Night time. The jasmine exhales a sigh of relief; the cares of another day have slipped into shadow. A string of patio lights twinkles away in conversation with the city of Wilsonville to the south. The patio lights sing of their own brightness and the city blinks like an old woman, amused. I listen idly, pondering the nature of truth and lies.
There’s a shuffling and scraping in the heart of the rosebush.
I’m expecting a rat, for difficult thoughts often bring out the very worst of expectations, don’t they? But no, it’s a tiny possum, no more than a shaggy silhouette, two red eyes glittering. I know her straight away.
“Baby Possum!” I say, “What are you doing out here, all alone?
“Dithering hither and yon, enjoying the breeze,” she says. “It’s not grubs you’ve got in that pretty blue bowl, is it?”
“Well, no. Sorry. Ice cream, actually.”
“Ah.” Her nose wrinkles, and she looks, oddly, a bit wise.
Quite wise in fact, and I’ll take any guidance I can get. “Hey, listen. I’ve been worrying over something. Maybe you can help.”
I think for a moment, drawing little circles in the melting ice cream with my spoon. “How do you know if a person is being truthful, or lying for kindness’ sake?”
“Why does that matter?”
I don’t want to say, as the source of my wondering is a bit shallow, and no one wants to look bad, even in the eyes of a possum. But still, it’s led to deeper thoughts. “It’s just that sometimes truth is hurtful, and lies keep us whole. But it’s good to be truthful. And lying is wrong.”
She snorts a tiny wheeze of a snort and scratches her ear. ”Okay. So?”
“I find it a bit confusing, is all.”
“Look here. Truth: I am a rat.”
I laugh. “But no! You are a baby possum. I see you quite clearly in the glow of the twinkle lights.”
“You trust your own eyes to see truth then? You trust the lights to reveal it?”
I look at the string of lights boasting to the city. I admire the halo around them (a side effect of laser eye surgery). I look at Possum, who has a skinny rat tail and a pointy nose.
She laughs, not unkindly, and turns her back on me, slipping away into the thorny maze of the bush.
“But where are you going?” I call after her.
“Now that,” the small voice comes back, muffled and overlaid with the scent of roses, “that is a much better question.”