The Broom Was Too Far

David sat on the couch with his feet pulled under his knees. He knew his mother would pitch a fit if she saw him with his shoes on the upholstery, but she wasn’t there and at that exact moment, he really didn’t care.
The long, bare, tapering tail of the thing underneath his mother’s floral couch curled slowly, sometimes side to side, sometimes upwards as if it were searching for something to grab, something to grip and pull. It pushed the tip under the cushion that David sat on, then retreated, unable to secure itself. The thing gave a long, low hiss and pulled its appendage back until it was again hidden.
“Now what am I supposed to do?” David sucked on his knee, leaving a wet spot on the denim material.
Earlier he went out to feed his father’s smelly old hound, a gigantic dachshund that polluted the backyard with mounds of dog poop. The old thing couldn’t be house-trained as a puppy and was quickly assigned to the backyard where he proceeded to defecate more than was possible for a canine of its size, rendering the grass unfit for play. Most of David’s friends refused to even walk back there, much less engage in any games like tag or catch. And the dog was slightly insane, frequently growling at the vents on the house that kept the crawl space dried out and snapping at the air above his head, apparently for no reason other than to hear his teeth clack together.
David walked over and picked up the dog’s nasty dish to take it inside and fill it with kibble. It was next to the back steps, stuck in a corner by some bushes, a dark area even at the height of noon. But this was night, and the food dish was completely obstructed by darkness. He picked it up then heard a rustling in the bushes.
“Is that you?” He called to the dog which came bounding from the yard. Whatever was in the bushes was growling. David peered into the depths of darkness surrounding the shrubs. A lighter shape stood out against the blackness. It rose up on spindly legs and clamored onto the low lying limbs of the bushes. The light beside the back door didn’t penetrate into the void of the side of the stairs. David couldn’t see exactly what it was, so he dropped the dish and bounded up the steps. He opened the screen door wide. The thing ran up after him and slipped into the house before the screen could slam shut on the spring. The dog stood at the door, barking furiously.
David’s feet slipped on the throw rug in front of the kitchen sink, and he crashed into the refrigerator. He heard several things falling and breaking inside it. But the thing was less than ten feet from him, camouflaged by the shadows near the back door. There was only one thing he could do – David dashed for the den, trying to push the door shut behind him as he ran. But the thing was fast, and the door just missed shutting enough to click the tumbler into the slot. It crashed against the bottom panel and the door flew open. It stood there for a second, silhouetted against the light streaming in from the kitchen before it ran straight at David.
The boy squealed and jumped on the couch. The thing slid beneath him and disappeared into the bowels underneath. Now David was stuck on top watching the thing’s tail wriggle around like a blind snake looking for prey.
“If I could reach that broom, I could chase it away.” He looked over at the iron fireplace set leaning against the hearth. There was no way. The broom was too far away. “Whatever the hell it is, it’s fast and I’ll never be able to reach the broom in time.”
As if on cue the thing hissed again. David shivered a little and cowered even more tightly against the back of the couch. He picked up a pillow and threw it across the room, hoping to distract the monster long enough for him to reach the iron-handled broom. It worked. A gray figure scooted across the room and attacked the pillow. Fuzz and foam stuffing erupted off of the pillow in a great cloud. David sat and stared. When the fluff settled he saw what the thing was- an old possum, eyes crazy and mouth foaming. He knew at once that it had rabies. It swung its head around and began tearing at the fabric again. Now was David’s chance.
He lunged at the broom. The possum swing its head back towards him and emitted a howl like David had never heard before. The boy grabbed the broom and turned to face the diseased animal, his feet braced against the back of the couch. It ran for him, but David swatted at it with the thick, stiff straws of the broom and it retreated towards the den door. A couple more swipes and it was pressed into the corner next to the back door, boy on one side, barking dog on the other. It crashed through the wire screen, jumping over the dog and disappearing into the night.
David stood there, breathing hard. There was spilled dog kibble rolling around the kitchen floor, pillow innards drifting on the air coming from the den. There were ugly yellow pools of liquid that David assumed was possum pee streaked from the back door all the way to the den. Deep scratches were etched on the polished wooden floor where David had jabbed the stiff bristles of the broom at the animal and where the possum had dug in its claws. He had no idea what he was going to tell his parents. They lived in the middle of the suburbs, and this was the first possum he had ever encountered in his life. Later, when he told his father the story, he saw the old man’s eyes roll back in disbelief.

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