Friday, May 17, 2013

"I Was Riding Down the Road One Day" and That Someone, It Turns Out, Was Me


Back when this blog trickled out of the sports realm and into the whatever-I-felt-like-writing-about realm, I decided that it would be best for me to refrain from using curse words. I did this for some time, and applied the same rule to Twitter. The idea was that someone -- anyone -- was going to stumble across my writing, and say, I've got to tell the boss to throw this cat a pile of cash to do some writing, and that those chances would be hindered if I were immature enough to use profanity. Sort of like not wanting to have a bunch of blood-shot-eye, Jager-bomb-in-hand photos on Facebook while you're interviewing for jobs during the sunlight hours.

In hindsight, it was pretty dumb, but in hindsight, so have been many of the thoughts I've had since, well, adolescence. That said...

I fucking hate possums. Or opossums. Why do we have two frickin' ways of spelling this word? I looked at both entries on dictionary.com, and found myself with a better question than that: If the definition of these things includes the phrase "of the eastern U.S.", then why, in the name of all uncute marsupials, are these things everyfreakingwhere in the midwest?

We bought a house in October. There was one morning, about two months ago. I think it was a Saturday. I was carrying my usual, cumbersome work load out to the car, and there was this baby-heifer-sized opossum ambling through the neighbor across the street's lawn. I heard the lady of the house draw out an "Oh, my God" from the other side of her front screen door. I think we'd spied the thing at precisely the same time. I mean, these things are seldom mimicking Speedy Gonzales



but this particular pouch of mealy filth looked more like an all-night drunk about to nestle face-first into the grass for a 14-hour siesta. What it did instead, was quite possum-like, and by that I mean creepy; it slunk under the oh-my-God neighbor's next door neighbor's minivan, and sort of vanished. I couldn't believe the gall this creature had at like 9:00 a.m. It reminded me of that Chris Rock bit about fat ladies goin' out (:30 mark):



This little peckerwood just didn't care. It was gonna spook people first and worry about the consequences later.

Reminded me of the time I was living with my buddy Matt. I was out front late one evening with my old pal McConnell. This seemingly genetically enhanced possum was playing dead out in the street in front of the house. We walked -- McConnell trying to wrest free of the tight grip I had on the leash -- up, very near to the creature, and I threw rocks at it and spilled beer on it. I continued to try and agitate it, and it finally lifted its foul face and hissed at us, then quickly laid its skull back on the asphalt, as if to imply that we were giving away his act to anyone who hadn't yet seen him.

It was the weirdest thing the next morning: I found its carcass in the neighbor's front yard, mere feet from where it'd been laying, like it'd played dead just well enough to get run over.

Anyway, I didn't see many -- or maybe any -- for a few years. Not til I got married and moved into the wife's house. And then, every now and again, I'd peep one zipping in or out of one of our side yards and just feel this waterfall of hate come pouring over me. It was this strange cocktail of anger that almost suggested I literally stop everything I'm doing and not get back to any of it until I had stabbed the thing with a stick I whittled while hunting it.

And sometimes, I'd turn onto our street and be rolling along, and one would hustle across the road like dumb squirrels do. Like the voice in their head says, Holy shit, there's a car coming. I'd better run out in front of it in search of safety!

And you know sometimes when you're driving and an animal does that all of your muscles tense up and your face freezes in that sucking-in-through-your-teeth kind of ohmigosh. Strange thing about opossums, though, is that they almost always -- at least when I'm behind the wheel -- manage to escape unscathed, a suggestion that maybe they're smarter than squirrels, and perhaps a little less suicidal than those rabbits that get scared by your car/headlights and run alongside it for half a block only to then zip out in front of your fender.

Being the Phishhead that I am, any time this happens to me, I think of this song,



and the dozens of times I've heard versions of it, and the six times I've seen it live, and -- I'll tell ya' -- a strange thing recently occurred to me: I've sang the lyrics to "Possum" more times than I can recall, yet it never once gave me the real-life, high-definition picture of what it would be like to hit an opossum with my car.

That changed last night.

I played in consecutive rec-league ice hockey games, swung by work after for a snack, and hustled over to Hooper's to meet my sister for a beer before going home to do something Jeremy Danner and I like to call Oh, Shit; It's Trash Night.

We each had a beer and a shot and I swung my car around on 63rd Street, went east, then hung a right on Oak. As I neared Meyer Boulevard, it happened, and this freaking thing was easily the size of the one across the street a couple months ago. It did that stupid possum thing of running out in front of my car and turning to look just so, so that the despicableness of its face with its charcoal eyes reflecting my headlights back at me seemed to be trying to communicate with me. And as the thought, Man I hope I hit it washed in and out of my apparently rosy brain, I had one of those nanoseconds to think about what a horrible thing it was to think that.

Also there, in that compressed fraction of a fraction of a second, was the realization that I hadn't really braked or swerved or tensed up or cringed or anything. It was a measurement of time so small that only a mental quarter of an atom regarding things associated with God's creatures formulated before I heard the thunch.

Yes. When it's the crunch of bones it sounds like you've run over some sticks. When it's a semi-cumbersome inanimate object, it's more like a thud. This was a thunch, wherein the sound evokes a perfectly split sensation of a) Damn, that was a big animal I just hit, and b) Better not've fucked up my car.

Here's another thing about opossums, a theory if you will: They're like vampires. It's as if you see one when you drive past it, or you know one's run beneath your car, but when you look in the the rear-view mirror, they don't exist. Like, poof; no reflection.

I was compelled, though. Now, I actually slowed down so I could look for its maimed body in the road. Naturally, it wasn't there.

So I backed up. Like, 500 feet and swerved into the other lane so I wouldn't hit it again backed up.

Once I'd gone far enough, there it was.

I haven't exactly categorized all of the feelings associated with what happened next, but with my headlights indirectly displaying the thing laying there in the southbound lane, I turned the wheel for a better look. Everything happened pretty quickly, but what it looked like was that I'd broken it's neck without paralyzing it; the upper body lie motionless while the lower half appeared desperate: It was trying to run, perhaps literally, for its life.

And these were swift motions, the proverbial Scooby Doo of possums running in place. All that was missing was the sound effects.

Here's where it gets, as the saying goes, twisted.

My wife doesn't really eliminate existence from the planet. She doesn't smash gnats on the kitchen window sill, and instead of retrieving rolled-up newspaper for that spider on the wall, she leaves it be, claiming that it's helpful, that it'll eat other bugs. It's rather tough being married to someone so benevolent. She also, in case you were wondering, has the will power to ignore the obnoxious things our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter does, whereas I manage to let them raise my blood pressure and engage in what are likely power-struggle situations. Even worse, we're all regularly attending Mass these days, and that hasn't transformed me into some holy dude, but God is definitely in my life more now.

Regardless, I straightened out the Subaru and accelerated.

I mean, I didn't punch it. (Editor's Note: By the way, why are we, as humans, still peeling out? Do people still think that making a noise by laying some of your tire on the driving surface displays some level of badassery, or gets you laid? Are there people that find those people badasses/someone with whom they'd like to fornicate? Just curious.) But the the message sent from my brain to my foot was direct and deliberate, so much so that I did one last little number with the steering wheel to ensure contact with the flailing target. This time, it was a thump. A single, cold-and-lifeless thump.

And I never looked back.

I got home, emptied the contents of my hockey bag, switched loads of laundry, and took out the trash.

As I was preparing the next morning's coffee, the whole thing really injected itself into my head. I went to bed with it, thought about it periodically throughout the day, knowing all the while that I'd craft this post about the ordeal, and like I said: No idea what to do with it.

Half of it falls into the Louis C.K. "Of course, but maybe" category:



Of course...you should never kill something. But maybe...there is no real positive to having the opossum on the planet and I was contributing to what's supposed to happen: the elimination of the species.

Who knows. God might be pissed at me, I guess, and if the wife reads this, she'll be put out, but the thing is done, the fucker's dead, and I haven't been back to the accident/scene of the crime yet because no way am I driving down Oak for the next couple of days until somebody's display of bravery has led them to shovel that thing off of the street.

Either way, it's dead, I'm tired, and because my brain does the weirdest things, Bad Company's "Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy" has embedded itself in my head.

It's probably that last clip, and, speaking of: Even though there's one of many Louis C.K. Kansas City disses in it, this clip is hysterical: