Wild Kingdom

July 19, 2016 § 4 Comments


I am in bed, reading, in a house I would call empty. I am the only human here, and my dog, Annie, is stretched out on the wood floor beside the bed. I am absorbed. It is Elena Ferrante. I have drunk the kool-aid this summer, and the book is due back in the library in two days. There is a waiting list. I only have about 100 pages. This is my plan for the night. Earlier today, I cut all but four of Annie’s nails. She was done with the pedicure before I was. That’s why she makes such a racket when she gets up, prancing around.

I am in Naples still, but I notice the sound. Then I see it. The orange and black snake that has been missing for a few days is wrapped around her legs. I don’t scream, but I drop the book and jump out of bed. Annie jumps into the laundry basket of dirty clothes in the corner. The snake slides under my bed. I call Jeff.

“Grab her!” he says, as if this is something I can do. I know that when he and the boys go snake hunting, they take a pillowcase, so I slip the case off my pillow and onto my hand like a glove. I keep an eye on the snake. She comes my way and I grab her. She is a liquid muscle. More like a fish out of water than anything else I might have felt. She is fast and unattached, constantly moving. I’m afraid she will bite me. The pillowcase has too high of a thread count for this. I am too scared that I will crush her with my grip, pillowcase or no. I have no idea where her snake organs are. She slips away.

Annie is way out of here, downstairs, safe on her bed. It is just me and Terra, the snake. I have chased her into Jack Henry’s room, where her terrarium is. Jeff was cleaning it, you see, and he forgot to weight down the lid. If you have read this blog before, you know that she does not like to be confined. She has explored the walls of two houses. I am on her side now. I want to set her free.

“Grab her!” Jeff says.

“I can’t,” I say.

“You can! You have to!

“She’ll bite me.”

“That snake is totally domesticated,” Jeff says, but she coils up in Jack Henry’s closet, looks at me, ready to strike.

“I am not going to grab her,” I say.

“With a table cloth?”


“With an oven mitt?’


Jeff and I are texting back and forth and calling. He is in a loud place in New York City. I am alone with the snake. Abandoned even by the dog. I am trying to catch her only because I love my son and I know he would be heartbroken if she got away. We’ve been through a lot together, Jack Henry, this snake, and I.

“Oh my god! She’s eating the mouse!” I say.

I should explain that since she went missing a few days ago, Jeff went to PetSmart. Jack Henry is away, so Jeff left a box with a dead mouse in it in the floor of Jack Henry’s room to entice the snake. She finds it and begins to feed.

“Oh! This is disgusting,” I say. “She’s like, dragging it away!”

“You’ve never seen this? It’s been going on in the house about every two weeks for almost seven years,” Jeff says.

“I know!” I say, “But I never had to look at it.” The snake is ambitious. She opens her mouth wide and at the same time wraps her body around the small white mouse. I leave the room to give her a little privacy.

“What do I do?” I ask.

“Go get the trashcan and put it over her,” Jeff says.

“While she’s eating? What if I piss her off? “

“She’s not pissed off, or she wouldn’t be eating,” Jeff says.

I run to get the trashcan and put it on top of her.

“Weight it down!” Jeff says. I put a brick on top. “Put your eight pound weight on top of that!” Jeff says. I do it.

I text Jeff a photo, just to be sure.

“Good job, Ms. Irwin,” he says.

I pour myself a glass of wine. It will be a while before I can get my mind back to Naples. The Wild Kingdom is just down the hall.



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