I was on a mission this past week. I was going to finish my revisions if it killed me. And it was—killing me, that is. So, I decided a change of scenery was in order. I dragged out the old lounge chair and hefted across the lawn to a shady spot under a huge pine tree overlooking the water. After carefully spreading a towel over the dingy fabric of the chair, I settled in for some writing.
The day was hot, but the breeze was delightful, and the joy of being out of doors instead of cooped up in my office while I wrote was intoxicating. I was deep into a rather inspired passage of revisions when I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye.
I turned my head and there, not three feet from me, was a long, slender, shiny black snake. We both froze. I must have been sitting very still, with only my fingers tapping on the whisper-quiet keys of my laptop, because it was clear I had startled the thing when I looked toward him.
For a long moment, we engaged in a sort of silent standoff, both waiting to see what the other would do. I should probably mention here that, though I’m not really afraid of snakes, I do have a healthy respect for them. He was about four feet long, with a slender head and round pupils, so I felt fairly confident he was just a common black rat snake.
I smiled—he was just a harmless little bugger. It was funny, really, the way both of us were sitting there like idiots. Neither one of us was going to hurt the other, for heaven’s sake. Hoping to get him on his snakey way again, I said, “I see you.”
Having apparently scared the bejesus out of him, he whipped around with lightning speed, facing me fully and suddenly vibrating his tail with rattlesnake-like effectiveness. Adrenaline bolted through my system, stopping my heart before sending it into overdrive, pounding so hard it nearly jumped from my chest.
FLEE, my body screamed, not even letting my mind catch up. Tossing my computer and lap desk to the ground, I scrambled backwards, flailing my arms and legs in my desperate bid to break free from the awkwardly low lawn chair that seemed to be actively trying to thwart my escape.
At last gaining a foothold, I bolted up, throwing myself off balance and stumbling backwards. At this point I must have looked like the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea to the snake—arms wind-milling and legs tangled in the blasted chair, all the while making guttural noises of distress since a scream seemed to be above my powers of speech at this point.
Almost at the same moment, we both made a break for freedom. Snakey rocketed for the woods, hightailing it faster than frightened rabbit. Heedless of my bare feet, I did one of those cartoon escapes, running in place for a second before finally gaining traction and zooming away, leaving my shadow behind to catch up later.
Once inside, I thundered up the stairs and straight to my iPad (you know—because I had ditched my computer outside like a bad habit?).With my heart still pounding in my ears, I pulled up the internet.
You gotta love Google. I typed in “Black snake shaking—” and it auto-filled in “its tail” for me. I felt a little better—at least I wasn’t the only idiot doing this search. So, come to find out, it was indeed the common rat snake—not some insidious black rattler invading the southeast as I had irrationally feared. Apparently, it has the ability to mock a rattlesnake, shaking its tail with that blood-chilling rattle, instantly instilling fear in its hapless victims.
The little bastard.
After pulling myself together, I went back outside to retrieve my computer and shoes. He was still there, sunning near the edge of the woods. I ain’t gonna lie, dear Cake Readers. I threw a pine cone at him. And ran like a little girl when he jumped.
So tell me, what would YOU have done if you had had a close encounter of the snake kind?
And today’s recipe?
Fried Snake, Courtesy of the USGS
Are you listening Mr. Snakey?