The screams of a team of fourteen- to sixteen year-old girls bounced around the gym walls. No, we hadn’t just won a game. No, no one had made an amazing shot from halfway across the basketball court. These were terrified screams, and it took me a good ten minutes to calm everyone down to the point where I could figure out just what had happened. There was a possum in the gym under the bleachers.
Our high school’s girls basketball team is really good. These girls aren’t the type to worry over whether they’ve broken a nail, or jump on a chair if they see a spider on the floor. These are strong, hard-working young women who work hard at practices so they can win regionals. This is not a wimpy basketball team. And, I love being their coach.
So, you can imagine how surprised I was to hear all the screaming and running when I ran back to my office to get something. I’d left the team captain in charge of warm ups and drills, as I usually do. But, the screeching had me tearing back through the nearly-empty high school halls back to the gym. I was ready to do battle with whatever was terrorizing those girls.
Apparently, what had happened was they were all warming up and stretching for practice. They’d run laps around the gym and then got into formation to stretch out leg muscles. One of my forwards saw a glint of something in the darkness under the bleachers right in front of her, and she stopped stretching and got closer to find out what it was. Some of her teammates joined her to figure it out. Then, one of my girls reached her hand in between two rows of seats, and touched something furry that let out this horrible sound and stench, and showed a row of gleaming ugly teeth. That’s pretty much when the screaming started.
I calmed everyone down, and cautiously approached the bleachers where they’d made “contact.” I hate to admit it, but my heart was pounding hard in my chest, and I struggled to maintain my composure. I knelt down in front of the bottom bleacher and let my eyes adjust to the darkness underneath. I pulled out my keychain with a small flashlight, and clicked the light into the gloom. Hopefully not a single girl on my team noticed me jump when the tiny light showed a grey-ish animal, teeth bared and eyes gleaming, backed up against the wall. Then, I realized, it was only a possum in the gym.
I knew it wouldn’t hurt us, as long as we left it alone. I made the girl who touched it go wash her hands, which she did willingly enough, and left a message for the building maintenance crew to get someone to get rid of the possum in the gym. We still held practice that night, but my girls had a tough time keeping an eye on the ball when they were too busy eyeing the bleachers to make sure the possum stayed under there.