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Siew Siang Tay

 

 

Possum

When I tell Amanda about the possum, she thinks I am crazy.

"It was right here, I tell you," I say on the phone.

"You’re joking," she says.

"I swear, Amanda."

"When?"

"Last night."

"You’re sure you’re not making this up, Jeff? Possums don’t wander the city."

"I know that," I say, "but I’m telling you, it got into this flat – our flat."

Pause. I hear her sighing. I feel her taking five steps back.

"Jeff, you promised. No referring to us or we."

I take a deep breath. "Yeah, okay… sorry. It’s been hard for me, Amanda. Your things are all around me."

"I know. Two months, as I said. No more. We’ll talk then."

I grip the phone. "But what’s that going to do?"

"Let’s not go through this again, please. I told you, I need some perspective."

I look around the flat. Near the sofa are Amanda’s sandals that she wore when we went to the seafront café just three weeks ago.

"Things okay there?" I say.

"Yeah. I’ve got a little corner in the spare room. My sister’s been really good. Leaves me alone most of the time."

Another pause. The shrill voices of kids roller-blading outside drift in through the window.

"So, what did the possum do?" she says.

"It ate the pear on the bench top. I watched it crawl in from the window."

"Was it cute?"

"Oh yeah, just like the one we saw when we went camping last year."

"Yeah, that’s right. It was on the tree, wasn’t it? I remember its eyes." Her voice lifts.

"You would have gone crazy looking at this one."

"Really?"

I see softness on her face.

"You would have, Amanda. Its eyes were huge, and it held the pear with its front legs and nibbled."

"Awhhh…that’s sweet." She sounds dreamy.

"Furry little thing it was. You should have seen it. I walked towards it, and it ran back out the window."

I hear the smile in her voice, her steady breathing.

"Well, I gotta go," she says.

"Okay. You take care, honey."

"And you."

After I put down the phone, I go to the kitchen. I take out a ball of string from the drawer. I tie the end of the string to the window knob. Pushing the window far out, I step back and let the string uncoil from the ball. I walk to the hallway, trailing the string across the floor of the living room. I give it a hard pull. The window slams shut. Tomorrow, I’ll put biscuit and cake crumbs on the bench top, and wait. Mustn’t forget to get a cardboard box on the way back from work. Yes, I’ll punch holes in the box so air can get through and line it with a blanket.

(Author’s note: possums are small mammals native to Australia)

 

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