Twelve years ago, Kendra and I were sitting comfortably in our living room, enjoying a pleasant visit with close friends, Matt and J.J. It was early evening, the warm, late summer’s twilight just beginning to settle, visible through the windows into our backyard. And I saw him: The beast, slightly larger than a Yeti. Although his features were indistinguishable in the fading light, clearly he was possessed of a demonic rage and evil intent, his blood boiling, filled with malice, positively radiating a soft red glow like lava.
But I should back up a little: A series of two retaining walls held back our yard from crashing through our house, one Lego-stacked pile of carcinogenic creosote-soaked railroad ties stacked on top of the other. In the weeks previous, I had noticed a large hole underneath the top wall. Upon closer inspection, I observed evidence that some diabolical usurper had been coming and going from the hole. For days I dubiously staked out the hole, taking several hair samples and readings in an effort to gather more data about my foe, the better to formulate a suitable paramilitary response to his encroachment. But thus far, the wily creature was toying with me, demonstrating that he was onto me, as he was either using some animalistic ninja trick to turn invisible in his comings and goings, or perhaps escaping and returning at will through some miles-long tunnel system he had somehow managed to camouflage from my detection. I had caught not even a glimpse of the bumble, when suddenly this opportunity presented itself, a gift from the very gods of fate.
Now that I had seen him for certain, no way was I letting him escape. (Call ME crazy, I thought. You want crazy? I GOT your crazy!) I hastily excused myself and ran, Clark Kent-like, for the garage to grab a shovel, intent on manic violence. In just a few moments, I would learn that violence actually has a name. And a face. And that its name…is “Matt.”
Certainly one could be forgiven for misinterpreting my intentions that evening, as from all appearances, I was running in the direction opposite the threat, whereas Matt was in fact running headlong towards it. I bolted for the garage; he bolted directly out the back door. I was headed to procure a weapon; he was a weapon. At first, our attack might even have appeared to be coordinated, with him flushing the beast in a purposeful direction towards me, as I came careening around the corner of the house into the backyard from the garage, my Shovel of Destiny in hand.
And then Matt handily demonstrated how superfluous was my weapon of mass destruction, indeed, how unnecessary was even my presence. I could better have served him by remaining in the house and freshening up his sweet tea, perhaps running out to have his car detailed and to pick up his dry cleaning.
No, Matt was not flushing the Acid-Clawed-Monster towards me, as I had supposed. Rather, he was running it to ground. As it hurtled across the backyard, shrieking its murderous Hell-fury, I rounded the corner just in time to observe Matt close the distance between them, in perhaps three quick bounds, and in one deft motion, Beckham-like, he punted. Matt felled the creature by immediately increasing its velocity ten-fold, taking full advantage of the laws of physics by forcing it beyond—far beyond—what its advanced physiology dictated it could run. And it toppled, end over end, some twenty feet—not unlike a soccer ball, in fact (although of course fifty times the size).
When the beast came to rest, he was clearly disoriented, dizzy and damaged from his tumbling dance across the landscape. It was at this moment that finally I was able to see through his campaign of psychological warfare. He was, in fact, an opossum. Although, clearly, he was no ordinary opossum, rather more like the giant spider from Stephen King’s It, capable of projecting himself as a terrible, giant fiend. I stood not three feet from him, faltering in that moment, my shovel hanging impotent in my grip, debating whether this might in fact be just another of his clever deceptions.
Then Matt caught up to him. Still without breaking his gait, Matt kicked him once again, this time more American-football style…directly into the brick wall of the house next door. In defense of what some might mistake for my apparent ineptitude and skill in dispatchment, Matt was wearing boots at the time, and I was wearing just sneakers. As everyone knows, of course if you’re going to kick an opossum, you’d best be garbed in the appropriate footwear. The implications of attempting such a feat in the absence of the proper equipment are simply too dangerous for one to even consider.
But Matt wasn’t done. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “playing possum,” and you thought these mastermind marsupials do that intentionally, you’d be mistaken. In fact, they can’t control it. When presented with grave danger, a chemical reaction occurs that both paralyzes and immobilizes them. Matt was counting on that with his first kick. What he was doing with his second kick was ensuring it. He placed his foot over the back of the opossum’s neck, and I suspected he was going to suffocate it or to crack its skull. But of course that’s no way to be sure that your opponent truly expires. What he was in fact doing was applying another principle of physics—leverage—pinning the base of its skull to the ground between the heel and forepart of his boot. He grabbed its tail and jerked its hind end straight up. It’s a maneuver I’ve observed in the game Mortal Kombat, although certainly never perpetrated against a real-live creature, and particularly not against a large rodent. C-R-AAAAAAA-C-KKKKKK!!! went its spine. Yup, he was finished.
I lamely offered to scoop up the corpse with my shovel to dispose of it. Still holding its tail, the opossum now essentially hyperextended to around five feet in length or so, Matt grinned at me, shook his head lightly, as though he felt some mild embarrassment for me inexpressible in words, and he chuckled. He simply released the head from under his heel, lifted it slightly higher by the tail, carried it to the trash bin, and dropped it in.
What can I say? The monster had seemed much bigger in the dark.
What’s the most savage creature you’ve ever dispatched? And what method did you use? By all means, share with us the gory details. Have you ever witnessed another person violently murder a helpless, innocent animal in a way you could never have expected? Why are Kraft Macaroni & Cheese boxes so insanely difficult to open?