Today I have the pleasure to introduce a good friend and writer who promised to talk to you about the perils of living in south Florida. Please welcome Ahmad Taylor.
Every time an Opossum dies an angel gains his wings
We (my two roommates and I) live in a nice green area of south Florida; nice lawns and backyards, a golf course directly across the street, and palm trees up and down every block. Quite aesthetically pleasing most days and very nice at night when the stars are out and the air is cool and clean. In comparison to growing up in an urban part of Brooklyn, NY (actually all of Brooklyn was urban back then) I consider this type of living a definite treat for my senses. Most nights though, nature and the local wildlife make every fervent attempt to treat themselves to the lushness of my immediate outdoors.
During the spring, when the coconut and mango trees are flourishing and their fruits are in full bloom, you can hear nature encroaching upon our habitat with birds, squirrels and mice foraging around in the trees enjoying the fruits of their labor (yes, mice. Apparently being so close to water they are permanent residents of this area of town). You can often sit out back and watch mangos fall to the ground with bite marks and whole chunks chewed out of them already and hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet running from branch to branch gorging themselves on the abundant free meal. Even during the winter you can see a few trying to crack open old coconuts and partake of random seeds and plants that grow all around (since there is very little winter here something is always growing year round).
Now last year I sent my roommates a picture text of a very frightening, yet less than frightened of me, raccoon that was sniffing around the backyard. I can still see his big, bulging eyes staring intently in my direction trying to determine whether I was one of the idiots in the neighborhood I hear about who will set out food and even try and hand feed these wild beasts in their own yards. I certainly am not “that guy” and immediately took my arse back in the house. Those who have known me for some time will attest to my fear of animals (no matter the size or species), I mean it took me years just to get used to my roommate’s dog, who is a sweetheart, but with long teeth and a menacing bark, she can intimidate even the most avid dog-lover. In the case of the wild raccoon I think my fears were well warranted. While they may look cute (not really up close) they are the farthest thing from a pet and I don’t need to be reminded of that. The tale of the menacing raccoon stalking our backyard spread very quickly in our local circles and I took my fair share of ribbing for that.
I felt I had to provide you with a preface before jumping my harrowing tale, judge me as you will.
Sunday evening as one roomy was coming in from walking his dog, you could hear him calling out to the dog very loudly to ‘come inside now!’ As they entered and he slammed the door behind him, the first question was; ‘what’s going on buddy?’ He then opens the curtains to the front window to show us the very large, very dirty, very disgusting looking opossum that had parked itself on our front porch. Well after I let out a very loud noise of sorts (maybe a scream or wail or some type of less than manly sound), we all stood at the window trying to determine what the thing’s current state of being was. Was it dead? Was it sleeping? Was it playing opossum (yeah, you knew it was coming, folks)? None of us were about to brave enough to step outside and find out. A few more minutes passed and it stood up and meandered off into the bushes just next to the front door. Over the years, if you were up very early or coming home very late, this same opossum has been known to cross your path. We had determined that this creature had been taking up residence under the front porch for at least the last 2 years, maybe longer (no idea what the life cycle of an opossum is), and once it had moved from the porch to the bushes we all assumed it was finding its way home.
Fast forward to the next evening when roommate #1 comes home to tell me that the beast was still in the bushes just off the walkway, and most likely dead. ‘We have to get it out of there soon’ was the next thing he said to me (and knowing his thought process the proverbial “we” really meant Me!) If I wasn’t clear earlier, Ahmad no likey animals, especially not the nasty, feral, more than likely to be disease-ridden ones that lurk in the darkness of a Florida evening. Well once roomy #2 came home we all made a determination that ‘as a house’ we were going to wake up super early, grab the shovel and drop it off on the golf course across the street (better their problem than ours, right?). That plan sounded great ‘til it came down to execution. No one woke up with any inclination of bringing this plan to fruition, so the carcass stayed put.
Fast forward 3 ½ days later to the rotting corpse of a dead opossum near the front door whose odor was more than palpable, it was nauseating. Roomy #1 comes home with a declaration that “we gotta’ get that thing out of here soon, it stinks in here!” So we decided to try and implement the original plan of shovel to golf course immediately. So I put on a crappy pair of shoes, grabbed some gloves and basically prepared myself for a biological disaster site (think government issued bio-weapon suits and the movie: Outbreak). So as we approached the now maggot-covered body, the smell itself almost took us both out of commission. Drawing the short straw I was commissioned with shovel duty. I know most readers are asking, what is the big deal? Dead animal, long handle on the shovel, scoop and move, right? Ha! Wait, I say that again, HA!!! You don’t know me that well… homey don’t play ‘dat! Dead or not, I can imagine it turning around to try and spread its vileness all over me (I’m cringing even writing about it).
So it’s me, roomy, flashlight, shovel and our deceased squatter all in the moonlight trying to get this done:
Attempt #1: I walk back and forth several times trying to figure out what was the best angle of approach. Nothing happens for several minutes.
Attempt #2: With strong chiding I am directed to “come from the back, scoop under, lift and walk across the street.” Long story short, didn’t even get the shovel on the ground.
Attempt #3: After several minutes more of just laughing and then being serious, I get the shovel into place. As I am digging into the ground behind the body, I hear, “Dude, you’re still a foot away from it, you’re not even close.”
Attempt #4: I psyche myself up, pound my chest, and admonish myself to nut up and get it done. FYI, nothing happened.
Attempt #5: My roommate, obviously frustrated with the lack of testicular fortitude on my end, finally grabs the shovel from my hands and moves it. He gets in under the body and begins to extract it from the bushes. Problem #1, only half came out. Ugh!!! ONLY HALF! Needless to say, terrified screams could be heard miles away I’m sure (I won’t say who was screaming, but his name rhymes with: Ahmad). At this point, with half a disintegrating carcass we have to figure out what to do. We determine that it would not hold up being transported the 100 or so steps to its final resting place, so we got a garbage bag to dispose of it. Reasonable enough idea, except for one problem though: I had to hold the bag. F’ that is basically what was running through my mind. Way too close to my body. Well again I am chided to man up and get it done. So I close my eyes and allow the half a torso to plop down in the bag (cue more screaming and jumping around).
Attempt #6: The front end, including the ugliest face on anything ever seen, comes out on the shovel and I’m again demanded to hold the bag open. Plop #2. On this one I genuinely jump high in the air and dance around as if I was being attacked by the surplus of insects chewing this thing to pieces. I don’t know what I used to run the 40-yd dash in during my athletic years, but I’m pretty sure I could’ve tied or beat those times this evening, as I streaked around the side of the house and to the trash cans in the back.
I then washed my hands and arms for the next 15 minutes trying to scrub away any remnants of the odor, the sight, the thought of how disgusting that thing was.
Finally though, we were opossum free (hallelujah). My message to readers out there: if you’re outside this evening, and can see the stars in the sky, look very closely. Just out there, in the skies over south Florida, that one bright new star, the one that looks like it has rabies… that’s an angel being born from the death of this vile creature.