Survival of the Fittest

Bill saw him first, this tiny possum at the side of the road on the nature strip. I was in the drivers seat about to take the car out of the driveway, when Bill pointed it out. The possum was trying it seemed to scale the long shiny telephone pole, one of those broad silver poles painted black at the base. The possum could not get any grip on the pole and kept slipping back onto the grass. Slowly in full beam of the headlights it skipped across our driveway, in search of a tree, we imagined. I looked towards the tree on the other edge of our nature strip beyond our driveway imagining that at any minute the possum would appear on his ascent to the safety of the tall branches. It could not possibly go out onto the road, I thought. It would have more sense than that. The traffic on Riversdale Road in front of our house stood at a standstill waiting for the lights to change. Friday night, early darkness, headlights flashing like a million bright eyes. The possum stepped out onto the road and stopped between the line of stationary cars. The cars in front took off and the driver immediately behind the possum seemed to hesitate. The driver must have seen it, I thought and waited for him to get out and shoo the possum away. But whether the driver had seen it or not a second later the car took off. I put my hands over my face. I imagined the possum underneath the belly of the car safe from the wheels. But when I took my hands away I saw car after car drive over the top of the possum. It was dead in minutes. It did not stand a chance.
By the time we returned home from collecting our Friday night takeaway dinner, the possum was a mashed up mess, by morning it was spread so thin across the road it was longer recognisable as a possum.

Possums are pests around here, but I could not feel the satisfaction of one less possum in this instance, one less critter to eat the buds off the roses before first flowering. This little chap was dead in first flowering, dead too soon. Thinking about it now fills me with the sense of trauma I felt that night half watching, half hoping it would all go away. Five days later it’s hard to get that death out of my mind.

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