(Earlier today, I was forced to stare at a metaphorical snake and my blood ran cold. Fortunately, it wasn’t feeling any animosity toward me and so slithered away to sun itself on a rock somewhere. Even so, this seemed a timely post from eight years ago when I was staying at Mac the Scottie Wonder Dog’s house.)
15 June 2006
I hate snakes. Call it irrational, girly, predictable, whatever you want, but I think all snakes should die, or, when I’m in a more goodwill-toward-all sort of mood, then I would be satisfied if they were all quarantined on an island somewhere so I could easily avoid it. I don’t feel this way about spiders or mice–in fact, I regularly spring the mouse traps set at the Dog House because it seems like bad, bad karma to eighty-six something so cute who is just out there trying to make a living like the rest of us.
But snakes are a different story and I’m not even from a part of the world where they are poisonous.
Several years ago I had a grandmotherly student who was not a native speaker of English. I was fond of her despite how difficult her papers were to decipher. Aside from the ESL issues, her thoughts often seemed jumbled and it was difficult to figure out how the ideas were connected. She once wrote a paper in which she talked frequently about “sneaks.” For an evening, I tried to piece together what she really wanted her paper to be about. I pictured people who were out to get her, sneaking around her neighborhood, maybe painting racial epithets on her garage door or rifling through her garbage in the early-morning hours, co-workers sneaking behind her back and trying to make her life difficult. I wondered briefly if perhaps her husband had been sneaking around on her but she was afraid to write boldy about such a personal betrayal and so made her essay vague in order to protect herself.
After the third read-thru, it dawned on me that “sneaks” were really SNAKES. It was, perhaps, the strongest paper she ever wrote for the class, her hatred of snakes seemed to help her unify her thoughts.
Today, I let Mac out and two seconds later heard this awful caterwauling on the kitchen deck. I looked out in time to see a giant snake coiled up and ready to lunge at my sweet Scottie. Mac has a ferocious bark and tenacious spirit, and while both of these things should have scared the snake off, neither did. I called the dog in but the snake then glared at us through the patio door, still coiled and ready to strike. He opened his mouth, wide, to show us what he was made of. Mac whimpered, desperate to tear into this invader. I poked at the glass and made noises meant to scare it off, but the snake just stared at me, sitting on its snake-haunches, on the verge of attack. It didn’t leave until Mac and I walked away from the window and let it “win.” I haven’t let the dog out since.
(And yes, I did have to go through that paragraph and make it gender neutral because I always think of snakes as “he.”)
There are a lot of fantastical things in the Bible–people turning to pillars of salt, burning bushes, walking on water–but I’ve never had a problem with believing any of it. Today, though, I’m thinking the whole Garden of Eden story is a real crock. What self-respecting woman would talk to a snake? I just don’t think it would happen. They are all side-windy and slithery and awful. I can see how Eve might have been hoodwinked by a honey-tongued snake-like fruit salesman, whispering in her ear and telling her that his apples were better than anyone else’s while he twirled his moustahce, but an actual, honest-to-goodness snake? I don’t think so. I like to think the mother-of-us-all would have been cleverer and looked for a way to avoid a serpent confrontation.
At school, I regularly have students–almost always female, usually those with tattoos of pentagrams who smell of patchouli–who insist that snakes are wonderful, loving pets, but I never believe them. You can’t curl up with a snake and watch old Frasier reruns, like the Scottie Dog and I did last night. What you can do with a pet snake is take it out of its aquarium in an attempt to make guests uncomfortable. That’s about it. I’ve always thought how awful it was that cats were regularly murdered in medieval times (and beyond) because they were associated with witchcraft. How ignorant and heartless, I’d think. But snakes? If there were an anti-snake mob out there with the torches and zeal? I’d probably join in, shouting and shaking a cudgel, ready to make the neighborhood safer.
Except for the part where I might actually have to face one of the sneaks. Ugh.