Journals of an Insane Genius - December 2000

The year is 1983. The artist formerly known as Prince is simply known as Prince, the U.S is liberating medical students from Grenada, and people just can't seem to get enough of those little chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches called "Chip-Wiches". It's about midnight and I'm hanging out in Flint on the porch of the house I live in with my brother Bill. My best friend Bobby, Bill's best friend Charlie, and this weasely guy named Mark are there. Bill's late coming home from work for some reason. It's a warm summer night and we're almost out of Coke (classic, that "new" stuff is still a year away) but we know that Bill will bring more.

Bill comes riding up on his bicycle looking more dangerous than normal. Same ragged University of Michigan shorts that he's been wearing for five years. Same T-shirt that appears to have been spattered with battery acid at some point. It must be the three-foot long, inch wide steel chain he has draped around his neck. He's playing it cool, waiting for us to ask. I give it thirty seconds before giving him a break. "Nice chain. Where'd you get it?" Bill, pops the top off a Coke, takes a long swig, and then says, "Oh this… well it's a funny story…"

Apparently Bill was riding his bike home from work and as he was passing the Mott Park Golf Course he noticed a guy standing by the curb swinging a chain and watching him expectantly. Sensing that things weren't right, Bill hopped off the bike as the guy ran up on him swinging the chain. Unfortunately this guy didn't know Bill like I did. I've seen Bill beat up an entire family in the street; one guy with a chain was a mismatch. The guy swung at his head, but Bill easily ducked under it (Jedi reflexes) and noticed a piece of two-by-four lying in the gutter. Bill grabbed it while leaning back to avoid the second swing. "So the guy's saying 'Come On mutha-******!!! C'Mon!!!'" At this point Bill's had enough. The next time the chain swings Bill leans back until it passes his face and then leans in and cracks the guy across the chest with the board. More concerned with figuring out whether his ribs had just been cracked, the guy forgets to check his swing and the chain wraps around and hits him in the head. He drops. Bill decides nobody this stupid should be loose on the street with a chain so he takes possession of the man's property, gets on his bike and rides home.

We're going nuts! The electricity had been disconnected for the last month and this was better than any TV show. So here we are with Bill the conqueror, Charlie - the only one in Flint that might even have a shot against him (scholars still debate this) if they weren't such good friends, me - who could use my amazing ability to take a punch (I did grow up with Bill as a big brother after all) to tie someone up until Bill could take care of him, Bobby - still two years from becoming less useless than me, and Mark - who would most likely turn against us if things went badly. We aren't afraid of anything tonight. How soon that would change.

So this is Flint. Urban, but not inner city. We're kicked back on the porch sipping our Cokes and talking about the kind of things that teenage boys talk about when they have neither parental supervision nor girlfriends. Suddenly something small, furry, and fast shot through our front yard and headed towards the neighbor's. "What the heck!!!" (or words to that effect). It paused to look back at us almost tauntingly. "It's a possum!! What's a possum doing in the middle of Flint?" I ask amazedly. "Who cares?" Mark yells, "Let's get it!"

Our blood starts to boil with the expectation of battle. Always one to go along with a bad decision, I grab a battered golf club. The others arm themselves with baseball bats, tennis racquets - I think Bobby grabbed a Frisbee. With the war cry of our northern tribe upon our lips, we charge after it. The possum decides it wants no part of this and darts around the corner of the neighbor's house. Unfortunately for the possum, the houses are less than twenty feet apart and the corner it just turned into has a fence across both yards. It was trapped!

By the time we turn the corner we're almost worked up into a berserker frenzy. The possum is looking very small and uncertain in the corner. We pause, time seeming to stand still for a moment. We consider the possum; it considers us. From somewhere around the block a dog barks. Slowly we advance.

Deciding it has nothing to lose, the possum turns to face us, opens a mouth full of needle sharp teeth, and hisses menacingly. Not since the movie "Alien" have I seen so many teeth. Shrieking like thirteen-year-old girls at a Backstreet Boys concert we retreat. "Aaaahhh!! POSSUM!!! AaaaAAaAahhh!!!" I know I can outrun both Bobby and Mark and I waste no time doing it. One of us may have to be sacrificed but it isn't going to be me.

Bill and Charlie reach the porch first but block the steps as they struggle trying to knock the other out of the way and climb them first. I crack my knee on the railing as I bypass the steps and vault over the front. Mark is emitting a low moan and his eyes are as wide as manhole covers. Bobby is spouting curses at Mark for tripping him from behind. He has lost his Frisbee. From the relative safety of the porch we peer over the side to see if the hunters have become the hunted. The possum is standing in the neighbor's yard looking at us. It emits a dismissive grunt as if to say, "lightweights", and struts off, never to be seen again.

Freaking smart-aleck possum.

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