knew a dead possum could be so heavy?  But once I got a little momentum going (“and a one and a two…”) Bob was airborne. 

Back at work, I was on the phone to the Dead Animal Recovery Bureau reporting a dead possum in the street. I did my best to disguise my voice.

The guy on the phone was suspicious.  “Didn’t you just call?”

“Call?”  I said.

“Well,” he said, “someone just phoned a while ago and reported a dead possum in their yard at this address.”

“Wow, I sure hope it’s not an epidemic,” I replied.  “But this possum is definitely in the street.”  For effect I added, “You might want to report this outbreak to Vector Control.”

When I came home, the kids were distraught that the possum, for whom they had great plans, had disappeared. 

“What happened to Bob?” they asked.

“Some nice animal people came and took Bob away,” I said.  “I’m sorry.”

Well, at least the first part of that line was true.



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