In this short story an unwelcome visitor brings to mind a vanished love, and a malicious plot…
by: John Sharkey ((Header art is by the incredibly talented Belgium street artist ROA.))
A large, grey possum pokes her pointy pink snout into my open window. I freeze, not wanting to startle it. It moves inside with a few quiet steps and stands lengthwise on the sill sniffing the air in my room. I try not to blink. I breathe slow, through my nose. My stomach makes a sound which she doesn’t seem to hear. A small upside-down head pokes itself out from under her, then another crawls from her side.
I’d been trying to sleep, but vile, spiteful thoughts kept me roiling in my warm waterbed all night. They swore it was over. They asked my forgiveness. I wish I never saw it, but I can’t be blamed for noticing my wife standing at the bar with my ex-friend. The vision keeps replaying of their arms dangling, brushing each other until finally, almost regretting the inevitable union, their hands palm each other, fingers entwining, clutching. They are in love and I’m the one fuming with anger, jealous juices churning.
I had turned on the bed light and propped myself up to read, to distract myself to sleep and catch at least a few winks before dawn, when I first heard the scuffling sound from the porch roof below. I now stare, mesmerized at the scene in front of me. The mother moves her head one way then looks here and there. One baby mimics her exact moves. Perhaps they needed a warmer place to stay and came across my window while canvassing the low hanging tree limbs over my porch roof.
I marvel how close to me they stand. The dim light gleans in their eyes as they look directly at me, then toward my closet at the foot of my bed. I lower my eyelids hoping not to glean light back at them. I continue to watch through a squint.
A possum is a nocturnal animal, a marsupial, that sleeps in the day. I move my eyes to the open closet door. Maybe she’ll go in one of my wife’s boxes. I know one is not closed. In fact, the lid is off her lingerie box. How snuggly the mother and babies would feel tucked away in there. Maybe she’d make a permanent nest, attract fleas, mites, and urinate on all her dainties. I can see them all startled, the possum hissing and showing her teeth, my wife screaming. That would serve her. To think I have nothing vengeful to do with this. I feel my mouth smiling and try not to chuckle and I close my eyes the rest of the way.
I never see them jump off the sill. In or out? I might be drifting a bit, maybe dreaming, a lobster climbing onto my surfboard. I turn over and float to sleep.
John Sharkey’s career path has been as an artist specializing in scenic and decorative painting, all the time writing poems and short fiction which he is finally gathering to polish and publish. Sharkey is working on his first novel and lives in Wilmington, NC.