Sunday is my only day off. It is a day of rest for me — a time to recharge my batteries from the past week and regain energy for the week ahead.
Last Sunday, I was just starting to get my day moving with a cup of coffee and trying to build the energy to start laundry when I walked into the bathroom in my bare feet.
Since we feed the cats in the bathroom, they saw me walking toward the door and came running like a pride of lions gathering for a feast. I poured their food in the bowl, just like always. Instead of knocking each other over to try to be the first in line, they were nowhere to be seen.
It was very odd.
So I turn around and look to see what happened to the cats.
About two feet away behind my bare feet, there were the cats — backs arched and hissing at a snake that was coiled up and looking like he was ready to strike.
It’s been a long, long, long time since I was on the track team, but I’m guessing I cleared about a 12-foot jump from a standing position through the bathroom door and almost halfway across the bedroom.
That’s where I stood for what I guess about five minutes screaming like a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
I know it wasn’t very manly, but I am absolutely terrified of snakes.
I’ve gone swimming with sharks. I’ve been in the wilderness with predators. While I have a healthy respect for these wild animals, they don’t petrify me the way snakes do.
When the kids were little, we were at the Dallas Zoo and Zakk wanted to go into the reptile house. I mustered up my courage, realized that all the snakes were in cages and did what any dad would do, took his kids into to see the snakes. Zakk and Emily were old enough to walk around on their own, but Alex was still pretty small so I had him by the hand. We walked down the row of exhibits as I read the plague at each cage aloud to him. At one point I must have gotten pretty freaked out because I let go of his hand and had my arms crossed behind my back as I read all the details about this particularly menacing pit viper in the cage in front of me. I had to keep reminding myself that it was behind glass just to keep from freaking out. About that time Alex realized I wasn’t holding his hand anymore and reached up stuck his hand in my back pocket.
I hate to admit this, but I jumped two feet in the air and let out a yelp that drew an ovation from the dozen or so people in the exhibit.
So when I find a snake in my bathroom, coiled up on the floor in front of the sink, out in the open with no cage to separate him from me, you can get a sense of how I was feeling.
My heart rate wasn’t elevated; it was pounding harder than John Bonham on the drums during a Led Zeppelin solo.
I knew I had to do something. I went in the kitchen and grabbed a broom, then scoured the house for a box. My plan was to sweep the snake into a box and take the box outside and out of the house. The first box I found was a box my wife had bought peaches in. I looked big enough, so I grabbed it and headed back into the bathroom, tilted it on its side and began sweeping the snake into the box.
I wasn’t expecting the snake to bite the broom, but it did, causing me to become temporarily immobilized as fought the urge to try and not start screaming like a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert again.
I finally got the snake swept into the box and I tilted the box upright.
At that point I swear I heard a faint rattle come from the bottom of the box.
I also realized at that second I had swept the snake into a box that didn’t have a lid.
I did two things simultaneously. I jumped backwards about 12 feet and I could no longer overcome the urge to start screaming like a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
I know it’s not a manly thing to do.
But I swear I heard a rattle.
I also realized the snake was beginning to crawl up the side of the box. So I grabbed the broom and started pushing him back inside — as he tried biting the broom.
Not wanting this exercise in futility to continue on indefinitely (and it was heading in that direction), I had the wits about me to grab a towel out of the closet and toss it over the box to trap the snake inside.
I swear I heard it rattle.
It literally took me 30 minutes to carry that box out of the bathroom and outside. I admit, I could only take a step or two before I had to set the box down because it creped the bejibbers out of me (and I was sure it was going to poke its head out from under the towel that was covering the box).
And I swear I heard it rattle.
So I get it outside, set it down and run into the garage and get a shovel.
I didn’t know what kind of snake it was, but I swear I heard it rattle and I couldn’t have a rattlesnake crawling around the yard.
Luckily, my neighbor George was outside working on his yard.
“George! George! Come here! Come here!” I shouted across the lawn.
George came over. I told him about the snake. He wanted to know how it got in the house.
“I don’t know!” I said. “I didn’t let him in, I can tell you that.”
I told him how I got into the peach box and when I flipped the box over, I swear I heard it rattle.
George took a look inside the box.
“Looks like a rat snake to me,” he said.
“I swear I heard it rattle, George!”
“I don’t see any rattles,” he said. “Looks like a rat snake to me. Mind if I take it to Ginger (his wife). She can look it up on the Internet and tell exactly what kind of snake it is.”
I told him to take, by all means.
“And you can keep it,” I said. “I don’t want it back.”
It took about three hours for my heart to return to a normal rhythm and calm down enough that I could start to function normally. I still won’t go back in the bathroom without a broom.
The next day at work I was taking a break out on the patio at the newspaper. I was looking toward the radio station with my back to the door, reliving the whole terrifying ordeal. I didn’t see Aaron Schwaderer pop his head out the door to ask me a question.
“Hey,” he said, causing me to jump about two feet in the air.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, prompting me to tell him the whole story of how I spent my Sunday too afraid to go into my own bathroom because of a snake.
“Wow, that’s pretty scary,” he said. “How big was the snake?”
“About 12 inches,” I said.
When he was able to catch his breath from laughing so hard, he made sure to share the story with everyone in the office.
Laugh all you want. Just keep those snakes away from me.