By Marie Stephens
Not everyone knows this about me, but I am a snake phobe.
I don’t like to visit them at the zoo. I don’t even like to touch pictures of snakes in books. I can’t even handle those fake plastic snakes. I am not much of a yeller, but the few times that I have yelled at my kids were because they put a rubber snake under my pillow, or nearly caused me to jump out of my skin when they threw one on my bed while I was sound asleep. I do not like the way they move, I do not like their creepy hissy looking tongues; I am fully aware of the fact that a snake’s skin is not slimy, but It still appears that way to me and it still freaks me out!
To all of you snake enthusiasts out there, I am truly sorry if this does not help to improve the public image of the snake and how important they are to the environment. Let me publicly announce that snakes are wonderful creatures and very, very important to our environment and our food chain. Just think how many more mice there would be without them! Snakes are good, I get that….but when one decides to pay me a visit, in my home, as I am about to hit the hay for the night, ALL BETS ARE OFF.
It was fall of 2005. I was a brand new mom with a brand new baby who was just a few months old. He had finally gone to sleep for the time being, so I had selfishly taken that quiet time to shower, brush teeth, and comb hair: all luxuries for new moms. It had been a long day of repetitive nursing, changing diapers, rocking, swaddling, and laundry with a baby that slept for maybe 15 minutes of every hour if I was lucky. Needless to say, I was exhausted and ready to pass out for the night.
All the heat from the shower pushed me into auto pilot mode as I left our steamy bathroom and headed down the hall for the spiral staircase that led up to the loft bedroom in our rustic A-Frame house. Sleep, that precious commodity that is so rare to new parents, was about to be awarded to me. For the most part, I was already there.
I was approximately 15 steps from hitting my pillow when autopilot suddenly kicked into flight or fright mode. As I slowly entered the dark living room and turned to go upstairs, I heard something. A soft thump, as if something had fallen off the back of our leather sofa and onto the seat.
In an instant, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I quickly flipped on the light switch and immediately turned my eyes to the couch. Out of the corner of my sleepy eyes, I could have sworn that I saw the tail of a tiny little snake slither right into the crack between the couch seats.
In my thoughts:
“What the heck was that?”
“Was that a snake?”
“No….No way…..there is no way there could be a snake in my couch!”
“Or could there?”
“Oh crap! There really is a snake in my couch….THERE’S A SNAKE IN MY COUCH!”
Picture yourself in the same situation…wanting to scream at the top of your lungs, but only able to scream with your mute button on for fear that you might wake the baby!
Now picture me…..once half asleep now fully awake, throwing my hands up in the air and running around in circles, screaming without making a sound.
After spinning around aimlessly a few times, I flew down the stairs to the basement to find my sleep deprived husband, tinkering away on some project he found in “The Family Handyman”. I flung open the door and screamed wildly, “There’s a snake in the couch!” He stared blankly at me in disbelief, as if I had gone mad. So I repeated myself and swore I was not hallucinating, although, as sleep deprived as I had been, hallucinations were quite possible.
To humor me, Tim grabbed a flashlight and headed up the stairs while I scampered around to find some weapons: a broomstick and a tennis racket, perfect tools for the task at hand. I stealthily climbed back up to the living room, ready to pounce on anything that decided to jump out of that couch.
Tim, being the level headed force of the Stephens’ household, calmly and smoothly approached the couch with his flashlight and peaked in between the cushions to see what all the fuss was about. Seconds later, he turned around and said matter of factly, “Yep. There’s definitely a snake in there.” Once again, hands went up in the air, and one of us began running in circles.
Have you ever seen a movie where a husband and wife have an entire conversation without ever saying a word? Where looks are exchanged, eyes widen and narrow, and information passes telepathically? That is exactly how the following conversation went down. Imagine two tired adults forced to solve the impossible: how to get rid of a snake in a couch without waking their three month old baby.
Me, eyes wide with snake phobia, ” How in the heck are we gonna get that thing out of the couch without letting it get loose in the house? I am not touching that thing!”
Tim, dumbfounded, ” How in the heck am I supposed to know?”
Me, eyebrows raised,”I got an idea. Lets just pick up the whole couch and set it out on the deck, and then try to get the snake out.”
Tim, “Hmmm that could work. Let’s go for it.”
So we pick up the couch, thinking we have a quick fix. We head for the slider door, ready to set the couch on our deck. As we approach the door, me: “This isn’t gonna work. It’s not gonna fit!”
Tim, “Crap, even if we tilt it up on end, the snake might fall out and get away.”
Me, discouraged,” Now what?”
I’m sure by now, you are probably thinking, “Why didn’t they just take the cushions off and grab the snake?” Unfortunately, this is a couch from which one cannot simply remove the seat cushions, or any of the cushions, for that matter. Oh no, we specifically bought this couch because the cushions could NOT be removed!
Tim, ” Ok, here’s what we do. You hold the flashlight. I’m gonna pin the snake down with this stick. Then, with my hand inside of this grocery bag, I’m gonna stick my hand in there, grab the snake, and then turn the bag inside out. As soon as I get the snake, you open the door, and I’ll take him outside and take care of the rest.”
Me, ” Fine. As long as I don’t have to touch it. I’ll go get the broomstick and tennis racket ready just in case he escapes.”
Me, “No, but go ahead anyway.”
In a matter of seconds, it was all over. My superman of a husband pinned the snake with his left hand, grabbed it with his bagged right hand, turned the bag inside out as the snake tried to wriggle itself free from Tim’s tight grip, and headed out the door in a flash, before the snake could escape.
I hadn’t felt that much relief since the morning after I gave birth to that three month old babe sleeping soundly in the nursery right above the scene of the couch snake extraction. I don’t know what exactly happened to that poor little snake, nor do I care to know what happened. He was gone, and that was that.
Over the last 8 years, we have shared so many giggles while telling that story to our children. I cannot begin to count how many times I’ve told, and retold it as a bedtime story after infinite requests from my son. We have told that story from my point of view, from the snake’s point of view, and Tim does an excellent job of telling the tale from his point of view…with a few embellishments here and there. I can here his gruff and tough story telling voice now, ” Why, if that snake was a foot long, he was a mile! I grabbed the beast with my bare hands, and he began to thrash so violently, I had to wrestle him to the ground. The snake was angry that day, my friends!” Even as I was trying to remember the details of the story last night, he and I had so many laughs as we tried to lay out the scene.
Just the other day, Tim came home from leading our son’s Cub Scouts meeting to tell me that the snake in the couch story had resurfaced. The theme of the den meeting was, “Tall Tales”, and one of our son’s classmates remembered Harrison telling the story a year ago to their second grade class! If only that poor little snake knew how popular he had become. Thank you, Mr. Snake, for making a brief pitstop into my life. My family has a richer folklore all because of you and your memory shall live on forever! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, snakes are great, as long as they stay in their environment and leave me alone in mine.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief encounter into my past. Stop back again, you never know what you might find. At Marie Stephens Gardening, life is a garden, and you never know where inspiration will strike. Maybe even in the crack of a couch.
©Marie Stephens 2014 All rights reserved
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