The Twelve Opossums by Christopher Iacono

Creative Nonfiction

Jesus was drinking wine when the guests crashed onto the dinner table. Creatures the size of cats with small ears, pointy noses, and turquoise hair covering their bodies scurried around the turkey and knocked over bowls of corn and peas and carrots. A few lay on their backs around the mashed potatoes, pretending to play dead. Two more were hanging upside-down from the ceiling, their long, skinny tails curled around the lights.

*

When my fourth grade teacher, Sister Mary Christine, arrived at my desk, she bent forward to get a closer look at my picture. “What is this?” she asked.

“It’s Jesus and the Twelve Apostles,” I replied.

“Where are the Apostles?”

Her question confused me since I had drawn them using a bright turquoise crayon so they would stand out. I wasn’t the best artist, but they didn’t look that different from the illustration in our science book.

I pointed to them in the picture. “See? There they are. Apostles. We read about them last week.”

She laughed. “Oh my word! Those aren’t Apostles. They’re opossums.”

The kids in the desk surrounding me scraped their chairs on the floor as they shuffled over to gawk at my picture. The whole classroom erupted into laughter. My face and neck burned. At that moment, I wished I could have played dead.

*

Some of the opossums turned into bearded men wearing turquoise robes. As they were taking their places at the table, which had somehow grown longer, Jesus was struck by how all of his Apostles looked the same. Then he looked up. The ceiling, which had a few minutes ago been the color of cheap, yellow drawing paper, was now the same turquoise as the Apostles’ clothes.

*

It was Holy Thursday. Since our school was going to be closed for Good Friday, we were all looking forward to a long weekend. Although I had removed all of the marsupials from my picture, the other kids’ laughter kept repeating in my head. When school ended, I trudged with my younger brother Steven to the parking lot, hanging my head in shame. Boy was I stupid. My parents and grandparents had always boasted about how smart I was, but I proved them wrong that day.

Once I got into my mother’s olive green station wagon, I tried to forget about it. I sat back and absently listened to the music from the radio.

*

The week after Easter, my teacher asked me to re-draw my picture with Jesus and the opossums. She had told some of the other teachers about it, and they wanted to see it.

*

Jesus set the table again for another Last Supper, surrounding his turkey with all the fixings. Sister Mary Christine led the guests into the dining room. The teachers looked at one another and nodded their heads, reverentially.

 

Biography
Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. You can learn more about him at cuckoobirds.org.

Image: Aaron Burden