Upon Abject Failure of Roadkill Rescue
I yanked my shorts down from my butt, looking first to make sure no one was watching. The causeway stretched another mile to the bridge shimmering ahead.
The marsh smelled of decay, a good smell, all salty and sulphury. The high tide lapped against the rocks shoring up the road. A few marsh hens fluttered up, complaining about my intrusion. So far, it looked like the perfect October morning.
The moon had been full last night, a dead critter moon. A possum, black furred with silver tips and a pointed snout lay on the verge. Five babies gripped her back, squirming like furry little maggots. One of the babies yawned and hissed.
If I finished my run and left them here, they would die slowly as the sun rose. I could kill them, giving them a humane death. It would be as easy as crushing their tiny heads under my heel.
I plucked the little possums by their naked tails and tucked them in the front of my shirt like a mess of fallen pears. You have to be careful with fallen pears since wasps hide in their sweetness. On the run home, thighs sweating and my belly showing, I kept thinking one of them would bite me through the marsupial pouch I’d made for them.
I settled them in a big aquarium on the back porch belonging to guinea pigs past. Every morning I fed, watered them and cleaned their bedding. And every morning they hissed, rolled their eyes, bared their teeth and occasionally, tried to bite me.
Honestly, I wondered about their lack of gratitude.
All was going well, except for the hissing and biting part, and I became hopeful that I could release them. It was about this time they began eating each other’s tails.
I called a vet to ask what to do.
“They are eating each other’s tails.”
“Yes, they’ll do that.
The cannibalism continued.
I loaded them in the car and took them to a spot by the marsh. They tried one last time to bite me before waddling off into the woods. They didn’t look back.
How to Dig A Hole
First, you decide where to dig.
In this case, it is a hillside with a view of the lower pasture and the farm road.
You take with you a mattock and a shovel. The mattock is always necessary because of the rocks. In South Carolina, the dirt is soft and easy to dig. That is not the case here. And this makes a great deal of sense to you. Because this is a hole that shouldn't be easy to dig. It is better if it is the hardest hole you have ever dug.
You use the mattock to chip out the shape of the hole then carve out the topsoil with the shovel.
In this case, the shape of the hole is rectangular, and roughly the size of a child's grave.
You want to make the hole perfectly shaped since you are going to be in it for quite some time digging. It is also going to hold something very precious and the hole should be worthy of what is going into it.
The hole should be at least three feet deep. This is hard, since there are large slabs of rotten granite hidden under the soil. You will hit them about the time you have gotten about a foot and a half down.
At that point, you will curse and realize you don't have the proper tools to break up the twenty-pound rock that stubbornly refuses to move even using the pick end of the mattock.
You will hike back to the house for your sledgehammer and a star and plain wedge. You wish you had a proper tool for stone, but the wedges will have to do.
While you are there, you might as well go inside and drink a big glass of Kool-Aid. Tropical punch flavor is what is available. You rest a while and call a friend to come help.
When you arrive back at your partially dug hole with the sledge and wedges, you climb down to see exactly where the rock will break. It is hard to swing the sledge in the narrow confines of the hole. You will have to alternate between swinging the sledge at the wedge in the rock and then using your bare hands to dig the loose rock and soil out.
Your hands might bleed. That is okay. Because this should be a difficult hole to dig.
Finally, you are successful at pulling this rock out of the ground in pieces. But there is a much larger rock beneath it.
Just then, your friend arrives. He is a burly man and makes much more progress at exposing the big rock in the hole.
But this is the hardest rock of all to budge. And this is okay. This is supposed to be the most difficult hole you will ever dig.
Your friend wonders if it would be better just to leave the rock and dig around it. The shape of the hole is, after all, nearly perfect. But it is the very perfection required of this hole that cries out for having that big rock removed. It must go.
So you work on. In two hours, you manage to finally get the rock out. It must weigh sixty pounds. You have broken your sledge, broken your mattock and broken a wedge getting this one rock out.
But the hole is nearly perfect now. The sacrifice of tools was worth it. A tiny bit more digging and smoothing and the hole is indeed perfection.
That's how you dig a hole.
My shadow fell across her face through the dappled splotches of sunlight; and in that moment, I saw her for the first time as she really was and not as I wanted her to be. Her head rested on my lap and when I looked down on her tip-turned face I blinked hard. I saw her that day and knew she wasn’t quite right.
I walked from the park with her nestled into the crook of my arm, smelling the leather of my jacket. I had told her I loved her but didn’t know how to untie that knot so I stood, stony-faced and remote, knowing I’d never say it again. She pressed herself to me like a lamprey to a shark and I wondered what essence she would drain from me that day.
Driving home, she turned to me and asked, "Is something wrong?"
“No. I’m just tired."
“I love you."
Roadkill Rescue is a true story. I really did have a hideous experience raising baby possums.
How to Dig a Hole was written following the death of my beloved service dog, Aegis.
Me, Too is about the single second, if you could identify it, when you fall out of love.
Photo (of Hillside): Alfred Borchard