Anthony is a Virginia opossum. He is almost as large as a cat. Most of his fur is a mix of gray and brown colors, but his face is white. When he is going about his business, his black eyes and long face are pleading. His face and fur invite touch, but his bare tale is creepy. His long snout filled with sharp teeth is unsettling.
Anthony lives inside the hole of an oak tree. The oak tree is in a forest. From the forest, he can hear the sounds of people enjoying their backyards. Children are particularly loud. He can smell barbeques and even some of the uncooked food people place on their tables. He is tempted to investigate. One day, he does.
Anthony pokes his head out of the hole in the tree where he lives. He looks around. He smells the air. There is no danger. He cannot hear people, but he can always smell their food. He climbs out of the hole and down the side of the tree. He walks with a sway on the ground. The legs on one side of his body move forward together at the same time. Then, the legs on the other side of his body move forward together at the same time rustling the leaves on the forest floor beneath his feet.
Anthony arrives at a fence where the woods end and a backyard begins. The fence is wooden. It is built with vertical boards. An empty space as wide as the boards is between them. He easily fits through a gap and feels delightful scratches on his sides as he crawls through it.
Once Anthony is in the yard, the smell of food hits his nose. It places a gentle finger under his chin and leads him across the lawn to the side of the house. There he finds two garbage cans surrounded by loosely filled lawn and leaf bags. The cans are overfilled with white garbage bags that prop their lids open. The smell is so strong he can almost distinguish the food items of the buffet that awaits him.
Anthony looks for a way to climb to the opening of the cans. He sees a way up using the lawn and leaf bags. They create a kind of staircase. As he climbs the bags, he hears barking. He looks in the direction of the sound and sees a dog sprinting from the back of the house toward him.
Anthony is suddenly overwhelmed by fear. His body takes over. He falls on his side as if he has been shot. He lays on top of a lawn and leaf bag with his mouth and eyes wide open. His tongue hangs out the side as if his last wish was to taste the top of the paper bag on which he lays. He emits a putrid green fluid from his anus. The dog is suddenly silent. The smell makes him pause. His eyes water. He throws up a little in his mouth. Someone calls the dog’s name from the back door of the house. The dog is eager to sprint away from the smell.
According to Anthony’s heart and breathing rate, he is in a coma. However, he is fully conscious and mortified. He would have rather been bitten – no, killed – by the dog than witness the look on its face after he soiled himself. He is incredulous that he was capable of putting that awful smell in the air. He feels like a coward.
Anthony stops death feigning once the dog is inside. He pulls his tongue back into his mouth and closes it. He stands. He hates himself for responding the way he did. He feels ashamed. He feels he is worth nothing and should be dead. He tells himself he must never act like a coward again. He needs to be able to live with himself.
Anthony climbs the rest of the way to the opening of a garbage can. He is going to eat his self-loathing. He tears open a bag with his claws. The smell of the food in the garbage bag is strong. It is mouthwatering. He finds a piece of fried chicken and tastes it. Delectable. The outside is crunchy. The meat inside is full of flavor. It makes him forget what happened. He finds bits of scrambled egg. There is a hint of cheese and salt. Appetizing. He tastes a blob of something unidentifiable. It appears as though it may have come from a kitchen sink strainer. Tasty. He is experiencing so much pleasure he does not notice the dog has returned.
The dog barks. It is an angry bark. It says, ‘The only good reason you have to be in my garbage can is that you are dead, and you are clearly not!’ The dog is a little mass of fur, skin folds, and rage.
Anthony must fight, but not against the dog. He is on a garbage bag on the can beyond the Toy dog’s reach. He must fight against the feelings inside of him that lead to involuntary death feigning. He feels his legs begin to fail him. The fight going on inside of him is fierce. His mouth opens. Food that is not completely chewed falls out of his mouth. He refocuses from the dog to relaxing his body. He lies calmly on the garbage bag. The dog is barking. He takes deep breaths. The dog is barking. He is soothed by the delicious smell of garbage. He tenses and relaxes his muscles to the rhythm of the dog’s barking.
A woman comes out of the back of the house to investigate the reason for the barking. She sees Anthony in the garbage. She begins waving her arms. She picks up a river stone from the landscaping by the stairs, throws it at him, and misses. He hisses. She picks up another stone, throws it, and it hits the can he is in. He screeches. She picks up a third stone.
Anthony does not know what happened to that third stone. He jumps off and sprints toward the woods. The dog chases him. Anthony turns around and shows the dog his numerous sharp teeth. The dog stops chasing him, but stands its ground and barks. Anthony turns around and walks toward the fence. He goes through a gap and into the woods.
Anthony does not run the rest of the way home. He walks with a defiant wobble. He took flight, but he does not feel that makes him a coward. He did not soil himself when the dog threatened. He responded to the woman’s attacks. He threatened the dog when it chased him. That was much better than feigning death and stinking up the place. He did what he wanted to do. He did not let fear take over.
As a result, Anthony’s world is larger. There are more places to go. There are more things to see. There is more delicious garbage to eat. That’s a good thing, because the life of a Virginia opossum is short. Anthony is making the most of it.
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