June bugs replaced brooches on my dresses. Every week after Sunday school, I joined the boys in tormenting prissier young ladies with captured grasshoppers. And I wasn't above kicking off patent leather shoes, hoisting my freshly pressed dress over my thighs and crawling beneath the church to grab the prized daddy-longlegs. The latter was nipped in the bud when one Sunday a distinguished female parishioner watched me race past (daddy-longlegs in hand, chasing after a screaming group of girls) and said "My, my. Debbie certainly has a creative way to show everyone how you coordinate her outfits...right down to her underwear."
Yes, I have that "girl power" attitude in everything I encounter--with the exception of snakes. They terrify me. Their eyes, dark and soulless, radiate a deadly slyness that seems to penetrate human thoughts. Or perhaps the deep fear I possess for these creatures stems from the Eve vs. Serpent encounter at the beginning of time.
Once, during my early college years, a boyfriend named Bradley decided he'd rehabilitate me. "Just remember, these little guys wouldn't harm a fly. They're more scared of you than you are of them."
That was doubtful. He'd never witnessed my talent of creating new exits when snakes were present. And I started to re-think our relationship when he, dressed in a "Love Me, Love My Snake" t-shirt, put a ball python in my lap. I swore the varmint smiled before slithering up my arm and draping itself around my neck.
Bradley shook his head and tsked at the sight of my expression. "What's with the bugged out eyes and mushed up face?"
"I'm trying hard not to look like a water buffalo. I've gained a bit of weight since Christmas..."
"Don't be ridiculous. My python wouldn't eat a person."
It was obvious he'd never watched Anaconda.
There was a happy-ever-after to this tale. Bradley and I parted ways after that night, and by chance he met a young lady with a mouse infestation. And with the exception of a few brief encounters, I never saw another snake again. Until a short time ago...
The other night I heard my first rattlesnake of the year...on my front porch. "I got this, let a fella take of the problem," my son Jonathan said. "Besides, I know you're a chicken when it comes to dealing with serpents."
I bristled, but realized he was right--I was terrified. A younger and more foolish version of me would have faced my fears and at least investigated the source of the noise. Was I going to my son, a child, take charge of the situation? Absolutely not. "No worries, I got this."
I eased out the door, Jonathan in tow, trying to locate the creepy thing. Judging from the sound of the rattles, it was a big one--large enough to eat my face off if it desired. The rattles whirred again, but this time seemed to come from several different directions.
At that moment, a June bug decided to clamp onto my toe. Letting loose a string of colorful words, I danced a one-legged chicken jig across the porch, certain my little piggy had been an appetizer for Joe Snake. In the middle of my screaming to the world that the snake was a son of a female dog, I saw it lurking just off my porch, beneath the protection of the Wandering Jew.
Anger replaced fear. How dare it hide like a coward, laying in wait to attack my children. Not on my watch. Something primal possessed my soul as I grabbed the nearest weapon--a garden hoe. Screeching like a possessed woman in need of coffee, I struck the shadowy figure harder each time. I was re-inventing the girl I used to be by facing my fears head-on. Finally spent, but satisfied, I leaned again my weapon. I'm still that kind of girl. Someone who'll take risks, I congratulated myself. "Don't ever underestimate the power of a girl," I informed my son.
Jonathan squinted and stepped closer to the corpse, eyeing it intently. "Uh-huh, yeah, face your fears, girl-power and all that jazz. But just so you know," he chuckled. "We're going to need a new garden hose because you just cut this one to smithereens."
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