On a slow news day, reporters filling space will dig out a file of unusual stories called, “Man Bites Dog.” They call it this because they are stories that give an unusual twist on an everyday occurrence. Dog Bites Man? Well, that happens every day, but Man Bites Dog? Not so very often.
Sometime back, I read in the Denver Post that a guy in New Jersey was arrested and sentenced to 30 days in the Atlantic County Detention Center for beating up another guy in a bar argument. Ho-hum, you say, that’s Dog Bites Man. The twist that turns this particular incident into a Man Bites Dog story is that the victim was severely battered when the attacker wailed on him with an opossum.
This started me thinking. How could anybody use an innocent opossum to assault another guy? I don’t condone violence, but I know that disputes get settled all the time with lawyers, knives, guns and money. Still, I’m at a loss to understand why someone would choose a small, furry marsupial to beat his fellow man senseless?
How did this come to pass? Did the perpetrator just happen to be walking around with a chip on his shoulder and his opossum slung low on the hips? To paraphrase Mae West, “Are you happy to see me or is that an opossum in your pants?
What’s this world coming to? Is this going to open the door for a new wave of drive-by opossumings? Will our neighborhoods become even more dangerous if this new weaponry catches on with hoodlums and street thugs? Will the NRA embrace this new biological weapon, or will they hate it because it doesn’t go “boom”?
An ominous fact is that opossums will not set off metal detectors in courtrooms or airports. This fact alone could set the stage for international terrorism at an unprecedented level. “You head this plane to Tupelo or I’ll whack all the first-class passengers around with my opossum!”
What is the difference between an opossum and a possum? Sometimes when you put an “o” in front of a word it reverses its meaning, like proponent and opponent. I checked this out in Google to see if an opossum is actually an anti-possum and the two would explode in a blinding flash if they ever ran into each other in a Star Trek episode, but no. It turns out they’re entirely different animals that just happen to look alike, but for the fact that the Australian possum has a furry tail and the American opossum has a bare tail. The mix-up was caused by the guy collecting animals for Captain Cook back in the 1770s as he sailed around the Pacific.
Since the assault took place in New Jersey with its perfectly safe borders, it’s safe to assume that the weaponized rodent was an opossum and not a foreign jihadist of a possum. I did read that both of them are good animals in a fight, what with a frightening mouthful of big, sharp rodent-teeth. In fact, the newspaper stated that the opossum also gave the victim a savage bite on the head, adding insult to injury, or actually, vice-versa.
Opossums have fairly long tails that would add a lot of leverage to their threat. Imagine sitting at a bar, swilling your first strong liquor when a dusty cowpoke at your side begins to laugh you down. You try to warn him off by twirling your opossums like nunchucks but you realize, too late, he’s quicker on the twirl with meaner opossums.
Mom says, just leave your opossums at home, son.