Didelphis virginiana

Thinking about my dad, and one of my favorite stories about him.

I was about 18. We owned a kennel. One morning my dad came in from doing the morning kennel rounds with a deeply furrowed brow.

Dad (in his thick Czech accent): ‘You know… the strangest thing just happened.’

‘I was opening up the kennel, and when I did, the dogs, they started barking like crazy!’
‘So I go outside!’ He said, ‘and there is this possum! She is laying there dead, just outside.’

‘So I go, I get a shovel, I get a trash bag, because you can’t just leave it there.’

‘And when I get back… she is gone!’

‘I loook, I go back in the kennel, I come back out… no possum!’
‘It’s the damn-dest thing.’ He said. ‘I feel like I’m going crazy!’

I had listened to this without interruption, and now that my dad had finished and was staring into the middle-distance pondering his mental state, I asked him:

‘Dad, have you ever heard the expression, “Playing Possum”?’

There was a moment of silence as he processed this. Then suddenly, he slapped the back of his left hand on the palm of his right, in a gesture of sudden insight:


‘Son of a…’ and he started to laugh at himself.

‘She! She played a trick on me!’ He laughed and laughed.

‘Oh my.’ He said,

‘You know, I feel embarrassed, but good for her.’

He put on his hat to go back out, still talking to himself and laughing.

‘Playing possum.’

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