Corner: (n) the place at which two converging lines or surfaces meet.
Jerry was my friend. His dad was a conservative preacher who refused to own a television.
Jerry didn’t share his father’s convictions. When he was around his papa he was as silent as a mouse, and as soon as he walked out of the door of his home he turned into a roaring lion.
He was fun.
But even though I was just a kid myself, I knew there was something a little bit mixed up with Jerry. There was a hidden rage which was not very well disguised. It was like a box sticking out from under your bed that you thought was put away, but everybody knew there was something beneath.
Jerry got angry easily. Matter of fact, one night we were at my house and went into the garage. We found a possum next to our freezer. (I share this with you because it was unusual. If we normally had possums next to our freezer, I would have left it out of the tale.)
The possum was a little surprised to see us. It acted like it was pursuing a normal routine and we had interrupted the process. It gave a quick snarl in our direction. It was enough to convince me to get the hell out of the way. If you’ve never seen a possum up close, it’s ugly enough to avoid without the snarl, but if you put a growl with it… Well, I was ready to head to the next county.
But not Jerry.
Jerry seemed upset that the possum had dared to emit disapproval. He ran over to a shelf in the garage and picked up a hammer. I know I probably should have said something, but honestly, it was my first time being in a garage with a man who was going to attack a possum.
The possum scurried over into the corner of the garage.
Bad maneuver—now it was trapped. It was either going to have to fight its way out, or it was going to face whatever verdict Jerry had chosen for it.
Jerry changed right in front of my eyes. He was breathing heavily, standing with his legs spread, hammer over his head, eyes bulging—and it became obvious to me that he planned on attacking the creature.
I did finally gain speech. “Jerry, let it go. We’ll just leave the door open and it’ll scurry away.”
Excellent advice—especially coming from a teenager whose frontal lobe was not yet complete.
Jerry did not hear a word I said. He was ready to “kill possum.”
He moved closer. The possum snarled even more ferociously.
And even though I liked Jerry, when I heard that possum, I got the hell out of there. So peeking through the window from outside the garage I watched as Jerry grasped the hammer tightly.
One, two, five, ten…twenty blows. With all his strength, he killed that possum.
I don’t think Jerry had anything personal against the possum. Jerry’s outburst was coming from somewhere else.
When he was done, he backed up, panting, with the bloody hammer in his hand.
As I slowly walked back into the garage he spoke, “I got the goddamn motherfucking thing.”
I was completely shocked, I had never seen anyone kill a possum. Matter of fact, I had never encountered a pissed-off possum. And I sure had never seen Jerry so out of control or heard him spew such profanity.
About that time, my mother arrived, came into the garage, looked into the corner and saw what remained of the smashed possum. She gazed carefully at Jerry, who was still clutching his weapon.
Honestly, my mother was not a sensitive or intuitive person, but in that moment, she knew that Jerry was not all right.
She put her hand on his shoulder, gradually reached over and took the hammer away, and then cupped her hands around his face and said, “Good job, Jerry. Why don’t you two boys go bury the possum while I clean up the corner?”
So we did.
We walked about a quarter of a mile down the road to the railroad tracks. Nothing was said. It was so quiet I could hear the shovel strike against the ground as we drug it along.
We dug a hole and buried the flattened creature beneath it and covered it up.
When we were done, Jerry returned to being Jerry.
That day I learned a very valuable lesson.
If you corner any of God’s creatures—and that includes the human variety—they will fuss, spit, growl and even snarl at you. At that point you have to decide whether you’re going to walk away or if you’re going to destroy them.
Let me tell you—there are a lot of “Jerrys” in the world.
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