I am sitting at the table on our back deck, gazing at the lake and my surroundings on an absolutely glorious day. The sky is blue with billowy clouds. The water is undulating gently, stirred only by a slight breeze and the occasional surfacing of bass, trout and pickerel.
We have a tall post in the yard, from which we hang an assortment of feeders in order to attract a variety of birds. Just this morning, while contentedly sipping my coffee, I’ve seen orioles, sparrows, blue jays, woodpeckers (including a juvenile pileated), goldfinches, nuthatches and, of course, chickadees.
Hey, what’s that zig-zagging across the surface of the lake? Whoa, it’s a snake! I can’t really make out its size or what kind of snake it is.
Now there are swallows sailing around, snatching insects from the air with amazing speed and precision. One of them is diving toward the water — uh oh, LOOK OUT for that snake!
Hmm… now I don’t see the swimming snake. I wonder if it’s decided to slither amongst the rocks stacked along the shoreline.
There goes an eagle soaring past, headed toward the island in the middle of the lake. I never fail to be amazed when I see an eagle; they’re just so JESUS CHRIST! the snake is now in the yard…
“Calm down,” I tell myself. There are no poisonous snakes found in the state of Maine, I have been assured. Of course, just because a snake isn’t poisonous — does that mean it won’t bite you? Or do non-venomous snakes also have teeth? Wouldn’t it still hurt like a son of a bitch if a regular snake bit you?
OK… I don’t see the snake anymore; it must’ve gone back into the water. I can hear the distinctive cry of an osprey; let me step down from the deck and see if I can spot him overhead. Maybe he’s returning to his nest in the woods, next to FUCKING HELL! THE GODDAM SNAKE IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FEET!! I ALMOST STEPPED ON HIM!!!
Back on the deck, there is a hummingbird buzzing around the hanging flower pots, darting from one bright nectar-laden bloom to the next. I hope I don’t scare it away since I’m now crouched atop the table, coffee spreading from the mug I knocked over when I jumped up. How can anyone be so sure there are *no* poisonous snakes in Maine? What if someone had a rattlesnake as a pet and it got loose and bred in the wild? I recall that rhyme I learned in Cub Scouts: “Red to black, venom lack; red to yellow, kill a fellow.” What am I supposed to do — wait until this motherfucking snake bites me in the leg, and then, before he slithers away, snap a picture of him with my phone to show the EMTs so they know which kind of anti-venom to administer once they find me collapsed in the driveway with my airway swelling shut?
Look out, gentle mourning dove! There’s a murderous snake hiding in the grass; don’t come down to the ground to nibble on any of the seed that’s spilled out of the feeders or else he’ll dart up and crush your cute little head in the vise-like grip of his deadly jaws. Then he’ll swallow you whole, I just know it.
I wish I had my long-handled metal rake handy, or a machete. Or maybe the chainsaw. I must remember to bring some yard tools along for protection the next time I go outside. If I ever go outside again.
I want to dash back into the house but am afraid to come down from the table, because what if the snake is lurking underneath? I think I can leap inside directly from my perch through the open door… oh, SHIT! The sliding screen is blocking my way. Ah, what the hell — I can always replace it. Here I go…
Christ almighty… that screen is much tougher to barrel through than I thought it would be. Instead of giving way, it rebounds me ass over teakettle and now I’m flat on my back on the deck. I may also have a concussion. Let me lay here for a moment and try to clear my head. I don’t think I’m bleeding anywhere, but boy does my OH DEAR GOD THERE’S THE SNAKE COILED UNDER THE TABLE RIGHT NEXT TO MY FACE!!!
Alright… now I’m back inside, with the deck door closed and locked behind me. As soon as I calm down a bit and change my underwear, I’ll call to have a new patio screen installed. And then put the house on the market. This place is for the birds.
Clouds, island, lake and feeder post, as seen from the deck. Snake lurking just out of frame, most likely.