Decked out in comfy slacks, dress shoes, nice tie and shirt, I’m lookin’ good and feelin’ better about driving home after a long morning.
Entering town limits, I notice the litter left from Saturday night’s excesses.
Slap the brakes right now, big guy, commands one of my six screens. We both know what you need to do here, Mr. Litter Legend.
A second screen, mimicking the excited voice of Deputy Barney Fife, shouts, Blackie, we’ve gotta clean up the town!
Having walked our neighborhood streets for years – flowing ADHD energy diligently clearing them of pop cans, cigarette packs, fast-food bags, unmentionables, untouchables and more – one prompt is all I need. Grabbing one of the huge garbage liners I keep handy for just such occasions, I walk and stuff my bag, a sanitation Santa in reverse. Sun beats warmly against me as I earnestly cover this quiet stretch of plain.
Crossing the road, I begin the slow garbage-gathering return to my car. The Hefty™ bag’s elasticity stretched to its limits, I think we’ll just make the last hundred feet of trash collecting. Complaining about the volume and wondering at the variety, I lean over to pick up a huge, stringy scrap of carpet remains.
One lone black insect chirps like mad but stays put on the big scrap about to be fed to Mr. Hefty. A closer look reveals ol’ Jiminy Cricket is ensnared in the carpet’s supportive webbing. I reach to free his struggling frame.
Whoooosh whips a snake’s head into view!
Despite his interest, the serpent cannot taste-test my fingers. He, too, is caught in the webbing. The poor cricket’s fiddle-playing legs are mere micrometers from snake teeth.
Micrometers? Your engineering dad teach you that? chirps a screen, apparently feeling cricketlike.
Jiminy is easily freed and gone in three wobbly, leg-stretching leaps.
But the snake … more of a challenge. He’s deeply enmeshed in webbing which cut him, then healed within his scales. Our serpent’s been here for some time.
He’s three feet, maybe better. But as I watch him thrash, I see Nag, famed cobra of the Rikki-Tikki Tavi stories by Rudyard Kipling.
Who? gasps a screen in surprised laughter. Nag? What’d you drink for breakfast? This snake’s a racer, not some viper! The worst you’ll get is bitten.
I slowly work Nag’s strapped length away from the carpet, but he himself is still bound up. Even with the right tool, I’d need another set of hands to hold the snake as I cut webbing away. I close my eyes, desperate for an answer.
“May I help you?”
Eyelids pop open. My screens aren’t saying that. A township cruiser hums beside me, lights flashing over the head of a cop leaning out his window.
I hoist the snake and shout, “Great timing!”
Keeping eyes on me, the officer leans back, reaches slowly for his cruiser’s mike, breathes deeply, quietly says, “Guy with a snake here. Back in a bit.”
Stepping out of his cruiser, he asks, “What’ve you got there?”
“Snake. Caught in the litter I was picking up.”
He studies my overflowing garbage bag, heated face, sweat-soaked shirt. “What do you need from me?”
“One of us holds the snake. One cuts him free. Which d’you want?”
Serious hesitation. Then, “Give me, uh, give me the snake.”
I do. The cop locks Nag’s head between thumb and forefinger as I bolt to the car, shouting back over my shoulder, “Got a first-aid kit in the back!”
Returning (and yes, running) with small, sharp scissors, I approach Nag. He moves weakly, but most definitely, away from me. The cop sees this and laughs. He laughs only because he doesn’t know what the snake and all six of the screens do know:
Sharp objects in Blackwell hands? Not a good idea. Not at all.
Gently snipping for several minutes, I’m down to one string painfully binding the snake. That final cut is made, that last strand is pulled from painful wounds, and that unbound Nag takes his first full breath in – what, days? Weeks?
Oxygen serves Nag well; he whips vigorously. The officer, surprised, half-jogs to a small hilltop, sets the serpent down, and bursts out laughing. “Wow,” he shouts as I join him, “it’s already gone – just like that. He’s fine!” We whoop, slap hands mightily, laugh and clap each other on the back.
Might want to look around, Zorro, suggests a screen.
Traffic, several cars deep, drivers and passengers staring, has backed up behind both our cars. Seeing the audience, the officer snaps stiffly, steps to mid-street, methodically waves vehicles through the small traffic jam created by our snake-saving stunt. When all goggle-eyed, head-shaking drivers are safely by, the cop jumps back into his car and yells, “You saved that snake. He’ll thank you some day!”
“Hah! Next one’ll probably bite me,” I fire back. We both laugh.
He starts to slip the car in gear but stops. “Hey, no garbage,” he realizes. “Thanks for that!” Off he drives, cruiser lights now flashing in triumph.
I zip home to my waiting wife, son and son’s new girlfriend, who are placing finishing touches on our Sunday brunch. They see my excited face and laugh in anticipation. “Got a story for us, do you?”
Day’s not complete without one.
Postscript: Following the June 13th column about my very Real World-thinking engineer father and my very ADHD-acting daughter, a number of folks asked to see an updated picture of Granddad Doug and his “queen bee” Leah. This is the final photograph taken of my beloved generational duo …
Snake on a plane (Australian style)