Easter Sunday at the Bell house is never one to be boring. As a child, I always had the white hat/gloves/shoes/purse combo, and my father always bought a flower for me to wear on my dress. We’d get all dressed up for church and have our pictures taken. While I may have complained about my shoes being too tight, I didn’t have it as bad as my little brother. I remember specifically the year he had the linen shorts/jacket outfit that I’m sure one of our grandmothers bought for him. He hated wearing it, almost as much as I hated looking at him in it. We have a picture of him in that outfit, and to this day he will tell you he has deep psychological scars from having to wear it.
This Easter Sunday was not boring either. I woke up late, raced through the house to get ready for church/work… grabbed the flower that my father still buys for me… gave him a quick thank you kiss, let my mother take my picture, and then was gone. I came home after the second service to a house that was jumping! When I arrived, I found my mother wringing her hands and my father doing what he does best... sitting and watching my mother wring her hands.
It appears that we have a friendly snake in our yard. Black with yellow stripes... since identified in the old World Book Encyclopedia (circa 1950's) as a non-poisonous, eastern ringed tailed something-or-other. Depending on whom you ask will depend on the size of said creature. My mother swears it is a good 4 feet long while my father gives a more sedate measurement of between 10-12 inches. That is quite a discrepancy, but not an unusual one. The colloquialism “there’s two sides to every coin” takes on a new meaning at Casa De Bell. It is a rarity indeed when my parents share an opinion of something. It amazes me that they've not just weathered, but have successfully kept their marriage alive for 50 years.
At any rate, he (the snake) has shown himself twice, but neither time long enough for anyone to get close enough to take a whack at him. We’d sic the dog on him, but we have a poodle, and according to my mother, the snake is larger than the dog who would only be a nibble away from a fate worse than death.
Being the only sensible member of the family in the time of crisis, and being unable to locate either of my brothers... I contacted my friend Leon. Now, I’ve known Leon since we were in the third grade. We went all the way through school together, went to our senior prom together (we were each other’s mercy dates), went our separate ways during our college years when he entered the Air Force, but kept in touch all along the way. Leon is now an over-the-road truck driver and still lives in relatively close proximity to our house.
A word to the wise… don’t call for help unless you are ready to accept it in whatever form it manifests itself. Leon showed up ready to take on the snake... with a 9mm handgun in one hand and a 20something gauge shotgun in the other. I didn’t ask for the crocodile hunter, but that was apparently what I got. Its not like we live in the outback, we’re in a nice quiet middle Tennessee neighborhood with people living all around us. I started looking in the trees to see if there was surveillance equipment. I needed to know I wasn’t about to get “Punk’d”. To his defense, I’m sure that Leon wanted to be prepared for a snake that had perhaps been lost from a traveling circus passing through town. It may be a cobra or a rattler… but Leon would have the upper hand. I suppose he just wanted to keep his options open.
I quickly relived in my mind the only one other incident I remember my mother having with a snake. She was raking leaves in our yard when I was in elementary school. The leaf piles were pretty large. As she reached down for the last little bit to go into the trash bag, something in her hand moved. In one electrifying moment, she screamed, ran, and tossed the leaves (and accompanying snake) straight up in the air. A neighbor was mowing his lawn and saw the leaves go flying. He was quite taken aback at the fact that my mother was barreling down on him and his lawnmower. Before he had a chance to say anything she whipped the push mower from his hands and headed back to our yard, cutting a large and rather crooked swath on her way. She said nothing at all to the neighbor.
The poor snake never had a chance. Before it could have even thought about slithering away, it became compost… scattered all around the back yard. My superhero/anti-snake mother calmed herself and returned the impromptu snake execution equipment to its rightful owner with a simple “thank you.” I believe she treated him later that evening with a homemade cherry pie for his assistance in ridding the community from such terror.
So, when Leon broke out his arsenal, I was mortified. I was really opting for the old cut-'em-up-with-a-hoe method. It was perhaps a little bloodier, but hopefully less likely to have the police storming down on you. Gratefully the snake didn't show himself again. I was elated that I wasn't going to have to call all the neighbors to tell them my parents had determined that 50 years truly were enough and they’d been forced to shoot each other. I was also thankful that I wasn’t going to have to explain to the authorities that I had not shot either of them.
Of course, I did have to deal with the fact that Leon saw the location of the dryer vent and remarked to my mother that it appeared low enough to the ground that the snake could actually have crawled into it. That was exactly what had happened to his father once, you see. He went on to describe in vivid, Technicolor detail the time that his father opened the dryer one afternoon to get clothes out and there was a snake! He continued the story as I stood in a state of dread and watched my mother’s eyes get larger. I’m sure that I actually did see gears turning in her head. I also saw my father gingerly pick up the poodle and go inside the house.
My mother now will not get near the dryer, and won't allow any of us to either. She has plans to put some sort of grate over the vent. It makes me long for the days of my youth when as a young girl, I would hand clothes pins to my mother who was hanging our clothes on the line to dry. Then I remembered that we live in the 21st century, and clotheslines don't exist anymore.