Brer Possum’s Dilemma 

Traditional African American, retold by Jackie Torrence 

Back in the days when the animals could talk, there lived ol’ Brer Possum. He was a fine feller. Why, he never liked to see no critters in trouble. He was always helpin’ out, a-doin’ somethin’ for others.

Ever’ night, ol’ Brer Possum climbed into a persimmon tree, hung by his tail, and slept all night long. And each mornin’, he climbed outa the tree and walked down the road to sun ’imself. 

One mornin’, as he walked, he come to a big hole in the middle of the road. Now, ol’ Brer Possum was kind and gentle, but he was also nosy, so he went over to the hole and looked in. All at once, he stepped back, ’cause layin’ in the bottom of that hole was ol’ Brer Snake with a brick on his back. 

Brer Possum said to ’imself, “I best git on outa here, ’cause ol’ Brer Snake is mean and evil and lowdown, and if I git to stayin’ around ’im, he jist might git to bitin’ me.” 

So Brer Possum went on down the road. 

But Brer Snake had seen Brer Possum, and he commenced to callin’ for ’im. 

“Help me, Brer Possum.” 

Brer Possum stopped and turned around. He said to ’imself, “That’s ol’ Brer Snake a-callin’ me. What do you reckon he wants?” 

Well, ol’ Brer Possum was kindhearted, so he went back down the road to the hole, stood at the edge, and looked down at Brer Snake. 

“Was that you a-callin’ me? What do you want?” 

Brer Snake looked up and said, “I’ve been down here in this hole for a mighty long time with this brick on my back. Won’t you help git it offa me?”

Brer Possum thought. 

“Now listen here, Brer Snake. I knows you. You’s mean and evil and lowdown, and if’n I was to git down in that hole and git to liftin’ that brick offa your back, you wouldn’t do nothin’ but bite me.” 

Ol’ Brer Snake just hissed. 

“Maybe not. Maybe not. Maaaaaaaybe not.” Brer Possum said, “I ain’t sure ’bout you at all. I jist don’t know. You’re a-goin’ to have to let me think about it.”

So ol’ Brer Possum thought—he thought high, and he thought low—and jist as he was thinkin’, he looked up into a tree and saw a dead limb a-hangin’ down. He climbed into the tree, broke off the limb, and with that ol’ stick, pushed that brick offa Brer Snake’s back. Then he took off down the road. 

(page 1)

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