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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Snakes at Tysons Corner

After he was thrown out of my peaceable kingdom and into the hallway.  What kind is it? Answer at bottom/Patricia Leslie

Last Sunday night I zipped around the corner in my wee abode to look up a word in my big fat American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition which sits atop my favorite piece of furniture I bought with last year's income tax refund at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  That piece of furniture is my Thomas Jefferson Dictionary Stand.

The Thomas Jefferson Dictionary Stand, sold in the Monticello gift shop.  Monticello may call it a Library Stand, but it doesn't hold a "library."  It holds a dictionary/Monticello


Out of the corner of my eye I saw laying on the carpet beside the can of Johnson’s Pledge and a dust mitt (reminders to dust my Thomas Jefferson Dictionary Stand which has all these holes and glass requiring removal of the books on the shelves underneath and is quite a complicated (i.e. time consuming) operation) what appeared to be the toy snake I had given my grandson in April for his birthday, but as my mind and eyes adjusted to reality and expanded to the approximate size of the American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition, and I... blinked several times, being without my glasses, and.....and.....! ! !.... realized... it.....was not....could...not...be... my grandson’s toy....snake...... since..... since....my grandson....lives in Georgia ....... and....here......I was.... in....Virginia.... which meant…

which meant…

YOWEE, a real snake! 

AAUUGGGHHHH
I screamed bloody murder.

And no rescue was forthcoming.

The snake was approximately three feet long.

It was like a terrible dream which was not a dream at all.

Shaking, I found my phone and tried to dial my neighbor, however it took several seconds before I could quell the trembling in my fingers and remember the second letter of her name to look up in “My Contacts.”  At last, I was able to reach Margo who, thankfully, was at home.

In a whimper, I described the scene.

“I don’t know how to get a snake out of your place,” Margo said without emotion.

“What am I going to do?” I finally got out the words.  The snake remained motionless on the floor and played dead.

Margo suggested putting a trash can over the snake, but remembering the snake which appeared in my neighbor’s place across the hall last year which hid for a week undercover after Joe-Joe, another neighbor and faux rescuer, frightened it, I feared MY SNAKE would escape and hide, too.  (It just seems like we live in a zoo.)

Margo brought over a large red snow shovel and a broom. 

“Come here and look at it,” I said, and she refused.  “I don’t want to see it.”

What was a poor girl to do?  “I need a man,” I said to Margo who replied “you don’t need a man.”  

The snake had not budged and lay close to the Pledge can and the bright lime-green dust mitt.

“Call the police?  I’ll call the police!” I exclaimed.
“They won’t come,” Margo said matter-of-factly.  “They won’t even come for a bear.”  Neither of us knew the non-emergency police number.

What about Joe-Joe?  He’s a man, isn’t he, who could get it out of my place? He had flubbed the deal last year, but this was a new deal!

“No, Joe-Joe has a migraine,”  Margo said. “I talked with him earlier.” 

After she coaxed and encouraged and coaxed and encouraged me, I found lost gumption and smashed the basket trash can upside down on top of that snake, and before it could pry loose, I piled my American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition on top of the trash can in case in case the snake slithered out onto….onto….MY FEET.

“I need a man,” I said.  And some shoes to cover my bare feet.

“No, you don’t need a man.   Just scoot the trash can out the door,” Margo said.  “I just washed Lushy (her dog) and have to go dry him off.” 

“You are leaving?” I asked incredulously.  “You are leaving me alone with this snake?”

She left me alone with that snake under the basket trash can with the dictionary piled on top.  I could hear the snake rustling inside the plastic trash can liner.

Gradually, I began to scoot the upside down basket trash can with the snake inside across the carpet to the front door, all the while listening to it rustle the plastic.  Enroute I stopped about every three inches to find my wits which had earlier departed. 

The door frame at the entrance was going to cause problems because it was not level with the floor, meaning I would have to heave the trash can up a few inches to throw the snake out.  How was I going to do that?  How was I going to physically throw the snake inside the trash can with the dictionary on top out the door so that the snake did not make a rapid return into my peaceable kingdom?

It didn't take long for me to reach the door frame with the snake inside the trash can with the dictionary on top. 

For several minutes I stood in the outdoor hallway with the snake in the trash can, still imprisoned in my entrance way.  We waited for a man to appear. This was a man’s job.

None came.

After a little while, Margo stuck her head out her door and hollered down the hall:  “What’s going on?”

“We are waiting for a man.  This is a man’s job.”

“No, you don’t need a man!” she exclaimed.  “Now just push it, and get it out.” 

While I hemmed and hawed, she made her way back down the hall.

At the doorway I took position, holding the shovel in my left hand as a barrier in case the snake decided to make its way back inside my place, and with my right hand, the trash can and dictionary, wondering how I was supposed to heave them across the door frame with one hand. This was not going to be easy.

Margo stood several feet away in case the snake took out after her.  You know how fast they can be.

She kept encouraging me to get with it and do it.  I was afraid.

Gathering what was left of my being, I heaved the trash can with dictionary across the door frame, screamed louder than before and slammed the door before the snake could race back in. 

Out in the hallway Margo yelled: “It’s out!  It’s out!  It’s slithering!”  I cracked open the door and could see the snake's back side as it rolled over and over trying to upright itself before it crawled to a nearby wall crevice.

Margo urged me to take a picture. Mr. Snake did not take to flash well.

“There, you see,”  Margo gloated, “you did not need a man.”  We both tried to find calm.

Fifteen minutes later I peeked out my doorway and walked to the top of the stairs which Mr. Snake had descended, and there he was, at the landing below, wrapped 90 degrees around the corner.  He turned to look up and me, and I swear, smiled.  Life!

My sister, the animal lover from Florida, called later that night, and after I described the events, she said:  “Don’t kill it.  In the grand scheme of things and what’s going on in Afghanistan and the Middle East, this is nothing.”  She was right, of course, but for a few minutes in my condo, it was something.

*Answer:  The votes are in for:  a checkered garter snake,  a copperhead, a brown snake, a brown rat snake, an eastern hognose. Susan Watson, a terrestrial wildlife biologist with the Virginia Bureau of Wildlife Resources, says: eastern garter snake.

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