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Kathy Possum

CHAPTER 1.
GRANDMA POSSUM TELLS A SECRET


Grandma Possum

LITTLE KATHY POSSUM WAS SAD. Her head hung down and her tail dragged behind her as she made her way to Grandma Possum's house. Every now and then she snuffled and rubbed her nose with her paw.

"What's wrong?" called Grandma Possum, wiping her paws on her apron. She was looking out the kitchen window, and even from a distance she could see that the little possum was unhappy. Usually Kathy trotted happily on her way to see Grandma Possum after school. But not today.

"Come in and have some chocolate milk and cookies," said Grandma Possum. She took Kathy's paw in hers and they went into the kitchen. Possums eat all kinds of food, but they are especially fond of chocolate milk and cookies.

So, while Kathy perched on her stool at the table, Grandma Possum poured chocolate milk into Kathy's mug.The mug was pink to match Kathy's pink nose and it had two handles, one on each side, so Kathy's paws could hold it easily as she drank.

Grandma put some cookies on Kathy's little plate.The plate was pink too, and it had a picture of a tiny possum painted on it. Kathy was a big girl now but she still loved to eat from her little plate. Grandma had given the plate and the mug to her long ago when Kathy was just a tiny possum.

Kathy felt better. Every day after school she visited Grandma Possum. And now, sitting at the kitchen table, with her pink mug and plate in front of her, she almost forgot how sad she had been.

But Grandma Possum hadn't forgotten. She sat down at the table, carefully draping her tail to one side of her chair. "Now, Kathy," she said, "how was school today?" Grandma asked this question every day. Since Kathy loved school, she enjoyed talking to Grandma about it. But today, Grandma's question brought back Kathy's sad feelings.

Kathy looked down into her pink mug. "Come now, tell me what's wrong," coaxed Grandma. "You'll see, talking about it will make you feel better."

"The other animals made fun of me today," Kathy blurted out, still staring into her mug.

"Yes? Why did they do that?" Grandma asked softly.

"Because I didn't know what to do if the mean old coyote came after me," Kathy said sadly.

"Hmmm," said Grandma.Then she asked, "What did the other little animals say they would do if the mean old coyote came after them?"

Kathy put her mug down on the table and took a bite out of a cookie. "Well," she said, "Teacher asked us to describe how we would escape and Jeremy Squirrel told us he would quick run up a tree." She chewed the bite of cookie and swallowed it. "Then Ruthie Woodchuck said she would dive into her underground house."

Grandma nodded her wise old head. "Those are good escapes for Jeremy and Ruthie," she said, adding, "did anyone else have an escape?"

"Yes," said Kathy, "Steven Rabbit said he would jump into some blackberry bushes. They're full of pickers and thorns, he says. And Michael Beaver said he would plunge into the pond and swim right into his house in the water," She drank the last of her chocolate milk and put down her mug. Then she carefully wiped cookie crumbs from her whiskers. "Grandma, what does it mean to plunge?"

Grandma considered. "You said Ruthie Woodchuck would dive into her house underground. Well, Michael Beaver would dive, or plunge, into the pond. Michael is an intelligent boy and he likes to use big words."

Grandma peered at Kathy over her round wire-rimmed glasses. "Why were the other animals making fun of you?" she asked.

There was a little pause and then Kathy wailed, "Because I didn't have any escape. I can't run fast like Jeremy and Steven, and I don't have an underground house like Ruthie, and I can't swim like Michael, and I just didn't know what to say. . ." Big tears welled up in her eyes. "Maybe I'll just get eaten by the mean old coyote because I'm so stupid," she sobbed.

"Oh, dear, oh, dear," said Grandma, and she got up from her chair to pat Kathy's heaving shoulders. Kathy usually felt that she was a big girl. After all, she was in the first grade at school, but she cried now like a small hurt animal.

Grandma lifted Kathy from her stool at the table and carried her to the old rocking chair that stood by the stove. "There, there," she soothed, as Kathy wept against her shoulder. "Don't you cry anymore. Grandma's going to tell you a secret." And as Grandma rocked her, back and forth, back and forth, Kathy's sobs grew quieter.

Finally, she lifted her head and asked, "What's the secret?"

Grandma pressed a handkerchief to Kathy's nose and commanded, "Blow." Kathy hiccupped twice and blew into the handkerchief.

Grandma leaned back. "There," she said, "that's better." She tucked the handkerchief away in her apron pocket and began to rock again, back and forth. "Now for the secret," she said, as Kathy looked up at her, waiting.

"First of all, child, you are not stupid. You just haven't heard the secret yet. But none of us possums are ever told the secret until we're old enough to understand it."

"Oh, I hope I'm old enough," cried Kathy, "am I, Grandma, am I?"

"Yes, Kathy, I think you're old enough," said Grandma, and Kathy clapped her paws together. "But wait, just a minute," Grandma continued, "I want to ask you a question. Did Miz Shirley Badger, your teacher, say anything to the other animals when they made fun of you?"

"No, Grandma, she didn't because she didn't know about it. It was on the way home that the other animals asked me what I would do to escape the mean old coyote. And they laughed when I said I didn't know."

"All right, Kathy, you're old enough to hear The Possum Secret," Grandma said firmly. "Now listen carefully," and she began to whisper into Kathy's small black ear.

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