My time here at the edge of the woods on Old Dixie Lane has been full of chasing down squirrels in the house, removing at least a dozen frogs that squeezed inside and shooing away a hundred dirt daubers, lizards and beetles from the kitchen. Almost as if the walls between inside and out temporarily vanish to provide new hunting grounds that beckon scores of crawling, flying and slithering things, free access to sample the domestic life in my living room. Last Sunday brought a new and disturbingly more heart whomping visitor.
Repainting was underway in the spare bedroom and leaving painter Jim with his brushes and buckets of paint, with Farina dawg in the backseat I went off to the market for some groceries. Ordinarily on my return from shopping, groceries get carried in through the front door but since Jim had the entrance hall stacked with his supplies I headed with the bags of groceries to the back screen door. Farina was at my heels and five feet inside the porch she froze, suddenly erupting into snarls and growls, eyes focused on the floor below her long, screen-level perch, a couple of giant plastic bins weighted and piled with dog cushions. Eight feet away a 4-foot snake lay coiled on the floor, head raised in a threatening pose. Knowing the dawg’s tendencies, first thing I did was force her outside and shut the dog door.
Eyeing the evil serpent closely I eased the bags of groceries to the floor and inch by inch reached for a broom and the long-handled litter grabber I keep by the door. Not sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me, I could have sworn I saw venom dripping from the snake’s open mouth. I called Jim to drop his paintbrush and come out to the back porch pronto. He took the squeeze handle litter grabber and moved to one end of the porch while I circled the dawg perch to flush the snake from behind with the broom. Jim was moments away from wetting his painter pants but with maybe the longest lifetime stretch of his right arm somehow snagged the snake with the grabber. Before I could take the grabber from him the snake wiggled loose, snapping furiously at the air. Trying to avoid my lunges with the grabber, it slithered toward the door end of the porch with me snatching at it with the picker-upper and dodging strikes from what I hoped was a non-venomous head. I caught it; it got away. I lunged, it lunged back and then began squeezing itself into a wide crack between the floor and the wall paneling. On the verge of a heart attack I managed to work the hysterical serpent out of the floor crack. It began to snap at my arm furiously before I was able to get its head in a solid rubber grip. Painter Jim had finally just let go and peed his pants while Farina outside the screen door was leaping two feet into the air and barking 911. The head secure inside the rubber grips, I held the writhing snake with outstretched arm and took it across the road. By then I knew it was a harmless black snake, the kind we are encouraged to leave alone because they are “good” snakes. I flung the good snake into the woods opposite my house. Venomous or not, good notwithstanding, my heart was beating like I’d just witnessed a serial killing. Jim went off to dig a change of clothes out of his truck and Farina went off looking for another snake.
My guess is the snake wiggled into the house under the somewhat ineffective door sweep at the bottom of the back porch screen door.