A Book Saved My Life (And My Oreos)

Lost At SeaThere are few more terrifying ways to awake—in the developed world, at least—than because a possum is ferreting about on your bedside table. As melodramatic as it sounds, I have a book to thank for rescuing me. Or at least for waking me up before who knows what befell me.

Suffice to say, I’ve added the incident and its outcome to my list of reasons I love books with an arguably unnatural and illegal affection. (Just in case you’re interested, the book was Jon Ronson’s Lost At Sea, something I find coincidentally interesting, given his habit and penchant for encountering the quirky sides of like.)

It was one of those moments when you awake in the deepest, darkest, most slumberly part of the night and your sleep cycle. A book I’d had on my bedside table had hit my wooden floor with a comprehensive thud and in my eyelid-snapping-open, body-frozen response, my sleep-addled senses and mind raced through the fall-inducing possibilities.

For once, I knew that I didn’t have a near-ceiling-high tower of books on my bedside table (I’ve just started back at uni and, as a combination of knowing I didn’t have time to read ‘fun’ books anymore and because I was cleaning up as part of my I-don’t-know-where-to-start procrastination, I’d shelved all but one or two books).

Fearing—sort of sensing—that something was in my room, I realised I had to turn the light on. I started to move, still unable to see anything in my room because it was dark, because I’m not night a creature of the night, and because my eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to what little light there was.

It was at this precise moment that my friendly neighbourhood possum, who’d clearly been sitting, tableauxed, less than half a metre from me on my bedside table, decided: I need to run now [insert high-pitched possumy voice of your choice].

Cue him (I’m not sure if it’s a him or a her and any attempts to google ‘how to tell the sex of a possum’ invariably lead to ridiculous conversations about good luck flipping a possum over to check out its genitalia and then to the slippery slope of possum porn. But that’s another story entirely …) Cue me screaming louder, more wee-inducingly than I’ve ever screamed before.

I know my friendly neighbourhood possum (I really need to come up with a shorter name for him/her/yo—see this blog about Grammar Girl’s explanation of the emergence of the use of gender-neutral ‘yo’) meant me no harm.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that yo was likely heading towards the empty packet of entirely vegan Oreos on my table. If I’m also honest, I’ll say that it was a whole lot of excitement caused by the possum for nothing, because as any self-respecting girl, once I’d decided I was going to eat cookies in bed, I’d decided to finish them all. The possum might have smelt Oreos, but there was nary a crumb left to ingest or greedily inhale.\

Instead he was forced to head back into my yard to eat the wild bird seed bell I hang out weekly, but which should really be re-named domestic possum seed bell (I’m yet to see a wild bird have so much as a peck at it, but regularly hear and see the possum giving it a red-hot crunching go).

Still, it’s another installment in the entertaining night raids conducted by my just-about-resident possum and it’s another reminder of why I owe my life, my one or two Oreo crumbs, and my gratitude to early-warning-alarm books.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.