I’ve always liked snakes. They’re so strange, and different from us mammals. Their movements are both alien and graceful, they have tiny flickering tongues, and their skin feels like something unique and expensive. I’ve always thought there was something inherently cool about a snake.
I harbored the idea of keeping one as a pet for most of my adult life. Nine years ago, on my first wedding anniversary, my husband bought me a baby banded California Kingsnake as a present. Might seem like a strange anniversary present to some, but I loved him right from the start. He was about six inches long, adorable, and colored in beautiful alternating stripes of chocolate brown and butter yellow. We brought him home in a brown paper lunch bag.
I named him Lovecraft. Lovie for short.
Over the years, he grew from that cute six inches to an impressive three and a half feet in length.
He escaped once and spent two weeks hiding out in our basement underneath the hot water heater. I don’t think he liked being on his own much because when Ted went down there to put a load of laundry in he stuck his head out from beneath the unit and stared at Ted with an air of expectation. We successfully lured him the rest of the way out with a mouse, and once I had my hands on him I was so relieved that I cuddled him. Cuddling a snake is tricky, I admit, but possible.
I kept trying to institute “bring your pet to work day” at the office. My co-workers kept protesting that this was not a good idea, because they knew I owned a reptile.
Some people were afraid of him, some thought he was awesome, some he and I were able to teach that snakes are not slimy and are, in fact, very nifty creatures.
Occasionally I’d have dreams about him.
Last night, Ted, Kyle and I found that he had passed away. He was half inside, half outside of his little house – like an old man sitting on his porch watching the world go by. I have no reason to believe he didn’t go peacefully in his sleep. When I picked him up for the last time, he felt like one of his discarded skins – except this time he’d managed to discard his entire body.
It was exactly one year to the day since we lost my cat, Wish.
I do not like January 12th. I think I’ll skip it next year.
A narrow fellow in the grass
You may have met him—did you not
His notice sudden is,
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your feet,
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn,
But when a boy and barefoot,
I more than once at noon
Have passed, I thought, a whip lash,
Unbraiding in the sun,
When stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled and was gone.
Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.