"Call from, Tucker," said the metallic voice of my phone waking me at 11:20 p.m. I groped for the phone on the bedside table. Tucker was supposed to be home and in bed by 11:30 to prepare for a swim meet the next day.
"Mom," Tucker breathed heavily as he gasped my name. "I was so scared."
"What happened?" I asked.
He was walking home from Alex's house, about half a mile away in our little, and mostly safe, town. The police just put out a press release that said 11 cars have been stolen this year. All of them had the keys in them.
I had no problem going to bed before the boys were home because they always come in to kiss me goodnight when they get home and I know Earl will be home from work shortly after so he can bust them if they are late.
"I was walking past the bushes by Alex's house and I stepped on something," Tucker said, still out of breath. "It was a possum's tail."
Possums are mostly harmless creatures who waddle along at night looking for dinner. They're most famous for carrying their babies along as they walk and for their hairless tails.
After Tucker stepped on the possum tail, he screamed. He didn't say it sounded like a little girl, but that's how I imagined it. The possum started toward him and he ran.
Then Alex came out of his house to see why Tucker screamed and the possum headed toward him. He screamed (probably like a little girl) and ran in the house.
Apparently, he'd had a previous run in with a possum in his garage and he tried to shoot it with an airsoft gun.
I talked to Tucker for a few more minutes as he made his way through the dark streets. Then we hung up and I heard the back screen door slam shut and his big feet clomping on the floor. He leaned over the bed and kissed me goodnight and we laughed about the possum, even though he insisted it was "sooo scary."
And things that jump out in the dark are scary. We were running a few weeks ago in the dark when a little dog came running up to us snuffling. The dog wasn't threatening, and if we'd seen it, it wouldn't have scared us at all. But we weren't expecting it so we jumped and screamed and the dog's lucky we didn't kick it.
Living in a major metropolitan area, we have a surprising amount of wildlife. In addition to possums, we have numerous squirrels, birds, snakes, chipmunks, raccoons, groundhogs, and even foxes. The deer don't make it into our little burg very often and the coyotes, muskrat and beaver stick near the river.
Walking home at night, the odds increase of running into these creatures, but stepping on them is pretty rare. They usually spot the humans and scoot away.
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