The world of men is dreaming, it has gone mad in its sleep, and a snake is strangling it, but it can’t wake up.
– D.H. Lawrence
There are few more alarming sounds than to hear your doorbell ring late at night after you’ve been asleep for an hour or so.
But that’s what happened earlier this week. Compounding the alarm were the house watchdogs who began a barking duet that would wake up the dead, of whose sleeping state I was almost qualified.
My first glance out the window indicated no police cruiser. Good.
There was also no fire truck. Even better.
But there was a neighbor from another street over who wanted to let me know that there was a snake in front of my house.
“You have the cutest little white dogs,” she said. “I didn’t want you to come outside tonight and have it bite one of them. I think a snake bit one of my dogs this week.”
I thanked her as graciously as a somewhat sleepy barefoot man in his 60s can thank someone in the dark, retrieved a shovel from right inside the garage door and went to meet the great serpent.
She pointed him out, and I dispatched him with fewer strokes than Tiger Woods on a par 3.
When I returned inside I had to give my wife a full report, including the size of the gigantic snake and, because she asked, what the neighbor was wearing.
I skimmed over the latter, but played up the former, adding some “hissing” sound effects, a couple of fang descriptions. I believe I might have mentioned the word “cobra” or “copperhead” – they both sound alike.
“My hero,” she said, and I know she means it because my wife hates snakes.
There is a creek in the very back of our yard and over the years snakes have ventured up the hill from
it. They have occasionally encountered my wife and have paid dearly for the introduction.
The first time, I believe, involved a snake that slithered up on the back patio one sleepy Sunday afternoon, prompting my wife to grab one of my better garden hoes and pound the snake until the battered blade eventually flew off the handle.
Knowing this, I might have embellished this week’s nocturnal adventure.
I suspected as much the next day when I was telling my next-door neighbor a shorter version of the story. I might have mentioned the mighty serpent I had chopped up near her yard the night before.
“Really?” she said. “We didn’t see that one. We did find some snake parts this morning. Not very big. Might have been a garter snake.”
“Oh, really?” I said. “That small? Well don’t tell my wife about it. Talking about snakes upsets her.”