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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Writing (01/11/07)

TITLE: The Mystery of the Fallen Birdbath
By Kathie Thomas


I spend my evenings writing but this evening was very hot and I couldn’t concentrate. I looked up at the time and remembered I hadn’t watered my garden yet. It was getting late.

We’re experiencing a major drought – one of the worst our state has seen in a long time. We’re on stage three water restrictions which means we can only water between certain hours twice a week. The other days we collect the grey water from the dish washing in the kitchen, and water from cooking, and I take that out to the garden for watering. The roses are doing well, despite this very hot and dry weather but the other plants struggle and I do what I can to keep them going. Our local Christian radio station has our city praying for rain daily.

We have a birdbath underneath a large pine tree in our front garden. It’s not a solid heavy birdbath, but a lightweight one, of a small boy holding a bowl above his head. I’ve seen pigeons on some days taking a drink so I keep it topped up as I know the birdlife use it.

Some mornings I discover the birdbath knocked over and assumed it was one of our cats when out for the night. We have some native animal life too and I wondered if the cats had knocked it over chasing a possum or another cat.

Tonight I was out watering the garden in the semi dark. I finished the backyard and took the required trigger nozzle to the front, plugged it in and began watering. I’d pulled the hose out a distance so I could reach the far side and then turned around to start moving towards the house.

That’s when I saw it. A moving shadow in the pine tree above the birdbath. I walked closer to get a better look and saw a small grey possum with a white tipped ringtail. I moved further forward toward the birdbath realising I hadn’t filled it yet. The possum raced back up the tree and stayed at a distance watching me as I filled the birdbath. Perhaps he’d been watching me other nights and knew my routine but I was much later than usual tonight. I finished, and went back inside aware that the possum was inching back down again.

The main doors were open to let what breeze there was into the house and I could hear rustling in the trees outside. I slowly pulled the curtain at the front window open to look out at the pine tree and in the shadows I saw first one, then a second possum. But these were bigger and had brushy tails; their turn for a drink. I began to worry about how heavy they would be for the birdbath and that the water would be lost. Perhaps they were our mystery culprits and not the smaller possum I’d seen.

I looked in the back of my kitchen cupboard and found an old casserole dish that had long lost its lid. I filled the dish and opened the front door. It has a very loud creak to it. Normally we don’t mind the loud noise – it lets us know if anyone is coming in the front door, but on this occasion I was wishing it was much quieter. The possums tore up the tree and then onto the roof of the house.

I placed the dish under the pine tree on flat ground and I rocked it to make sure it wouldn’t move easily once the possums found it. Then I remembered that they also love apples so went back inside and cut one up and laid it on the ground beside the casserole dish.

Finally I could rest and get back to my beloved computer and my writing. I work at home and spend a lot of time at the computer. But I still couldn’t concentrate as my mind kept turning to those possums outside. Every noise I heard I imagined it was them back in the tree, reaching down to the birdbath. And then my husband and I heard a loud noise. We tore outside thinking that someone was in the garden, but instead we found the little boy birdbath, on its side, leaning against the casserole dish, and a large brush-tailed possum scurrying back up the pine tree. We definitely found our culprit and solved the mystery of the fallen birdbath. Now I can get back to my writing…….

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This article has been read 1213 times
Member Comments
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Sara Harricharan 01/19/07
This was quite fun to read, to see a different side to the possums. I've had to throw bowls of water on possums that bully my poor cat. I enjoyed the images, like the description of the birdbath, and getting the dish. Your title is definitely a winner for a mystery buff like me! I did notice that you didn't use a lot of present tense in the beginning. Usually the best way for a 'mystery' is to start in present tense and don't stop the action. Overall though, I enjoyed this-great writing!
Marilyn Schnepp 01/20/07
The Title drew me in, and I, thanks to you, discovered the culprit; however, the topic of "Writing", seemed secondary in this fascinating birdbath story... But nice job.
Edy T Johnson 01/20/07
Ooh! A mystery will catch my attention every time. I thoroughly enjoyed your story. As for the challenge topic, I have to agree a bit with Marilyn that writing seemed just incidental to the story.

However, you did a great job illustrating just how easy it is to be distracted FROM our writing sometimes, when life is presenting us with perhaps a better story than the one on our computer :)
Betty Castleberry01/21/07
I love animals, just about all of them, so this was a really fun read for me. I do agree that the topic wasn't covered real strongly, but I think this was well done anyway. Maybe we'll see your story on Animal Planet some day. ;0)
Jan Ackerson 01/21/07
This cracked me up, as I would NEVER offer food to a possum--they look like giant rats, and they freak me out, a little. Very engaging reading--thanks for the entertainment.
Joanne Sher 01/21/07
Enjoyed this - great detail. I felt like I was right there with you.
darlene hight01/21/07
Can't help it...I love an animal story! Leave it to them to drink out of a birdbath. Hmmmm....big water dish just like the toilet for most dogs LOL
Crista Darr01/21/07
Funny. We used to leave a dish out for a stray kitty. Ended up having lots of visitors - possums and racoons! Your story will be stronger if you let us join you in the yard and show us what you are seeing rather than telling us. No, you are not on "topic" but this is still a delightful read.
Gregory Kane01/22/07
I thought there was a good progression in the plot/mystery and it was easy to keep reading. Your opening paragraph could have been a bit stronger. As the others have pointed out, the delight in this story is on the antics of the possums rather than on being distracted from one’s writing. I wonder if you shouldn’t have started off with the puzzle of who or what was overturning the birdbath. But a pleasant, enjoyable read.