Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Snake that ate the Bell Family

Spring 2004

We last left the Bell family with Mama Bell wringing her hands and declaring we’d not be using the dryer. This was out of fear that the two foot long Eastern Ring Tailed snake had crawled into the dryer vent and was anxiously awaiting the opportune moment to strike and kill off every member of the Bell family, and their little dog too! Papa Bell was quietly seated on the back porch, still appropriately attired in his Easter Sunday best. Baby Bell (that’s me [for the sake of the Goldilocks-type story… but in reality I’m the middle child) had enlisted the help of her friend Leon to dispose of the ferocious back yard python, that was a good five or six inches in diameter. (Leon, as you will recall, came equipped with a shotgun and 9mm handgun). It’s hard to imagine that it has been almost a year since that fateful Easter Sunday afternoon, but indeed it is true.

It is harder still to believe this same monster has survived the various lawn cuttings, freezing temperatures, and other woodland creatures that are higher up on the ecological food chain. But it has! This must not be your normal everyday predator/killer. This, my friends, is the Super Snake!

I was quite tired Friday night, after having put in a good 12 hour work day, when Mama Bell entered the Bell den, wearing her lovely sleep shirt, and announced that Papa Bell, our hero, had indeed thwarted the advances of the killer viper and crushed his head under his foot. My mind immediately traveled to the recent showing of “The Passion of the Christ” where Mel Gibson’s foot crushed a rather large, yellowy, evil serpent that had been sent by Satan to inflict pain upon the Christ. Almost as instantly, my mind returned to the reality of my 72 year old, arthritic father, and I wondered only how he kept from hurting himself as he faced such an impressive foe as the two-foot python from the back yard.

Mama Bell proudly let it be known that Papa Bell threw a large stone over the snake, just in case it had not died under his foot, to keep it from returning to the dryer vent… where… it can only be assumed… it has lived these past 12 months knitting a sweater from the dryer lint, to keep itself warm during the cold winter months. “We should go see if its still there,” my mother gleefully chirped. Of course, the fact that we were in the midst of the first spring thunderstorm, held no consequence to her. This was a woman on a mission! Off to the music room we went; past the five-foot Baby Grand Piano and my Gran’s antique Hammond Organ; past the five wrought iron Baker’s Racks stocked full of my mother’s Beanie Babies; to the front door.

“You know, if the snake isn’t dead, and the rock wasn’t large enough to hold him, it might be that it has crawled up to the door and is coiled and waiting for you to welcome him into the house.” My words were no match for the adrenaline that was coursing through my mother’s veins. She would not be sidetracked from this adventure. She flipped the light switch and the door swung open in one timeless moment, and there it was! There was the massive deadly creature that had haunted the sleepless nights of my mother’s dreams for so long.

“You have GOT to be kidding me!” The tone in my voice was the first thing to break through my mother’s conscious thought. “That is the snake? I mean really… that’s it, right?”

“Well of course it’s the snake. What does it look like to you?”

“It looks more like a giant earthworm than a snake! Seriously… Mom… is that it? Are those markings the same as those on the snake you saw last year?”

“Yes.” My mother was proud of her ability to remember the markings on this unruly beast. I can only hope that she never witnesses an event that would require her to give a description of a criminal to a police sketch artist. Had one been called last Easter to investigate the “viper sighting”, the drawing would have more likely resembled the Loch Ness Monster. “That is the same snake as last year.” Her voice was naturally calm now that the terror was, at last, safely held underneath the rock.

“I see.” I waited a moment for dramatic effect before I completed my thought. “You know Mom… I hate to burst your bubble… but that snake is not close to being two feet long.”

“What are you talking about? Are you looking at the same snake I’m looking at?”

There were so many replies to that question floating in the cosmos of my brain, that it was difficult to choose only one. I concluded that any sarcastic remark would be wasted and resolved to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I cleared my throat before proceeding:

“It would appear that this snake is considerably smaller than two feet long… and is really only about as thick as my index finger.” I picked my index finger for fear of utilizing my middle finger in a manner not becoming a southern lady. Realization was beginning to sink in for my dear mother who could only reply, “Well, it looked a lot bigger last year. It may be coiled up underneath the rock so that you can only see the head and tail.”

“Mom… the rock isn’t big enough to cover a coiled snake.” I left it at that and began moving through the house to greet our fearless leader, and my mother’s hero… Papa Bell.

“Quite some snake you’ve got trapped under that rock on the sidewalk Dad.”

“Yep!” I could see his chest expanding with pride. I imagined him as a daring young Indian warrior who returned from his first test of courage. I saw him in my mind’s eye receive an eagle feather for bravery after overpowering a bear in the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains. “I stomped on his head and threw that rock right on top of it.” The image of the young Indian warrior quickly vanished as my father’s toothless reply crossed the threshold of my eardrums. The whistling ‘s’ bringing me back to reality so fast that I was grateful to have been standing behind him for fear that he would not have appreciated my doubling over with silent, contained laughter. I struggled to regain my composure.

“It’s not quite the size I imagined from the description given last year at Easter. Is this the same snake?”

“Yep”, his pride was undaunted. “It’s about two feet long.”

“Have you resorted to Old Testament Biblical measurements? Back then a cubit was from your finger to your elbow.”

“You’re just talking nonsense now. That’s a two foot snake.”

“That’s a five inch earthworm that I’m thankful Leon couldn’t spot! I’d hate for him to have unleashed the artillery he packed with him last year to kill a garden snake.”

My mother was quick to reply, “That is an Eastern-- Ring tailed—snake”… her words carefully and evenly spaced to indicate the seriousness of this subject.

I was getting nowhere fast. I moved on.

“So, will you ask the pest control people to dispose of it on Monday when they come spray the house?”

My father replied, “I figure a cat or dog will probably snatch it away. I don’t think the pest control guys will handle snakes.”

“I don’t either… but earthworms… they can probably deal with those.” I quickly walked away and pondered, yet one more time, whether there had been some sort of switch in the delivery ward of the hospital on my birthday.

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