3: The Fireplace
We’d been settled in our weatherboard house for some months, our belongings were found spaces in the cupboards and we were comfortable with the placement of the furniture. Along with becoming accustomed to the noises of the house creaking away on its foundations and all the night time noises of the area, we were also becoming familiar with the scurrying and scratching of critters inside our own abode – noises which sent our cat around the bend.
One night while cooking dinner, and while Tab was in the shower, I heard a rather loud and disconcerting THWUMP in the lounge room, and then I heard the cat hiss. I poked my head into the room to see a dumbfounded looking cat with the fur on her tail all puffed up. I returned to the kitchen dismissing the incident as our playful cat going about her own mischievous ways to entertain herself.
But after some moments, what sounded like a more serious fracas again emanated from the lounge room. Tab and I both converged on a scene where the cat was eyeing off a Brushtail Possum which somehow had made its way down the chimney, perched in the opening of a saucer-size hole cut into the mock-up-brick panel which blocked up the original fireplace and was peering out from behind the fish tank at a silly cat and two very bewildered humans.
Our resident marsupial jumped from the fireplace to the floor and took a brief moment to adjust its eyes to the room’s lamp-light before priming itself to lunge at the cat. Wild nature was being enacted within the very walls of my lounge room.
If all four of us – two humans, a foolishly overzealous house cat and a berserk possum – were going to break up this impromptu meeting of wildness and domestication without getting hurt, the two humans would need teamwork. The scene paused for a moment and I felt like a cartoon character suspended in animation before registering I had better act quickly. Stuff then started to happen fluidly as I reached for the nearest prop at hand which happened to be a purple plastic clothes-washing basket. After discarding the washing from the basket I began waving it like a shield at the possum which by this stage was screaming its head off. I had to get it out of the house!
Tab swept up the cat and shut it away in the kitchen then worked her way back past me and the beast and up the hallway to open the front door. My first thought was to throw the basket upside-down over the possum and somehow carry the bugger outside, but who was I kidding? My armoury by this stage may also have included a mop or broom or some sort of blunt floor-cleaning object on the end of a stick.
…so I shall ward off the possum with my knightly prowess and take on the world with my lance of soft-surface and my shield of woven-holes and I shall reign victorious over all…
My knightly ensemble would have been complete had I placed tea cosy on my head. But alas…
With great trepidation the possum and I partnered each other in a quick foxtrot during which I managed to manoeuvre myself to place the possum between me and the front door. Then, spotting the darkness down the hallway and the opportunity for freedom, the possum subsequently embraced the moment and scooted outside into its own night-world; and out of our house as quick bloody-well as possible.
In my frenzied interaction with the brushtail I was able to attain a moment of quiet and clarity. I was drawn to look deeply into its beautiful, striking face. Set off by a thin line of grey eyelashes, its eyes were big and black like the night-time of the possum’s existence. I saw a pink nose with whiskers and short, dark bristles receding up the snout and cheeks. I saw the coarseness of the fur on its body – I sensed every follicle shivering under its pelt with the purpose and precision of a wild being. And to this day I can still see its cute little bum and hindquarters waddling rather rapidly and leading its own big brushy tail down the hallway, over the threshold and the hell out of our weatherboard house.
Afterwards Tab and I reflected on noises we’d been hearing around the fireplace in the days before and guessed the poor little possum probably fell from the roof down the chimney and into the fireplace some three days prior. Maybe it needed a little time to mend and assess its situation before mustering up the purpose to again find freedom, which was done in a most dramatic display. The whole event – from entering through the fireplace to exiting out the front door – probably happened in less than thirty seconds!