I’m hoping someone can tell me where I might take a crash course in Harry Potter’s parseltongue. I very much need to chat up the snakes hereabouts.
Friday night, all doors were open with the heat, although, fortunately, screen doors were closed. I answered the phone to hear my daughter, from my driveway,
say, “Mom. Close the front door and open the garage, please. I think there is a snake on the porch.”
Sure enough, as I peered out the screen door to verify, a small but annoyed rattlesnake shook his tail at me from my welcome mat. There is no mistaking that sound. We live near a watershed and a park, so there have been nests of baby rattlesnakes found in gardens, and general snake spottings from folks whose homes back up to the canyon, but in 24 years, I have never seen one make it across the street.
To my great relief, it did not wiggle off back into the garden, but rather curled up happily in the corner of the brick porch. Having been the one to deal with every other strange creature that has dropped by our house — angry possum at the bottom of the trash can, family of raccoons, almost dead rats delivered by our dogs and various sized spiders — my first reaction was that I needed to get the shovel and dispatch the creature myself. Thank heaven and a flash of unusual wisdom, that urge passed in about 10 seconds.
It is, for future reference, the fire department that takes care of poisonous snakes, bless their hearts. They arrived shortly and it was sobering to see three burly first responders being very, very, very careful as they approached the removal task with patience and precision. I think this was not their first snake rodeo.
Alas, they had to kill it, as there was no immediate wilderness to safely release it into. I want to say I was sorry, but, in truth I know it has half a dozen siblings out there ready to crawl into my flora and bite my toes.
The good news is that the extended family was nowhere to be found in my yard. I checked carefully the next morning. I can’t promise I will wear boots any time soon. I will, however, be wearing heavy gloves and using a flashlight before I stick my hand into the ferns to turn on the hose.
How do you say, “I come in peace and eat all the rats you can find, please” in parseltongue?
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is only afraid of snakes packing venom. Contact her at email@example.com.