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Smell the Coffee: The possum in the toilet wasn't playing dead

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I promised myself I wouldn't write about animals for a while, but all it took was an opossum in my toilet and that vow went down the drain.

It was an ill-fated decision the poor little guy made. He'd probably been out for an evening stroll, saw the uncapped pipe and couldn't resist a little spelunking adventure. Perhaps he'd heard tales from neighborhood wildlife of the house with the seemingly endless supply of Pop Tarts and the soft-hearted teenager and soft-headed woman who live there, and decided to sneak in the back way. Regardless of his intent, it went badly. For all involved.

I am not generally a screamer.

I screamed.

I suspect I'd likely have screamed regardless of whether the opossum had survived its journey or not. I'd have preferred to have dealt with a live opossum running loose in my house over one playing the role of commode buoy, but it was a bloated buoy I got.

Despite the late hour, the opossum received a decent burial courtesy of my daughter Celeste and her friends, who were spending the night. Unfortunately, the funeral was followed by a wake that included a giant bucket of cheese puffs from Sam's Club. Which they left outside on the porch.

I learned of this early the next morning, thanks to a violent rattling at my door from a young raccoon, which was thoroughly covered with Cheetos dust. It had wedged the Bucket o' Puffs between the door and porch rail and was attempting to reach a few errant tasty treats with his yellow stained hand, which was at the end of an arm far too short to nab the final prize. The determined little guy was so focused he didn't notice I was watching.

I decided to get the girls so they could see the bandit in action, but by the time they arrived, the coon had abandoned his container and was instead rattling the door with both hands.

"What's he doing?" someone asked.

"He's trying to get in," said Celeste.

"He's looking for his possum buddy," I said, and then switched to my attempt at a raccoon voice. "Where's Buffy? She said she'd meet me here. She was gonna unlock the door from the inside. Buffy! Where are you?"

Their lack of sleep apparently left them humor-impaired, unless wordless glares serve as the equivalent of mirthful laughter among the teen set these days. They stumbled back to their room, while I stood and watched the raccoon wrestle with my door. It wiggled its little fingers under the bottom and seemed to lift it just a bit. Had I not been standing there right then to stop it, the door would've popped open.

Much like it had apparently been doing over the past couple of weeks.

I'd been blaming the girls for leaving the kitchen door hanging open -- and blaming the dog for making such a mess with his food and water -- but realized it had likely been this nimble-fingered little marauder.

A sliding bolt lock was promptly installed to prevent future visits.

Dealing with the aftermath of the toilet possum hasn't been as easy.

It's been a week since the grisly discovery and I'm still not entirely right. Each time I go in the bathroom and lift the lid, I flinch. But that's mostly my own fault. You see, I created a monster. Her name is Celeste.

Celeste has spent so much of her first 16 years getting pranked by me that she's honed her skills and has been taking advantage of my freaked-outness over the opossum to do little things like shove a fake rubber foot in the toilet and close the lid. Or a stuffed bunny. Or a bunch of marshmallow peeps.

You have no idea how disturbing peeps can look after they've had a few hours of bloat time in a commode.

They just lie there, all swollen.

As if playing possum.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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