“Here, use the shovel from the barbecue grill,” my dad directed me as I carefully navigated my way around the backyard in my flip-flops. I wasn’t sure if I should get the cat or get the shovel first. Every second counts in a situation like this and I still hadn’t determined what exactly it was that I was up against.
“You really shouldn’t be telling people what to do when you’re too afraid to come do it yourself,” I yelled back. He’d been watching me through the kitchen window, hunkered down behind my mother who, by the way, was not afraid to take care of this by herself. She just happened to be sitting down at the breakfast table when she and my dad noticed something flopping around outside…in my cat’s mouth.
(She’s my cat when she gets in trouble. She’s my mom’s cat when there’s a hairball. She’s my dad’s cat when nobody will wait up at night to make sure she comes home. As much as he claims he can’t stand all the animals, my dad sure loves his cat. Or, rather, my cat since Polly was in trouble.)
I couldn’t tell if Polly had managed to catch a bird, a mole, a frog, a snake, or a rat. According to my mother, “She caught a damn bird. Polly better leave my birds alone!” Because when my mother breaks out with the birdseed, it’s like she’s feeding every stray bird in the neighborhood and therefore, they become hers. Even though birds are not strays. It doesn’t matter.
“Oh my god, she’s got a snake!” My father – a trained law enforcement officer and protector of two former United States’ presidents who has wrestled foreign dignitaries to the ground and taken cover in bunkers with missiles flying across the Middle Eastern sky – is too much of a fraidy cat to go out into the backyard and tussle with a foot long snake. So he sent me. Basically, he said, “I don’t do snakes!”
We know, dad. We know.
I was armed with a fairly sturdy stick but decided I should probably go back up to retrieve the shovel from the barbecue grill. All the while, I heard directives and instructions coming from the kitchen window telling me how to brawl with a (we later determined) non-venomous snake.
“Make sure you get its head!”
”Don’t let Polly take it out of the yard!”
Gaaaawd, he’s such a baby!!
I grabbed Polly after tossing the shovel over the coiled body of the snake and threw her into the house. To make eye contact with my dad would have, at this point, invited him to hand out more commands. Instead, I yelled at the dog to stay in the house which really made me feel authoritative.
I headed back out to the fence line where the snake was still hiding under the shovel coiled up like a spring. There was no rattle on his tail (always check!) and there was no diamond shape to his head (always check!) and there were no flashy, pretty primary colors anywhere on his body (always check!). So I simply scooped the snake onto my dad’s little barbecue shovel and went to toss him over the picket fence when…
It jumped off the shovel and fell two inches from my barely covered feet! Aaaaaayeeee!!
(This was an appropriate time to start squealing and running in circles with a sturdy stick in one hand and a barbecue shovel in the other. The neighbors will completely understand when I explain it to them later.)
After I regained my composure, I found the little snake slunked back into a coil again. Poor thing was more afraid of me than I was of it. But it was still a snake. And it had to go. I eventually managed to scoop the snake back onto the shovel after I wore him down. Those few minutes of me scooping and him scrambling tuckered the little guy out and he finally got the idea: just stay still, dammit.
Rest assured, the snake made it back into the woods safely. And I didn’t fling him from the shovel too hard and he didn’t smack into any trees while he was airborne. I’m nice that way.
And as I walked into the house, my dad asked, “So, did ya get him??!”
“What? Like you weren’t watching me like a big baby because you’re too afraid to go take care of a teensy weensy snake yourself!? YES, I GOT HIM!”