A Short Story by Amy DeCaussin.
Joey always took chances but he had the most fun too. Throw him in a campfire and he would dance in the flames. Possum took the rope and tied it tightly to hold down the fort they had built with sticks, leaves and mud. The wind was picking up and Possum was on edge, just sure the destruction of their newly founded abode was imminent.
The rain came after the first wave of wind. Joey and Possum scrambled into their hut. Joey began to sing a song, much like the guys on the boat in the movie “Jaws,” by Steven Spielberg. Immediately annoyed, Possum put his paws over his ears.
“How can you sing at a time like this? We’re going to blow away!” Possum cried. Joey sat on the ground, no physical response to Possum. His eyes were closed and he was rocking back and forth with a grin on his face. He seemed to capture the essence of a hippy rock star known as Bob Dylan, an artist much older than Joey himself. Eventually Possum gave up on trying to spark a reaction out of Joey. He huffed as he turned back to his corner, curled up and eventually fell asleep.
Possum woke up the next morning with the sound of chirping birds outside. The storm was gone, although the ground was still wet. Much to his surprise the hut was still in tact. A few leaves had blown off, but otherwise it was still in good condition. Joey was outside cooking up some breakfast. Grubs were Possum’s favorite and Joey had his own unique way of preparing them. They were as delicious as buttered popcorn mixed with basil and honey. Possum licked his paws clean and thanked Joey for the hunger fix. Then Joey looked up at a tall pine tree nearby, as if it had suddenly called his name. Unaware of Joey’s change of interest, Possum slumped down near a log and closed his eyes. He thought now was a good time for a nap.
“Hey, Possum. Possum! Do you see that tree over there?” Joey asked. With as little energy as possible, Possum cracked open one eye, looked at Joey and then gazed over at the tree.
“Yeah its a nice tree hum ding umorfel” he mumbled.
“I think we should climb the tree” Joey said. Possum did not respond. Joey trotted over and surveyed the tree. It was a very tall pine tree and probably very old too. It resided next to a peaceful brook, the rush of water eddying through it. He stood right next to the trunk and looked way up at the top and smiled. Joey loved a good challenge.
“Urmpf!” Possum was jolted out of slumber as Joey pounced on him. He pushed him back and forth until he was wide awake.
“Possum! We have to climb that tree!! Come on!” he shouted.
“What do you wanna do that for? What kind of crazy goes and just climbs up a tree when he can stay perfectly safe right here on the ground?” Possum was disgruntled.
They both stood at the base of the trunk, peering up at the top of the tree. The very top was thin and swayed in the breeze. Joey began to climb the branches.
“Joey WAIT!” Possum jumped up and grabbed onto Joey’s legs. Now he was stuck in an awkward position, dangling from a branch unable to move with Possum weighting him down at the bottom. Possum let go and Joey jumped down.
“WHAT is your problem!!?” Joey shouted, out of breath. Possum cowered down for a moment, then gathered his wits and pointed one claw towards Joey.
“You always do this! You always think you can go and do whatever you want and the world is just going to be fine with it! You just expect mother nature to bend all the rules for you–that you can climb a tree that is way too high with pointy needles and achieve some sort of zen or something?” Possum fumed.
Joey laughed, “whatever,” he snorted. With that he picked himself back up and began to amble up the branches of the tall pine tree. Possum sat with his back against the tree trying to calm down. When Joey got to the top he was really excited.
“Possum!” he shouted, “There are some really neat grubs up hear! Ooh and they’re tasty too! They would be really good in my grub stew!” Possum turned to look up at Joey.
“You’re just saying that to get me to come up there.” Possum snuffed.
“No I’m not. I wanna bring them down but I need help. Fetch me a sack and bring it up to me.” Joey instructed. Possum, hesitant at first slowly went back to the hut to get a sack. He brought it back over to the tree, put his paws on the base of the trunk and looked up.
“How do I know its going to be okay?” Possum asked Joey.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Joey asked.
“I could fall!” Possum replied.
“Okay. So now you know. That’s the worst thing. So just go for it now.” Joey answered as he was picking off the grubs. Possum began to climb up the tree.
“…I could die, too.” Possum grumbled under his breath.
When he got up to Joey he shuttered in fear. Joey told him not to look down. They began gathering all the grubs that they could find. Possum couldn’t wait to have some of Joey’s delicious grub stew when they finally got back to the safety of the ground. Each one looked so delectable. There was a grub hanging out on a branch away from the stability of the trunk. Slowly and carefully Possum reached for it.
“Woah! Look at you taking all sorts of chances today!” Joey said. He was delighted to see his friend finally living in the moment. Possum was so close to the little creature. His mouth watered and he was almost there. Suddenly a twig snapped and Possum went plummeting down towards the earth, screaming the whole way. Joey’s stomach dropped as he saw his friend take a dive.
Splash! Cold. Rough. Moving! Possum had landed in the brook. Disoriented, he tried to maneuver his head above the water so he could breath. Then he realized that he was being whisked away by the current and he didn’t know how to swim. Possum had never been in water before. He kicked and splashed. The water had all control over his body. He floated along down the current for what seemed like forever. A loud whoosh filled Possum’s ears and he felt like he had been punched in the stomach. Then he realized that he was being carried and before he knew it, he was resting on the bank of the river looking up at the leaves on the trees. Shocked, he laid there coughing and catching his breath. He was numb from the cold water. Now the sun was warming him back up and as it did, his mind came back to him too. Joey had rescued him from the water.
“Thanks Joey,” was all Possum could muster. Joey was out of breath too, struggling to speak. He told him that he had lost all of the grubs on the way down the tree. Possum’s mouth went dry thinking about how he wouldn’t have any stew tonight. Joey picked him up and helped Possum back to the hut. Safe at last and exhausted, a calm came over them both. They sat, leaned up against a log. Possum was reflecting on the days events, playing them over and over in his head.
“Well what do you think?” Joey asked him.
“I…I think I really like swimming.” Possum said, surprised by his own response.
Amy DeCaussin specializes in Illustration. View her work here, amydecaussin.com.
For illustration, image licensing, agent representation,
and other creative projects contact Amy: email@example.com.
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