Possum In The Moonlight

Last night the moon hung low in the sky, almost touching the ground as if hanging from the heavens on a string. I had to close the curtains tight to get some sleep but even then the slightest of silvery shimmers broke through casting a haze over the room.

I drifted in and out of sleep, lying on a hairsbreadth edge of the bed to avoid the chip of moonlight dappling the blankets.

There was a noise – a boom and reverberation that caused the windows to shake – and then a thumping on the roof. I quickly became convinced it was the end of the world. That the Hadron Collider had in fact succeeded in causing us all to be sucked into a black hole; there had just been some kind of delay in the time-space continuum, but it was happening, really happening. The end of the world was nigh.

I threw back the covers and ran down the hallway and out through the kitchen into the garden. I had not expected that when faced with the end of the world I would immediately run outside, but for some reason I thought that the garden held the clue to my fate.

And I was right.

Here was the clue – 



Looks all sweet and innocent, doesn’t he? But this brushtail possum has the power to hold an entire Sydney household hostage. Night after night after night.

Possums are incredibly hardy and adaptable creatures. Cut down their trees they move into our chimneypots, worming their way into attic cavities and holes under eaves. You don’t even know they’re there until night falls and they come bounding out onto the roof, leaping like athletes from roof to tree to roof again. This bouncing around can go on all night long, causing even the strongest of hearts to quiver in their beds.

Possums are solid and strong. Some are as big as a terrier dog. And they take no prisoners. When we lived in our old house there was a Fiddlewood tree outside our bedroom window. We had a family of possums (4 or 5 of them) who used to sit in the tree and munch on the leaves all night. They made so much noise running up and down the branches and stripping the foliage that we couldn’t sleep. Spraying them with water just resulted in them hissing at us through the window, sometimes flinging themselves against the screens.

Naturally, when I saw the possum in the garden last night I thought twice about taking him on. Sometimes even saying :’ Shoo. Get out of here,’ can cause these cute little fellas to attack. My neighbour sustained a nasty cut from a possum she encountered in her compost bin. He didn’t bite her, he clawed her. She required six stitches and a tetanus shot.

I eyed the possum. He eyed me back. In a way I was glad to see him because it meant the world wasn’t coming to an end, that it had been his thumping about on the roof that had caused such a ruckus.

His grey coat was luxuriant in the moonlight. He sniffed the air, wrinkling his nose at me as if assessing whether I was friend or foe. He smelled of dried grass and mandarin skin. From my mandarin tree, more than likely. He had the tiniest segment of mandarin in his paw which he munched on every now and then as if to show his defiance.

A copse of clouds gathered, shielding the moon, and for a moment the garden fell into purple blue dark. The possum flexed his long, brushy tail, sweeping the ground with it like it was a cape. 

The clouds shifted and the moonlight struck, bright as headlights. I squinted, the possum squeaked in protest and within seconds he had shimmied up the scribbly gum near the back fence and up and over the laneway to the ancient maples in the schoolyard. Where he leapt after that is anyone’s guess.

To leap under moonlight must taste like freedom. Prancing and dancing like an actor in a musical. Stamping your soul for the briefest of moments on every landing place you come to.

If the world had been coming to an end, if the universe had been shifting, I wouldn’t have minded parading my silver pelt under the moonlight, balancing on fence posts and tall trees like a circus performer.

 I close the back door and turn out the light. The possum is gone and the garden is silent, but the moon shines, dropping glistening sequins on to the ground.

31 thoughts on “Possum In The Moonlight

  1. Possums… wow. Sounds both wonderful and worrying. I wonder if they are our racoons. (Except racoons don’t climb that well. But they can be loud.)

    I am rather astounded how much this collier has seeped into our collective consciousness… no we are not afraid. Much.


  2. Lovely writing, as usual.

    But what really got me is how frickin’ cute your possums our. Our possums look like crosses between lizards and large rats. And they most certainly do NOT smell like dried grass and mandarins. (Also, I would kind of like a perfume like that. “Moonlight Possum.” “Eau de Marsupial.” The name needs work…)


  3. Moonlight Possum perfume- very funny!
    What a lovely piece of writing, Selma. It’s true that particle accelerator is just adding to the many woes that come to our minds as we lay down to sleep.


  4. Wild animals are real cute as long as they’re not bugging you. I’ve heard possum meat is actually palatable, if you’re hungry enough. I like the sound of birds chirping, unless they’re the large family that lives outside my bedroom window that begins sqwaking at the break of dawn every morning. I also like the sound of crickets, unless it’s the one with the chirp that’s as loud as a jackhammer that parked itself outside the window one night this summer.


  5. “If the world had been coming to an end, if the universe had been shifting, I wouldn’t have minded parading my silver pelt under the moonlight, balancing on fence posts and tall trees like a circus performer.”

    Hear! Hear! Perhaps a little practice once in a while is in order? Act like the world is coming to an end and do something wild and totally out-of-character. Of course, for me that would mean cleaning the house…


  6. When I lived in Marryatville (suburb of Adelaide)we had lots of possums. But, not as many as the guy our landlord told us about (and he swore it was true)

    He said about this guy who rented a property near the Reserve (read ‘waste ground’) from him, and got so steamed up about the possums that he sought accommodation elsewhere. So, one day, he loaded all his worldly goods on to a borrowed ute, and, unnoticed by him, as he pulled away … the possums climbed on to the load, and went with him.


  7. NAT – they are cute creatures but they can be a nuisance too. I suspect they are a bit like your racoons. That collider really has got people going, hasn’t it? It’s almost like we’re waiting for the end of the world. Yikes.

    HEATHER – my sister sent me a photo one of your possums. They are a little freaky looking, I must admit. ‘Eau de Marsupial’, I like that. Britney Spears launched a perfume, I don’t see why a bit of possum parfum wouldn’t work!!!

    LAURI – modern life is full of worries and woes, isn’t it? Or maybe that’s just human life. At least now we don’t need to worry about being sent to the guillotine or contracting the black plague, we just have worries of a more technological kind, like waking up in a parallel universe. LOL.

    RICHARD – not sure if possum pie will be on the menu any time soon but I do know some people who have tried it. They look too much like domestic pets for me. I know what it’s like to have the crickets chirruping all night – nightmare!

    KAREN – hahahaha. You are always guaranteed to make me smile. I’m all for doing something out of character once in a while – good for the soul!

    CRAFTY GREEN – now that is a huge compliment coming from you. Thank you!

    GERALDINE – he might have looked scared but he was a cheeky one. There is a cuteness about possums that is hard to resist, though!

    TRAVELRAT – oh, that is an absolutely priceless story. I love it. I can just imagine them doing that. I bet he got a surprise when he unpacked the ute!


  8. We’ve been very lucky with possums. Our next door neioghbour has quite a few families of possums living in his shed. We just have a cute little fella that lives in a tree at the end of the driveway. Whenever we come home at night our headlights catch his big googly eyes and he just syay there, perfectly still as if thinking we can’t see him if he doesn’t move.


  9. Oh my gosh, I’ve never found possums so intriguing until now! What a cute little mandarin predator. I think I would have handled that little encounter exactly the same way.


  10. I live in the Southern part of the USA, and your possums are much, much cuter than ours. Then again, ours are ugly. They’re not even cute when they’re little. They’re not ever cute — and they’ve got nasty teeth and nasty personalities.

    But I’m feeling very warm and tender about our possums right now, because never, not once, have they gotten on my roof, or even in a tree near the house. The only time they wake me up is when they come in the yard and cause the dog to bark.

    I had no idea a possum could be cute or a menace.

    Or an inspiration for such beautiful writing. How do I get to your Saturday prompts? It wasn’t a hot link, but then again, maybe the possums have disabled it.


  11. What a great post Selma! I laughed at how the possum holds a whole family hostage. It’s so true! we are always afraid of what we don’t understand, and this cute, creepy, ugly, night walking thing is definitely something we don’t understand! Also, they have that rotten hiss and the segmented tail!

    I love how you turned it into beauty. I have a secret love of these weirdos!


  12. I love our possums, but, yes, I do grumble when they wake me up at night. We have both brushtails and ringtails, but it is mainly the brushies that go stomping over our roof in their “army boots” (the former owner of our house’s description in an advisory letter to us). Sometimes they lose their footing as they run over the apex of the roof and they come crashing down onto the flat part. It’s only the follow-up thump, thump, thump that lets us know it was a possum and not a tree or a boeing falling onto our roof. I’ve given then names like Fatty McStomp and Thumpy MacFat-Butt.


  13. Oh my God – I was so sure I was reading one of your fiction stories! You can make an everyday thing sound so amazing!!!! OK thinking its the end of the world because of that stupid collider thing and running out of the house to face a possum is not an everyday event I must say – but they way you wrote it it was just fantastic!!!! I think I will make you write my biography – even the boring stuff you will make it sound so interesting! You are able to transform anything into such beautiful stuff!


  14. GYPSY – oh please don’t worry about any typos. I have noticed that I have omitted entire words from comments I have left lately. That little possum of yours sounds very cute. I can just imagine his googly eyes.

    ANTHONY – oh boy, do I know what you mean. Noisy neighbours – the biggest pests on the planet. LOL.

    GERALDINE – Anthony is a character isn’t he?

    LINDA – they are little rascals but their cute little faces get me every time.

    MELEAH – awww thanks, Meleah. I am really pleased about that!

    EPIPHANY – they love fruit. They can strip an entire tree in a couple of nights. And they don’t eat the skin so you see this peel all over the garden in the morning!

    LIFEPUNDIT – thanks for stopping by. Great to hear about your possums. I’m sorry the link isn’t working for you. You can find the site here http://searchenginefiction.wordpress.com. Would love to see you there.

    PAISLEY – I don’t know what happens but sometimes I just start describing things in my head. It doesn’t happen all the time but sometimes there is a real narrative going on. It can be a weird experience.

    PWADJ – even though they can be little rascals, I am fond of them too. You should see the babies. Too cute. And there are these tiny ones out in the bush – I think they’re called Sugargliders. Cuteness personified.


  15. DAOINE – Yes! They do stomp over the roof in their army boots. And it is so loud you think the sky is falling in. Love the names – very cute!

    TBALL – you are one of the sweetest people I know. What a lovely thing to say. Thank you. XXX0000XXX


  16. Just lovely Selma – beautiful writing as always and so thought provoking. “I had not expected that when faced with the end of the world I would immediately run outside…” What a wonderful look to the center of a person – I have no idea what I might do and I love that you got me thinking about this. Ditto everyone on the cuteness of your possums, and your end line is just incredible – very fresh take on moonlight, I can really see it. Thanks.


  17. Ugh – I don’t like them. In Tx we saw them all the time – in fact, my sister just got through chasing a whole family of them out of her walls! Yuck!


  18. “…they love fruit. They can strip an entire tree in a couple of nights. And they don’t eat the skin so you see this peel all over the garden in the morning!”

    Except for lemons – they nibble all the peel off the lemons and leave bizarrely naked lemons hanging on the tree! (the inside is too sour for them)

    And they love red. I planted a selection of red and green lettuce and the red ones were razed to the ground, while the green was untouched. And I lost the red flowers I planted the first year we were here.


  19. QUILLY – you are lovely. I am still thinking about that dove you photographed. So gorgeous!

    KAYT – it was a reaction I hadn’t expected – to run outside. What that means or says about me I really don’t know, but it has got me thinking. Thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot!

    TEXASBLU – yikes. They are a much bigger pest in New Zealand (where my hubby comes from) than they are here. A house he lived in had its ceiling collapse due to all the possum dropping in the roof cavity. Disgusting!

    DAOINE – I didn’t know that about the lemons or the red. What fascinating little creatures. They have their own personalities, don’t they?

    DAVID – My palate will stay strictly possum-free I suspect. I can’t imagine what it would taste like but I don’t really want to find out. You crack me up with what you are able to track down. How do you do it? LOL.


  20. “They are a much bigger pest in New Zealand (where my hubby comes from) than they are here.” and “So cute,so tasty”

    Possums are still a protected species here in Aus. They were introduced into New Zealand for sport and quickly became an out-of-control pest, so it is completely legal to kill them in NZ, but not in Aus.


  21. DAOINE – did you know that when my hubby was about 20, the possums were such a pest in NZ that the government handed out money in exchange for pelts? Absolutely barbaric when you think about it.


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