The first time you taste possum you begin to question if this is what you really want to be doing with your time. It’s got a gritty taste, like lamb rubbed down with sandpaper, and the scent. Well, no amount of cheap whiskey or vomit will wash that out of your mouth.
So needless to say, it makes you begin to question the choices you’ve made.
Thing is, when the rails catch up to you, eventually you’ll eat whatever you can find.
It was somewhere in Tennessee, I think — the details are still a little foggy — but it was the first bite I’d had since leaving Kentucky and besides, if you find someone on the tracks will to share his dinner you don’t say no. That’s just how it is. It’s all part of the Unwritten Rules. You accept, you eat, and you like it. Those rules are IMPORTANT. Follow them and you’ll do okay. Break the Rules and … well, those are ugly stories.
One of the other rules is this: Don’t ask too many questions.
I don’t know how he prepared it. I didn’t ask. My leg still ached from the incident at the falls and to tell you the truth, by then he could have been cooking shoe leather and I’d have been ready to chow down. And like I said, I didn’t ask. He had more holes than teeth and a beard that was more of a smear of grime than a beard, but he didn’t mind shutting up and letting me eat in peace, so he was good company.
“Way I figure it is this,” I remember him telling me. “We got, what, fifty years on this Earth?” (I didn’t tell him fifty was pretty young to die.) “So way I see it, give what you have to give and it’ll all work out in the end. Makes sense, right?”
It didn’t make sense.
I didn’t tell him that, though, what with that big damn dog that hung around him. Don’t know if it was his or just a stray that took to him, but what I wasn’t going to do was piss the guy off. Not with that dog. And especially not after the possum.
So I ate the possum and hoped to hell I could snag a boxcar in the morning, maybe make my way into Alabama for a few weeks.
Why Alabama? I don’t know. It sounded lucky, I guess.