A Memoir by Scott Ocamb
The school bus lurched to a halt as it arrived at my stop. It was a crisp fall day; the musky smell of autumn was in the air. I was in third grade and recently moved from a suburban neighborhood to a veritable wilderness. I started on my half-mile walk home.
About halfway, I noticed something in the middle of the road. It was a dead possum. A strange, sweet smell was in the air – but not a good sweetness. It was awful. I also heard buzzing. Bees! A few weeks ago, my brother and I had been attacked by bees when he kicked a log. I was stung seventy times and sat in the bathtub for hours as my body throbbed in pain. I stood there in near panic. I had no idea how to get past the dead animal.
Then I had an idea. I walked down the road a bit, turned back toward the animal, and ran as fast as I could. I stopped short! No good. I couldn’t get past it. I tried it again. Still, no good! I finally gave up, sat down on the edge of the road, and put my head in my hands, sobbing. I had no idea what I would do.
I’m not sure how long I sat there.
I did not notice my mother walking up to me.
“Scott! What’s wrong?” Her pretty face was marked with concern. “I was worried sick when you didn’t come home on time. I thought a car ran you over.”
“Look!” I sobbed, pointing at the dead animal. “I can’t get past that thing. It stinks, and there are bees everywhere.”
She smiled at me. “Honey, they’re not bees, just flies. It smells because it’s dead and decomposing.” Mom walked over to the side of the road and picked up a long stick. She reached for my hand. “Come with me.”
We walked toward the animal. I was terrified. Mom put her arm around me and held me close. “These aren’t bees. They won’t sting you.” She poked the animal with the stick and turned it over. Little white things were squirming around in a viscous fluid.
“Mom, that’s gross, and it really smells.”
“They’re called maggots. When an animal dies, they appear and eat the dead flesh. They hatch into flies, and that’s the buzzing you hear. Eventually, the dead animal will completely disappear and turn to dust.”
“Does that happen to us when we die?”
“Yes, it happens to our bodies, but our souls go to heaven and live with God. There’s nothing to be afraid of here, Scott.”
“Let’s move it to the side of the road so you won’t see it every day, okay?” Mom pushed the dead animal to the side of the road, far enough away so I wouldn’t see it.
“Let’s go home.” She reached for my hand, and we walked home together.
Scott Ocamb is an author who tells unusual stories about growing up in a small town, the great outdoors, hiking, camping, and motorcycles. He is working on a memoir about how motorcycle trips helped him learn that forgiveness does more for the forgiver than the one being forgiven. He is also a freelance author specializing in agile and lean software delivery. Please see https://www.scottocamb.com/ for details.