“Ma……” Ads called as he quickly climbed up the stairs from the basement.
It was his 16th birthday, a sweltering evening in August. I was in the kitchen, having just popped the cake frosting into the fridge to cool it down before I worked on the cake again.
Clutching his phone in one hand, he walked towards me, his expression unreadable as always.
“Don’t panic. But...….I think there is a snake in the basement.”
“What! WHAT! A SNAKE!!!!! Oh no!!! Oh my god!!!!! And what do you mean you think! Don’t you know?”
A picture of calm and poise I was not. So much for asking me not to panic.
As I started hyperventilating, Ads began to grin, unable to mask his amusement at my absolute terror. He pushed his phone towards me, on which (horror of horrors!) there was a photo of something large and black coiled up in a corner behind a couch.
My cries brought put the husband and daughter rushing from their respective rooms, convinced that at the very minimum the house was on fire or being burgled by a gang of robbers in broad daylight.
Let me backtrack here. We live in a nice house with a large backyard and lawn. It’s a side lot so we have no neighbors on two sides, something I’ve always considered a huge advantage. The large tract of land to the back and one side is green and verdant, essentially shutting us off from the outside world and providing a safe haven for all sorts of wildlife - foxes, deer, beavers, squirrels, rabbits and more bird species that we can count.
And apparently snakes too.
This was not the first time we had encountered Mr (or was it Ms) snake? It (a rat snake, non-venomous) had found its way a few times earlier into the garage and slithered under a convenient hole in the wall. On that first occasion, I had displayed some finely-honed maternal instincts by insisting that the kids go out to the garage and get rid of the snake with a stick or broom handle.
Y was shocked - “This is great, Amma. You’re asking to your kids to go out and handle the snake while you sit inside the house?!!”
“Yes”, I retorted. “If it bites you I know the number of the poison control center. And I can drive you to the hospital, which is more than you guys can do for me.”
(Let’s not dwell on that incident too long. As PG Wodehouse would say, it was the day the scales finally fell from my children’s eyes).
So anyway, the damn thing (was it the same one?) was now actually INSIDE the house. Which was good, come to think of it, because the county animal control would only come out to help us if the animal was inside the living area (the garage doesn’t qualify). S and Y were dispatched to go down to the basement and keep an eye on the snake and make sure it didn’t run away somewhere while I feverishly hunted for the animal control number. To my relief, they promised to come out within 30 minutes.
Soon enough, a police van rolled to a stop in front of the house and a very smart policewoman walked in. She was in and out the of the basement within a couple of minutes, and reappeared holding a large bag in which, presumably, the snake rested.
And then she went out and let it out in my backyard :(
“What if it comes back?” I asked her, biting back some choice expletives.
“Oh I think he just came in by accident...he shouldn’t bother you again. Just make sure you plug up any possible points of entry.” she smiled.
I think she was the bravest person I’ve ever met. Y & S later told me it was a long snake (3 feet or so), black and thick.
Since then, Amazon saw a sudden uptick in purchase of snake repellents from our zip code :) Apparently those things work only against venomous snake but who cares? At one point we had barricaded the exterior basement door with a couple of small tables so that the snake couldn’t get in. I discovered some suspicious looking poop near the patio and promptly started researching about how to identify animal poop (and of course there’s an app for that!) I am now a certified expert in snake poop and snake repellents...only not on how to stay calm when you spot a reptile.
Who says city life is exciting? Come live in the suburbs!
Sometimes it’s a family of squirrels making a home in your attic. Sometimes it’s your basement flooding after a heavy bout of rain. Sometimes it’s the burglar alarm going off when you are hundreds of miles away on vacation, waking you up at 4 in the morning.
And sometimes it’s a rat snake making itself at home in your basement.
“Ads, I wish this stupid snake wouldn’t come into the house. Why can’t it just stay in the yard?” I complained.
“Ma,” he replied “ Unfortunately for you, snakes don’t respect property rights!”