Open only in case of emergencies

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

— W. C. Fields (1880-1946), American comedian, actor, juggler, and writer.

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During my working to get through college days, an old gentleman in the automobile service department where I was employed often used a variation of that quote. Robert carried a small flask of what he commonly classified as “snake bite medicine” in his jacket pocket.

“That’s in case I run into a snake,” he would chuckle. “And just in case I don’t see one,” he would add with a grin in his deep gravelly voice, “I try to keep a snake handy in my other pocket.”

At least a couple of times in my many years, I’ve crossed paths with one of the slithering reptiles in situations that were way too close for comfort. Looking back, I guess it’s good I managed to dodge suffering from snake bite as I never carried the medicinal elixir Robert relied on. Just in case he met a snake.

Fortunately, it’s been some 30 years since my last close encounter of a snake kind. But for my friend who happened up on one in her kitchen a few weeks ago, the memory is still much too fresh.

I had no idea about the nature of her emergency when I answered her call. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I just knew it wasn’t good. “Snake” was all she could say when I arrived. And she was saying it over and over as she pointed toward the kitchen.

Snooping around the refrigerator, the last place she saw it, stirred up old memories for me. Like one night when I had dinner in the oven. The timer was set, and a place for one at my table was neatly prepared.

While thumbing through the latest issue of Hot Rod magazine waiting for the buzzer to summon me back to the kitchen, I caught a glimpse of my cat at the back door. Had I not been deeply engrossed in reading when I opened the door, I might have seen the gift she was bearing. One that moved. Snake.

A lunge toward the cat with the snake was too little, too late. And it was also about that time that the phone rang. And I was doing something else when all this started … what was it?

“Hello. Yes, hey, I’m fine. How are you?” Concentrating on being cordial when you’re pretty sure there’s a loose reptile in the house is not easy. Suddenly, I saw the cat dart out the still-open back door. “You better get out,” I hollered. “Oh, no, not you,” I told the caller.

Did she take the snake with her, I asked myself? The only thing worse than knowing there’s a snake in the house is wondering if there’s a snake in the house.

“Yes,” I continued while looking all around my feet. It has been a long time, hasn’t it?” What’s that noise? It’s the oven timer. “Uh oh, dinner’s ready,” I said aloud. Sharing a quick goodbye with my caller, I took dinner out of the oven and returned to determining whether or not I was sharing my living quarters with a serpent.

Under the dryer, behind the water heater, in the clothes hamper, and under the utility room sink cabinet. Nothing. Maybe, just maybe, the cat carried the thing back outside when she left. At this point, the furry feline was sleeping contentedly on the porch rocker. Deciding there had been enough excitement for one night, snake or no snake, I went to bed, too.

Morning came. I tiptoed toward the kitchen in need of caffeine, looking for any sign of movement along the way. Rounding the corner into the kitchen, I saw it. Not the snake, but last night’s mealtime offering still sitting on the stovetop where I left it; the oven still on. So much for supper.

I never saw the snake again. And I never let the cat back in the house without a TSA style shake-down.

We didn’t find the snake at my friend’s house recently either. Assuming it may have come in through heat and air ducts under the house, we taped off the floor registers and she found overnight lodging with a friend.

The city animal control team located the visiting varmint the next morning. Kudos to them for finding the snake in short order and, per their policy, taking it far, far away for release into the wild.

Snakes in your house do funny things to your mind. She’s still looking cautiously at her house. And, I’m doing the same thing at mine. I’m also considering securing a bottle of snake bite medicine. One clearly marked, “Open only in case of emergencies.”

That’s just in case I meet a snake, you understand.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and ‘A Story Worth Telling’ with appropriate and specific directions to the original content.

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