Spouser has always been afraid of snakes, so he nearly had a heart attack when my cat Jenny Craig brought a garter snake into the house and nonchalantly dropped it on the dining room table.
My mind flashed back to a TV show I watched last week where Sally Fields was a rough, tough homestead gal picking cotton in a countryside with her two kids and a few field hands. A big poisonous snake slithered nearby, and with lightning speed, the critter was dead.
With a sweet southern accent Sally explained to a field hand, “Well, it looked like the snake was going after my ankle, and I was real scared. Luckily I had a butcher knife lying nearby, so I reached over and threw it as best I could. I was real glad I chopped the snake in two, right off, but I do feel sorry for it now.”
The next morning, I call my sister April and ask if she has heard any reports about an increase in the snake population. She reminds me she lives 50 feet from a canal near Fort Worth where poisonous snakes slithering through her yard are as plentiful as gargantuan cockroaches swinging from the fronds of our south Texas palm trees.
April goes on to tell me about a woman who lives with a monitor lizard (lizards who are about the size of an alligator, eat wild pigs and have weird acidic saliva that’s nearly deadly if touched).
“She lives with the thing in a condo,” my sister continues. “The monitor lizard got out one day, and when the neighbors saw it run across the parking lot, they complained that it shouldn’t be allowed to live in a regular neighborhood. The woman said she’d fight to keep it. She even bathes with it!”
April’s clearly pleased that her reptile story is more hideous than Spouser’s “little scare.” True, I haven’t heard about the woman with the monitor lizard, and I’m not sure I completely believe her story anyway. It’s not that my sister would lie, but over the years, I’m usually “one up” on her in the story-telling department, and now she’s to the point where she’ll come up with inconceivable tales to outdo me.
Then there was the time when I was a kid, and a neighbor boy appeared at our front door and asked if we’d seen his boa constrictor. For several moments, my mom and I just stood there, unable to answer. It seemed he was waiting for us to say, “Oh, is it yours? Yeah, it’s here. We love how it squeezes!”
I mean, get real! That was back when there was a lot of talk about numskulled people buying pet snakes and then flushing the snakes down the toilet when they got too big to manage. There had been numerous reports of full-grown snakes making their way through the sewer system and popping up out of people’s toilets.
So anyway, back to the horrifying situation with the snake in my house. Jenny Craig is basically a nice cat. She catches things but won’t kill them. Spouser is going ballistic, and I have to do something. My only two realistic courses of action are to leave the house and never come back, or capture the snake.
Fortunately, I have no problem dealing with cold-blooded creatures. My affection for the beady-eyed critters probably runs clear back to the days of Adam and Eve. I carefully scoop the slithery creature into my hand, rubbing its belly with my thumb and pointer finger.
“Lookie here,” I say in a high-pitched voice, turning to Spouser. “He’s a real cutie.”
“Just get the thing OUT of the house,” he pleads.
So I do what I always do in these crisis situations: apprehend and escort the varmint out of the house and put it under the fence to my neighbor’s vegetable garden where it’ll live in a veritable paradise. Occasionally, I’ll hear shrieks coming from the neighbor when she’s working in her yard. But there could be a number of explanations for this, like she just stepped on a sticker, or she simply feels like singing a chorus or two.
No harm done, I’m sure. So I’ll grab my cobra-shaped back scratcher and head to the shower for a good scrub.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com.