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.