The waning moon was large enough to cast a faint light across the sky, but everything at ground level was steeped in shadow. The nether regions of my backyard were dark. Very dark.
It was past bedtime. Twenty minutes had elapsed since I'd let the dogs outside for the last time of the day. I stepped out onto the patio and called them, softly, so I wouldn't wake the neighbors. They didn't come. I called again. And whistled. Still nothing, except, in the distance, the muffled clanging of something bumping against the wire fence.
I went inside to get a flashlight, shined it from one corner of the yard to another until its beam fell on Gimpy and Levi. They were standing on their hind legs, stretching upward against the fence, their front paws batting at something I couldn't make out in the dim light. I could see that something's eyes, though.
If I'd go closer, I thought, I could grab Levi by his collar. I knew that if I could do that, Gimpy would follow Levi back to the house. In my ankle-length, navy-blue bathrobe, the one with the hood, the one that looks black in the dark, I traipsed through the damp grass toward the back fence. The dogs started barking. I wondered what the neighbors would think if the noise woke them and they looked out to see a dark-hooded form, holding a torch, moving through the pre-Halloween shadows.
Once I got close enough, I could see that the object of the dogs' interest was a possum (an opossum, if you want to get technical about it, but here in Louisiana we don't do technical) that was huddled on the fence rail, its prehensile tail just out of their reach. The possum wasn't moving, and the dogs wouldn't leave it. To lean over far enough to reach Levi's collar, I'd have had to turn my back on a possum that would be no more than two feet away from my head and shoulders. No way did I want to put myself in that position.
I turned around and slogged back to the house to get Levi's leash. And the camera. If I was going to risk letting a possum jump on my back, I was at least going to get blog photos out of the deal.
Once more I trudged toward the back fence, a witchlike figure with a digital camera strapped around my neck as if I'd been elected public relations coordinator by a majority vote of the coven. I raised the flash attachment, pointed the camera at a patch of darkness in the general area of the dogs and the possum and hoped for the best. After half a dozen shots, the flash quit working (it's working fine today), but I got some pictures of the creepy thing.
Gimpy in the red collar, Levi in the black.
Stealthy night visitor.
I got the leash on Levi and dragged him away, Gimpy followed as predicted, and we all went to bed and slept soundly. This happened several nights ago. I haven't seen any sign of the possum since. I know it's out there, though, probably nesting somewhere with its mate, the two of them raising a pouchful of ugly possum babies, teaching them to lurk in the darkness and look like they're planning to pounce.
Are we safe in our own backyards? I think not.