"Don't bring back any snakes," my mother called to my brother and I as we rushed off toward the creek without any type of acknowledgement. To be honest, we were just happy to get the hell out of the house. Our parents were in the beginning stages of divorce and escaping the tense mood that lingered about was the only thing on our minds.
We lived in Akron, Ohio, in the home that would one day become the home of basketball player, Lebron James. There were woodchuck-filled fields, calm streams and ponds dotting our neighborhood, and just across the infrequently traveled street was our all-time favorite pond. It was surrounded by forrest and had a metal tunnel that allowed the runoff stream to continue on its way under the street; it was teaming with life. We had the ever elusive bullfrogs, their tadpoles at various stages of development, dull-colored fish, large crayfish -- one of which pinched me --, water striders skating about the surface, and the black and brown hewed three foot long snake that we would occasionally see swimming across the pond's surface eager to escape two overly inquisitive boys.
We had seen the snake on multiple trips to the pond, including one ever exciting regaled time we stumbled upon the serpent dining on a much too large for its mouth fish that it had captured in the pond. Today, however, we did not see the snake and decided to play in the woods and practice sneaking up on the bullfrogs, including the largest that we called Grand Daddy. Living out in the country, we were not at all squeamish about wading up to our waist into the tiny pond to disturb the poor animals, and I even had a dedicated pair of Star Wars silver and blue tennis shoes that I wore especially for those trips. My brother and I were slowly moving through the pond, ever mindful to not slip on the algae covered rocks, and I was attempting to scoop up a handful of tadpoles when my brother uttered in a hushed voice, "There it is."
It was the snake with no name. We had never given it one. It was almost as if the mystery of where it came from and where it went made it above naming. "Get the bucket," I said in a near whisper to my brother, who was near the opposite bank where the industrial sized bucket sat. I slowly turned and made my way across the pond to where the snake sat at the shore. I inched my way through the waters ever closer to the fabled reptile, but with scant feet between us it attempted to bolt up the bank only to not find traction and it slid into the pond. The snake took off away from me like a bullet, but I lunged forward, catching it by the tail just as it was beginning to escape into a hole on the opposite side where we had first spotted it. My brother was attempting to hand me the bucket and not fall into the water, which he succeeded in doing and with a slight tug, I pulled the snake free and securing a better grip on the animal lowered it into the bucket. We had done it. We had captured the snake.
Incredibly excited over our victory, I moved a few feet over so I could actually get out of the pond and with our freshly bucketed snake, we practically skipped back across the street and to the house to show Mom and Dad. It was a fairly good distance between the pond and the house and while we hurriedly made our way across the yard, the snake was attempting to futilely slither its way up the inside of the bucket to freedom, and I was slapping the sides of the bucket to keep it from doing so. As we approached the fence, our three dogs lumbered over to greet us and my emotionally drained parents looked down from the porch and I just heard my mother say, "What's in the bucket?" The snake, having had enough shot itself from captivity and almost seemed to hover in mid-air for a moment before striking me on the back of my right hand. I heard an, "Oh my god!" and a "Shit!" and my father ran through the house and out the front door to check on me. The snake made its way through the fence and past the dogs, who would have nothing to do with it, and ultimately towards the stream.
I glanced at my hand and I could see twin "U's"near my thumb and there were tiny little pricks that slowly reddened as my father approached, which then began gushing blood. There were more screams, and my brother stood staring at me unsure of what to do, and no one was listening to me as I told them the snake was not poisonous. Between Godzilla, Dracula and the Wolf-Man, studying books on the animal kingdom was something I was obsessed with and I had devoted much time to learning about animals in general and more specifically reptiles and insects. "It's okay, it's only a garter snake," I said as my dad led me into the house with sirens beginning to scream towards us.
As the door to the house was closing behind me, I saw a rescue truck, a police care, a animal control vehicle and a fire truck pull into our very long drive way. I heard "Where's the boy?" followed by, "He's in here! He's in here!" came my mother's panicked voice, and in tromped the police officer, a couple of firemen, a rescue man who looked incredibly like a cast member from the TV show Emergency, and an animal control specialist. They all had tool boxes and kits that I really wanted to see, but I decided to not press the matter. I held out my hand as commanded and three of the men leaned in and simultaneously said, "Garter snake."
Moments later they were gone as quickly as they had arrived and all my poor emotionally drained parents could say was, "Donist, go to you room." I desperately wanted to say, "I told you it was a garter snake,"but decided to keep my mouth shut and took off my sopping wet Star Wars tennis shoes before heading up to my room.
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