“Hope you’re not afraid of snakes!”
I’m in Orchard Park, my usual dog-walking haunt, and a man striding towards me has just stopped to announce there’s a snake about 12 feet from where I’m standing. I’m rooted to the pavement and suddenly very conscious of my bare ankles (spring has finally arrived, yay.)
“Don’t worry, it’s just a small one. Twelve inches max!” he adds, before continuing merrily on his way.
My life flashes before my eyes. I’m thinking about all those early morning and late night walks in the grass near our apartment where Milo likes to do his business. I’m also thinking, Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me there would be snakes in Oregon? You’d expect that kind of carry on in Arizona, but not here, in the damp, leafy Pacific Northwest. Although hang on, surely snakes, being reptiles, like damp conditions? And leaves are a great place to hide. Snakes are sneaky like that.
I strain my eyes to see if I can make out a snakey looking figure on the path ahead. There are yellow flower yokes strewn around willy nilly. I inch forward, dragging Milo for protection. And then I see it. A snake! A real life snake! Not in a zoo or a terrarium, in the wild. I grab my phone, and keeping what I feel is a safe distance (about 11 feet) I try to snap a quick picture.
“Is that another snake?”
I’m sure the voice behind me is coming from a huge, person-sized snake but it’s just another man walking his dog.
“Are you telling me there are more?” I squeak.
“Oh yeah,” Man No.2 replies knowingly. “I just passed one up the street. Bigger than this one though. About 18 inches.”
Suddenly all I can think about is snakes. They’re everywhere. Every twig, every leaf, every movement is a throbbing mass of snakes. I never quite recovered after the boa constrictor ate the donkey in The Swiss Family Robinson. And Milo is no use. I just know if he saw a snake moving he’d grab it and try to play with it. I had been preparing myself for the inevitable day when he leads me to a dead body but this snake thing came out of nowhere. Is it on me? I FEEL LIKE IT’S ON ME.