Tuesday, January 04, 2005


I saw the worst thing on the way into campus this morning. In the middle of the road, a possum had been hit, just hit. It was how he sat that was so sad: on his haunches, his chin resting on his chest, little arms in his lap. Blood poured from his nose. How like a little person, sitting there, dazed and dying, I'm certain. Somehow it wouldn't have seemed as bad had he been on his side, maybe. I sat through a meeting with that image. Pitiful thing.


Anonymous said...

so sad


A.R.B. said...

That just reminded me, Paul, during one of my trips to the States, many years ago, in that great, ugly place called Newark, N.J., I saw a cat suffer a similar fate. It was something surreal. This beautiful yellow-striped cat right before our eyes, crossing the road as a car passed right through him. But it caught only his head. Nothing but his head and the cat body stayed alive, I don’t know for how long, but it was too long, the body just moving about, hump on its back, ready for battle. This happened maybe 20 years ago and I have never gotten over that image. Had he been seconds late crossing….things might just have been different.


Anonymous said...

The cat incident notwithstanding, I saw a similiar incident one quiet night in Wartburg.

On Catoosa road there is a fairly sharp turn (at this point in the story most locals would say "the one with the house that has all the reflectors by the road?" "Yep," I would say.)

Driving one night with a few friends in my car and high-beams blazing, I came around that corner. Directly in the middle of the road was a(n) Opossum that had been severely mangled, yet still it was still living.

It looked at me.
It looked into the hollow well of my soul and spat out curse of damnation to me and my kind.

It blamed me.
With it's menacing claw, it's quivering, broken jaw, it's blood splattered fur.

I missed it.
And now I will always wish that I had turned around and killed it with my hands, with a rock. Let it die a personal death. Not a death of asphalt and tires.

Thanks, Paul, for reminding me.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I was a bit distressed that you left the possum in the middle of the road but it's not my place to cast the first stone lest someone cast that stone back at me.

Years ago, I was driving down a narrow country road and saw the car in front of me swerve around something in the road, so I swerved too--and as I swerved, I saw that it was a cat. I would've kept driving except just as I was passing the animal, which appeared to be dead, it lifted its head. I pulled over and got out. As cars swerved around me and the cat, I tried to figure out how to help this wounded animal which had obviously been clipped in the head as it was crossing the road. It was bleeding from its ears and eyes and mouth and there was a small chunk of viscera near its head that looked as though it had coughed up a lung. The animal kept lifting its head and howling, a truly awful sound. Another woman pulled over and together, we made a stretcher out of a piece of cardboard and transported the cat to the passenger seat of my car. I took the cat, still howling, to a vet's office that was just up the road. I told the vet how I'd found the cat, and that I was willing to pay an bills incurred if I couldn't locate the owner. I was on my way to work that morning before finding the cat in the road, so I left the cat at the vet's office, washed the blood off my hands and went to my job. The vet called me later that day and told me that he had to put the cat down because it had begun to seize due to its severe head injuries. I never did find the owner despite putting an ad in the paper.

This was someone's pet. This was a well fed animal, a beautiful huge grey tom with giant black circles on his coat. Of course, he wasn't wearing a collar or name tag. It amazes me how willingly people open up their doors and just let their cats out into the world. An outside cat has a third to half the life expectancy of an indoor cat.

Paul, I was really bummed out by your possum story. Hopefully, the poor thing died quickly and didn't suffer much.

Anonymous said...

I should add that the vet scolded me for transporting the animal. He said it's always risky handling injured animals because even the friendliest, tamest cat or dog can become vicious when hurt. So, while I was bummed out that you didn't stop to help that possum, I also realize how unreasonable the prospect of attempting to help an injured wild animal can be. A coworker of mine stopped and came to the aid of an owl that had flown into her windshield and the bird, which appeared to be barely breathing when she put it on the backseat came suddenly and violently to life while she was driving it to a wildlife sanctuary and began to flap around in her car. She pulled over and opened the door and after a bit of effort (it was clinging to her steering wheel at that point), managed to shoo the owl out and it flew off.

I know I couldn't not stop. I know I'd do it again, defnitely for a cat or dog. If it were my cat laying in the road, I hope someone would extend that same kindness--although my cat would never be found half-dead in the middle of any road since he's a fat, happy, safe indoor cat.

I'll shut up now. Really, I will.(smile)

MisanthropicAnthropoid said...

Several years ago while driving coworkers back from lunch in my spanking brand new suv on the highway that runs by Opry Mills in Nashville, I witnessed a dog being thrown from a truck that was travelling the opposite way on the other side of the concrete divider. I immediately had a feeling I should do something but I think I was afraid my coworkers would think I was crazy.

I was only 5 minutes away when I got back to the building, everyone exited my car and went back to work. I unfortunatley walked back into the building, paused for no more than a minute after I sat back down at my desk, then I got up, hurried to the parking lot and drove back out to the dog on the highway.

It/He/she had the typical symptoms you would expect: possible spinal injury/broken back legs/several deep gouges/blood seaping into the asphalt, and it/he/she was growling the whole time and I couldn't understand why no one else had stopped and why everyone kept whizzing by in their brand new suv's.

I also couldn't understand why I was really freaked out and didn't know what to do. I was able to push the dog several times to get it out of the lane but that was all.

In retrospect it was because I was afraid; afraid the animal would hurt me if I tried to pick it up; I didn't know how to react and was actually paralyzed with fear and guilt that I didn't know what to do.

I ridiculously called 911 on my cell phone and was easily dismissed by the dispatcher, and finally someone else DID stop, a very nice man in his BMW. I explained that I wanted to take the dog to a hospital. He helped me get the dog into the back of the car by throwing a towel over it's face and we both lifted him into the back. All the while he talked on the phone.

I then drove about 80 mph (which I know in retrospect was a stupid way to react) to one animal hospital that I knew of and it was closed. So I then drove again at a rapid pace to another animal hospital, all the while I was determined to save this animal, hopeful, planning, thinking up names for him/her, remembering the book Where the Red Fern Grows that my 6th grade teacher had read to the class chapter by chapter.

It was 15-20 minutes later that I finally got there. The nurses took the animal out of my car, and about 10 minutes later the vet came out asking if I wanted to pay for X-rays and such and warning of the expense, and I said I did (I could actually have afforded it then), but then not too many minutes later the dog died after it bled out and I broke down in the waiting room having had all these pre-conceived notions of adopting this dog.

I paid an $30 disposal fee and went home crying having never named my new pet. I still have the yellow receipt tucked away somewhere where I won't easily be able to chance across it.


Anonymous said...

A couple nights after Christmas, two deer were in the opposite lane of traffic to me. I didn't have time to do much except slow down to around 45. One safely sprinted in front of my vehicle; the other bolted right into my back passenger door. It was a horrible sound, leaving me shaken and Eliza crying. I turned around, thinking I could have broken its jaw or nose. I didn't know what kind of damage to expect; I just wanted to see if I could do anything. But there were no signs of it at all--not even any damage to the door. So, I hope that means it escaped with maybe just a really snore snout.

But I relate to the frozen image. Even after there were no signs of the deer and we continued on our way, I couldn't stop imagining its wounds.

Worse, last Sunday, I was in the Wal-Mart check-out when a mother screamed at her 2-3 year old son and literally slashed a belt at him, probably 3 times, as though it were a whip. I don't mean she spanked him. She actually raised this belt above her head and lashed down on him. No one did or said anything, not even the cashier they were in front of. Nothing.

It was one of those moments when I felt as though everything was in slow-motion and couldn't possibly be truly happening. The look of sheer terror on that child's face, the way he looked at his mother as though he was deathly afraid of her, and his wailing will haunt me for the rest of my life. I will always feel guilty for not saying anything, for standing there too like the rest of the Wal-Mart sheep. There's no excuse for being mute in a situation like that.
I cried on the way to the parking lot, on my way home, after--thinking about the miserable life that little boy must have and how I did nothing to try to give him even a second's relief. Since, I have done all that I can do. Prayed for him.