Possums Tell All

By   ∙  

This short story appears in the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal: The Occult, No. 22 

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  Whenever I visit back home and run into possums, I sometimes can’t help myself and regress to a most primitive state. I start throwing rocks at the possums; stamp down one foot to scare them away. Make loud sounds very unlike actual words, just to add to the theater. Possums and myself, like all the other folks back home, have a difficult history. One time, straight out of high school, possums convinced us to enroll in a vocational class and learn to make air-conditioning ducts and shafts. A lot of air-conditioned buildings were popping up all over, they said. Somebody’s gotta be making the ducts and shafts. Another time we skipped a whole month’s worth of class to get stoned and drive around listening to the same records over and over. We’d kill a sixer driving up and down Jim Hogg County, singing out loud, smoking joints. It’s strange to romanticize those difficult days, but here we are. I have to remind myself that possums were the ones spreading the rumor saying this land wasn’t this land anymore; that this land was now thatland. Even though you could be standing on this land you’d have to say, “I’m standing on thatland,” which belonged now to those over there. It took a few years for this to be straightened out, and by then everyone had forgot who started this confusion anyway. But a few of us remembered, and had to remind each other and ourselves every day, it was the possums started all this. The possums laid low for a few years afterward — around the time kids started playing this rolling dice game and betting flowers in the streets. Soon, possums started writing and publishing tell-all books about one another, and people openly said, “Serves them right.” Everyone read them, since each book was more cutting and revealing than the last. People lined up around the block on release days. Bookstores hadn’t seen anything like it. A real phenomenon, everyone agreed. So now all is good with possums and the way of life back home.

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Last time I was down for a visit I wandered off in the middle of the night and ended up at Perlitas Bar, where at a table by the jukebox blaring José José sat a possum, having a drink. I noticed a notebook where the possum was writing furiously. I asked if I could sit across the same table, and the possum nodded. For a while I just sat there reading my book, then after my second drink we got to talking — I stared into those eyes, like tiny stones dipped in ink, and as the night progressed the ink dripped out, and those eyes widened like a fault line in the ocean ripping open — from the fault emerged two hazy figures, like smoke out of an air shaft. The figures requested I follow them in, and inside the possum’s eyes the dark, smoky figures and I had herbal tea. In the most polite manner, they suggested I tell nobody what I knew about possums. That it was in nobody’s best interests to know. And, besides, everyone will find out soon enough — for there was a tell-all book about to be published that would recount everything that had transpired. When I asked the dark figures to elaborate they insisted they couldn’t, for they were both under contract with the publishing company, and weren’t at liberty to. The following day I left the border, and since the possums ran their campaign and got elected, I have not returned.

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Fernando A. Flores is the author of Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas and the novel Tears of the Trufflepig. He lives in Austin.