As I was readying to leave for work one day many years ago, my daughter Erin, then fifteen years old and the last of our children to leave for school in the morning, breathlessly announced, “There’s a snake in my pants!”
Now, in some homes, a statement like that might be alarming. However, in our house, it was pretty typical.
Firstly, my kids tended to keep their clothes on the floor. Secondly, although we live in Arizona, we are surrounded on all sides by the greater Phoenix metropolitan area—unlikely a wild reptile wriggled in from the desert. It would probably be one of our resident serpents.
You see, my husband, Greg, an elementary school teacher, collected critters.
So my very logical response to Erin was “Who is it?”
“One of the black and white ones.”
Boy, was I ticked. I had recently flown to New Jersey to visit my parents. While I was gone, Greg went to a reptile show and treated himself to two desert California king snakes. I marched to the phone and called Greg’s classroom. “I just want you to know one of your new snakes is loose.”
“Hannah or Milo?” Greg asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Mom, it’s Milo,” said Erin, pointing to Milo’s tank with its screen lid ajar.
“It’s Milo. Someone left his lid open.”
“Where is he?”
“In the girls’ room. Erin found him in her jeans.”
“So, just put him back in the tank.”
“I’m not chasing a snake around! I have to go to work.” I knew from previous experience that I can’t pick up a snake. It’s not that they’re slimy. (They aren’t.) It’s just that they behave unpredictably, like standing up vertically. It creeps me out. I can’t deal with it. At least, not when I have a schedule to keep.
I wrote a note and taped it to the front door for then ten-year-old Katie, who would be the first one home after school. She also shared Erin’s bedroom.
Milo is loose. He was last seen in your room. Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you. I just don’t want you to be surprised.
I chuckled to think what a potential burglar might think if he read this note. I guess I’ll rob the house next door instead.
When Greg got home from school, Milo was nowhere in sight. Greg offered a reward of $5 to whoever could find the snake. Katie and her friend Amber first sifted through all the clothes, toys and junk lying on the floor of her room. Then, they took all the stuff out of the closet. (When I insisted the girls put their clothes in the closet, of course they just kicked them to the floor of the closet. How convenient for a snake looking for a cozy place to coil up.) They spent two hours looking for Milo with no success.
Then thirteen-year-old Andy walked by and spotted him camouflaged among the miasma. Greg paid Andy the finder’s fee, and ended up paying Katie, too, for her effort.
Greg had to be the one to put Milo back in his tank. The rest of us were too scared. I’m sorry to say, all these years later, I still turn to others to take over when I’m afraid.
Have you ever been afraid of a pet? How did you handle your fear? Click on the Comment link below to leave a comment or see what others have written.
Photo by Gary Nafis. Permission to use the accompanying photo granted by this license.