And I watched it both in real life and through the lens in awe of its grace, display of confidence, and the way it jumped from floor to hamper to nightstand. It didn’t weave it’s way up like I expected. It just kind of jumped. My dad stayed on the phone with animal control and I just watched it, hypnotized. My dad appeared at the door with the cordless phone, his tiptoe stance that I have mimicked. I sent the video to Jacob and asked him to come over. I never ever ever ever invite anyone to my parent’s house.
“Ava, lock the snake in here. They’ll come get it.”
“They said they wouldn’t get it if it wasn’t contained.”
“I have them here,” he waved the phone at me and put it back to his ear, “here, put a towel down, lock it in the bedroom. Here, here. I am getting too excited, I need to sit down.”
My dad went to grab the towel and I was hesitant to leave it, thinking it smarter to watch something that can maneuver quickly around a room and jump on furniture, but I also had no actual idea what to do. I turned my back to take the towel from my dad and shut the door, looking at it one more time. I began to pace immediately, excited, feeling like the presence of the snake had added value to my father and I’s time here. We had mostly silence between us, two burned letters, years of grief. I had watched my father cry in the car when my brother was in the hospital. I had watched him sob.
“That’s my son,” he said.
I forget what that feels like and now, pacing in the kitchen, certain that I had felt the snake the night before when I was walking through the house naming ghosts in the corner. Like a buzz. Like an electric current that wraithed around me, I bet that snake had slithered right by me on my way to get a snack, and there it was, coming down the hallway now. I had not placed the towel correctly under the door. It strode past my dad’s door and headed into the kitchen and I had to allow it. I had to follow it. I felt helpless. I noticed all the cracks and dirt in the linoleum along the way. I should offer to mop. No, focus. I have no focus. Jacob responded.
“What’s the address?”
I’m trying to focus and lure the snake into something, some container. Failing my last task, failing to keep my parent’s kitchen floor clean, failing to keep this house up to code, failing to keep the door shut, failing my brother.I call him watching it glide and I sort of corner it so it slides over a foot stool tucked between the oven and the fridge where we also keep the cans of soda and Pellegrino when my mother has it. I try to shoo it quickly to the fridge side near the front door, unsure what to do if it gets behind the oven. That’s a lot of unexplored territory back there. My hamster Rosie used to get into the walls when I was a kid. I had this basket I put her in that she would fall out of through the slats in the bottom and make a beeline for the dryer. There was a hole behind there and she ran every time towards that hole. I don’t remember how we got her out each time but she died relatively quickly. From the fright. My mom says I loved her to death.
“It’s under the fridge but Animal Control said they won’t come out until it’s contained and I need someone to help me contain it.”
“How did it get out of the bedroom?”
“Under the door. I need help. My dad is scared of it so I am alone doing it. He keeps complaining of his heart and breathing.”
“It will take me twenty five minutes.”
“Ok, I am just keeping it under the fridge until then. Bring something, like a box or I don’t know, you’re better with snakes.”
“It’s just a garter snake.”
“Yeah, well I am not grabbing it. Can it eat the guinea pigs?”
“No, just crickets and cockroaches. It didn’t look big enough to eat a mouse.”
I had no focus. I was going to watch this snake for twenty five minutes. My dad once locked the snake in the den with the guinea pigs.
“Here,” my dad came around the hallway with a fly swatter.’I’m gonna get the cooler.”
“Ok, Dad, I need help getting it though.”
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” he mumbled.
“Ok, come here and just walk in. The door is unlocked.’
“Bring a box!”
He came back with the cooler and opened the lid next to me. There was brown stuff in the bottom. I recognized that cooler. We had taken it to the beach, Busch Gardens, every outing that required a packed lunch.
“Where is it?”
I pointed with the fly swatter.
“Under the fridge.”
“Ok, keep an eye on it.”
“I called my friend Jake. He’s coming.”
“Good, Animal Control said they would come.”
“They won’t come unless it’s contained.”
“They came last time, they said they would come again…”
“I called them too, they said they would not come until we trapped it.”
“Ok, great, I have to sit down, my breathing,” and my dad continued to walk back into
I have no focus. I turned the cooler on its side and pushed it with my foot closer to the fridge. Holding the fly swatter out towards the left side, I see it peering.
It sticks its tongue out at me.
“I’m gonna offer you favor.”
It begins to slide backwards and I circle around to the front of the fridge, trapping it with my body heat, vibration. As long as it knows where I am, it won’t dart out. I am in front of the fridge that has my cell phone number written it, a grocery list that just says “cheese,” and a reminder that my mom has stuck on there: a drawing of a child, like a pencil drawing but something she has printed from the computer
I am not dirt. God made me and God don’t make no dirt.
The entire length of the fridge is coated with black stuff. I hear shuffling and pop to the right quickly, brandishing the fly swatter. It’s head and beginning of body is out, poking and once it sees me, it slowly retreats backwards, pausing before hiding all the way behind the fridge. I see the tongue again. I still have my phone in my hand and look down at the time. A minute has passed since I hung up with Jake.
“Twenty four minutes.”
I hear something dull, the movement of a piece of cardboard or whatever has gotten stuck behind the fridge and then nothing. I stand reading that note. Looking up at the top of the fridge where the pens are, where the carton of Merits used to be and listen to my dad’s oxygen machine, that gentle heave and fall of robotic work.