The Invasion

A parable*

by Andy Fenton

It is 10.45pm and the house is quiet and calm. Peaceful. Until we hear a loud crash from the direction of the living room followed by a scrabbling and scraping noise. Naturally our first thought is burglars, reinforced when Mikey screams out “OMG, you’ve got to come and see this!  Dad, hurry!!!“.  Sensing the urgency I throw my book down and run through to the lounge followed closely by Audrey.
We see legs dangling from the roof. Hairy ones. With a tail. And claws. And teeth. A large, angry possum is trying to scrabble his way back out of the skylight well – which sits on a raked 60° angled roof 12 feet above.  The skylight only opens about 10 inches, so our uninvited guest must have crept onto the mesh screen which then collapsed under him.
And as he held on for grim death the skylight inexorably, slowly, closed above him.

First Response

We are keen to keep our distance; all of us having visions of that Alien movie where the creature latches onto your face and sucks the life out of you (also featured in the recent Doctor Who Christmas special, for the Whovians amongst you).  Simplest option is to open the skylight so he could get out.  But naturally it wouldn’t open – perhaps our friend flicked the power switch?
Using a VERY long broom pole we power the skylight off and on – no luck – so we have a quick read the manual (usually the last resort). Unable to find any override switch we contemplate our ability grab him and throw him out the window or door.  Having our friend 12 foot up in the gabled roof doesn’t make that option appear easy.  In fact as we try to convince him to take that leap of faith to the opened door we realised his tail is stuck in the jamb of the skylight – so unless we can open it our possum isn’t going anywhere!
The obvious next step is to put Mikey on the roof, (half-naked as you do), but no matter how many helpful suggestions I call up to him from the safety of the living room he just couldn’t prise the skylight open. It may have something to do with the only makeshift crowbar I had available. A nice, sharp machete.  I’m sure our Possum’s eyes widened when he saw Michael with that through the skylight window!


By now even though the Possum is dangling lower into the room but he’s managing to hold himself up remarkably well – by gouging his claws into the plaster. He has also *ahem* lost control of his bodily functions in the excitement so is fast losing his cuteness. I start to consider how I might execute execution plans…

  • Option 1 – Relieve possum of his tail.
    Rejected. No room to swing the machete inside the window bay (because there’s a possum in the way)
  • Option 2 – Relieve possum of his head.
    Rejected. That would make a mess on the carpet and Audrey will not be pleased.
  • Option 3 – Relieve possum of his ability to breathe.
    Rejected. Frankly I’m not the strangling type (Tony Curtis put me off that about that 40+ years ago!)!


With all three options rejected we figure he has luck on his side – after all he has survived the 1080 poisoning thus far, and has done so well to hang on inside that roof cavity. A lucky possum deserves a second chance at freedom. So who do we call?  Ghostbusters Tawa Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Can you imagine the call?  “Sorry to disturb you. We have a bit of a situation. It’s a possum. Yes, he’s dangling through the ceiling. No, it’s not really an emergency emergency.  BUTCANYOUPLEASECOMENOWCOSHECANONLYHANGONFORSOLONGANDHEHASVERYSHARPCLAWSANDISSTARTINGTOLOOKDECIDEDLYCROSS!”


The Fire Brigade respond quickly and are greeted on arrival by the sight of half-naked pasty teen – with a machete! – on the roof. Lit by a red-flashing light. I suspect this was a new experience for all of them.
Our gallant rescuers have mighty weapons (a long ladder and a crowbar) with which to complete their quest. One of them draws the short straw valiantly volunteers to get up the ladder and wrap the Possum in a blanket while his colleague uses super-strength to jimmy the skylight from the roof outside.  Our friend the Possum, unhappy with this invasion of his personal space, kicks up a ruckus with a hiss and guttural roar – but our hero is protected by his magic armour (helmet, visor and gloves)!


As soon as his tail is released from its trap Mr Possum takes one almighty leap straight down to the floor and runs out the back door to the safety of the bush beyond – scattering two heroes of fire in his wake.  Looking up into the skylight well we can now see that right under where his tail was is a microswitch which would have rendered the skylight operable.  Had we been able to get to it between the claws of wild possum’s hind legs… why the manual didn’t say that!
We Fentons feel pretty good that our marsupial guest survived to live another day – with only a slight kink in his tail to show for it. We feel even better about the professionalism and capability of the Tawa Volunteer Fire Brigade and are grateful for their prompt assistance in times of crisis.  We even begrudgingly accept the security feature of the skylight was working in our best interests. But we are a little disappointed that Mikey hasn’t been invited for a feature pic on the next Firemen’s calendar *smile*

So the moral(s) of the story:

  • No matter how much surety you have in place the unexpected will happen.
  • Face your issues head on, but check every angle for an unorthodox solution
  • In spite of your best efforts and intentions, sometimes it’s better to call in expert help – they have the skills and tools to do the job quickly and efficiently
  • If you ever find yourself in a jam(b), make some noise because help is out there
  • Don’t make judgements based on appearance – sometimes the person with the machete is on your side.


Skylight Your business, your archive, your collection
Possum Your digitisation and/or access challenge
Andy and Mikey Your awesome team who are great at thinking through the all options but can also identify where they don’t have the right resources on hand.
Fire Department The NZMS team, who have the tools and skills to solve your problem.


* Based on a true story. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent, rather they have been retained to implicate the ‘guilty’.  No possums were harmed by actions other than those of its own doing – and as far as we know he is living happily ever after. Or he could be lurking in the trees plotting his next attempt on Andy’s stash of Bounty Bars.