king snake

My tensed body on the qui vive, I panicked, shaking my husband’s sleeping form.

“Eeeeeek!” I hissed at him. “There’s a snake in the bathroom. He’s essing himself across the bathmat.”
My groggy mate raised his head, in a “what now?” configuration.

It was midnight, we were in our new-to-us Tucson house. It is a 1950s vintage structure, apparently with the odd tiny hole making a come-hither entry for a wee thirsty beastie prowling for water. We are, after all, in the crackling dry Sonoran Desert. Daytime brings a pot pourri of needy birds to our patio fountain – even quail and a road-runner and a Cooper’s hawk. (And a stalking bobcat). The pool (it came with the place)? Doves have learned to use the Creepy Crawler float as a perch to sip from. Saguaro cactuses loom around the house, magnificent in the daylight, other-worldly in the dark of night.

Our house is in a well-established wildlife area. Packrats creep about under the prickly pears, tunneling cozy nests as home base for foraging. The furry pests particularly like tasty car engine wires. No garage? Hang a work-light under the hood as a “Keep off” sign. Funny how rodents world-wide like engine compartments. (Our erstwhile Martha’s Vineyard junker grew stinky over the winter, to the point that we simply gave it away to a mechanic.)

“What can we do? I don’t want a snake in my bathroom!” I shuddered.

“Well, we can go back to sleep,” growled my unenthusiastic mate, dropping his head back onto the pillow.

“Bloody hell, I’ll not close my eyes with that thing slithering around who knows where.” I glared at him. “Maybe it’s poisonous.” That got him up to look.

“It’s gone,” he said. I peered in after him. Uh-oh. He was right; it was gone. But where had it gone?

It was a little thing, a small stripey pretty snake, it could hide anywhere.

I carefully, quietly, peeked around. Aha. There it was! It had made its way behind the toilet. I didn’t want to rile it – but I also did not wish to have it near my precious pink parts, nor my toes nor my rump.

Burrowing back in the bed, I grabbed up my source of information, the dizzying data-driven IPhone, and typed into Google “How to get rid of a snake in the house?” To my amazement “Arizona Wildlife Protection, 24-hours” (or something like that) and a telephone number floated up in front of my eyes. I called.

A groggy male voice answered, and I explained my problem. He gave me another number.

Another less groggy male voice answered and explained that yes he could remove the snake – for $110.00. Or, he said, we could just ignore it and it might go away. Probably would.

Oh no… not an option.
My sweetie agreed that I should cater to my fears and hire the guy to come out. (He can be such a mensch.)

In no time at all our expert appeared at the door. A tall, rangy, blue-jeaned fellow with piercing blue eyes and a shock of white hair ankled in, a remarkable Ted Danson dopple-ganger, bringing a simple empty gallon jug and long-handled pincers. A stethoscope hung around his neck.
But where was snakey? Oops… no snake. Not behind the loo, not anywhere.

“You cannot take your eyes off the animal for an instant,” he tut-tutted. “He could have gone anywhere at all. “Looking around he said, “Baseboards are the most likely places.”

He knelt on the floor, folding himself up like a grasshopper, and with flashlight in hand scooched around on his knees. I envied his flexibility and said so. “It’s genetic” he replied, grinning.

Perseverance paid off. With a stethoscope he detected movement under a baseboard. I got a pry bar from the tool supply, and off he pulled it. Little snakey (a harmless and useful mouse-eating king snake, but what did we clueless imports know?) quickly wriggled across the floor. Our herpetologist snapped it up with the pincers and coaxed it into the jug. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds; senor snake was not cooperative, his wee head writhing vigorously away from the opening.

Once the scare was safely contained, our Ted Danson look-alike rocked back on his heels. He pointed at my book posters. I explained. He smiled delightedly and remarked that he too had once taken up flying.

The hunt quickly turned into a jovial “did you know” and “were you ever” party right there on our bedroom floor, in the quiet Arizona night under millions of stars, surrounded by desert varmints snoozing in their hidey holes – or not. We knew the vicious fanged havalina liked a nighttime scrounge about. But at least one adventurous serpent was no longer a threat.

We paid our fee gladly and saw the white hair off into the darkness, his figure lost against the saguaros as he climbed into his jeep.

Who’d have figured that curious thread would be woven into my life tapestry?