"Now that I’m retired I've decided to pursue my interest in gardening. I’m going to tear out those rose bushes in the back of the yard. I'll put down some top soil, maybe plant a few tomatoes."
My wife gave me one of her have you lost your mind looks. "The prior owner made a point of telling us how much his deceased wife loved those roses. If you rip out those bushes ... you're asking for trouble."
We've been married for 40 years, so my wife already knew her dire warning would be ignored. I spent the day cutting, clearing, raking and being bitten by a variety of bugs. I slept well that night, visions of my tomatoes winning first place at the local County Fair lulling me into slumber.
The next morning a high-pitched scream broke the peaceful Sunday silence. I knew that wail. I've heard it twice in the past four decades. - Once during the area sewer project and again when a nearby lot was cleared. It's my wife's "I saw a snake" scream.
I waited. My wife ran up the stairs. She jumped on top of me. At my age a woman jumping on me for any reason is cause for celebration. However, this celebration came with a demand.
"It's out there by the garbage can! You have to kill it before it gets into the house!" She grabbed me by my pajama collar. "Why are you just lying here? While you're wasting time the snake's burrowing its way in!"
She lunged for the night stand. I moved like a man half my age and grabbed the phone from her hand. I didn't think the National Guard would have appreciated a panicked call that demanded tanks be sent to blow the creature out of the yard. While I dressed, I questioned her. "What did it look like?"
She held her hands out in front of her, then spread them as far apart as she could. "Huge! Beady little eyes! Vicious! It came right at me ... which is all your fault! If you'd taken out the garbage last night when I asked, I wouldn't be doing it this morning!”
"I bet it's just a tiny snake who was as frightened of you as you were of it."
"And what about that poor women in Brooklyn who had a snake come out of her toilet? Do you think it was as frightened of her as she was of it? If she didn't see it, it would have slithered into her bed and strangled her."
"You wouldn't have to worry about the strangulation. You'd probably have a heart attack first." I regretted opening my mouth when she gave me that how dare you belittle my trauma look.
That crime usually cost me many dollars in apology gifts.
While my wife watched from the window I went outside with my shovel. I knew snakes served a purpose, and I had no intention of harming it, but if I wanted peace restored in my life I had to do my husbandly duty. I figured if I stomped my feet, and banged the shovel, the snake would leave. I'd lie, tell her I killed it and put its body in the trash. She'd never check the can.
I searched around the trash cans. No snake. Checked beneath the barbecue cover and in the locale of the pool filter. No snake. Peered over the fence into my neighbor's yard. No snake.
Lastly, I dropped to my knees and looked under the deck. Snake!!!!
A second high-pitched scream, much like those uttered by movie monster pursued females, again broke the peaceful Sunday morning silence when the five foot snake flicked its tongue and came at me. I jumped to my feet, and bashed my head on the deck steps in the process. Blood streamed from the forehead gash. Shovel dropped, I'm sure I broke several Olympic records when I jumped over piled lawn chairs during my dash back into the house.
My wife opened the door before I ran right through it. I shouted at her. "Huge! Beady little eyes! Vicious! It came right at me!"
"I told you not to touch those bushes! You angered that poor dead woman and she sent that snake to let you know she's ticked off!" She grabbed the phone. Dialed. Spoke to the information operator. "I need the number for the Guinness Book Of World Records. I want to know how many times in a row I have to tell my husband I told you so in order to top the current title holder."
I disconnected her before she completed the call. I called the zoo for advice.
"There are no poisonous snakes native to the area." My relief was short lived when the informant added, "However, you can't disregard the fact that some neighbor might have illegally purchased a poisonous reptile, then either released it or just plain lost it."
The front door bell rang. My wife and I both jumped. I dropped the phone. She shoved me towards the door. "If a dog can be trained to sniff out drugs, an anaconda can learn to ring the bell. You brought the wrath of the dead down upon us; you answer the door!"
The door-to-door magazine salesman was dumb struck when head-bloodied me answered the door. He didn't have to say a word. I babbled enough for the both of us.
"Do you know anything about snakes? We have one in the yard." I was not beyond a bribe. "If you can help us get rid of it we will place a very large order with you."
Thankfully, he had experience with reptiles. He put down his suitcase, rolled up his sleeves, and marched into the yard. He found it lying in the area I'd cleared for my tomato garden. Deemed it nonpoisonous, captured it, put it into an empty garbage can and, using his car as transport, released in into the area known as the Greenbelt.
As for my tomato garden? Let's just say that it joined my list of bad ideas. Not that I believe in ghosts, but I've decided not to mess with that area of the yard.
I have a new project, one caused by necessity. I plan to construct a mailbox, one big enough to hold the multitude of magazines we now receive. With any luck, and boy do I need even an iota of luck, the plastic mailbox - original to the house - has no ghostly sentiments attached to it.
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