This is the second half of what has become known as “The Snake Story”. It took almost two years for me to write this after writing the first half, mostly because Mom threatened to cut me off at the knees if I wrote it.
I had to bow to public pressure, though.
When last we left, Mom was sitting in a chair with an enraged African Pygmy Mongoose in her lap, Tom was standing on the wet bar, Ali Cheap-Cheap was trying to get someone to pay him for 15 feet of perturbed python lurking under the furniture and Dad was…well, contemplating.
Does anybody know how big a fifteen-foot python is?
I can hear the chorus now: “It’s fifteen feet!” Yes, but do you realize how big around a fifteen-foot python is? It’s bloody huge.
My brother and I had been attracted by the up-roar and, as boy-children will, immediately converged on the snakey parts sticking out from under the Chest.
Dad murmured, “Watch the sharp end, boys” as he pushed the chest out from against the wall, then knelt down and peered under it from the back side. Upon seeing something, Dad promptly slid his arm under the chest and began to feel around.
Squeaks, fed up with the wait-service, banzai-ed off Mom’s lap, hit the floor and in one bounce shot under the chest, shrieking a tremendous mongoose war-cry as he disappeared: “Hah! Feel my wrath! Here is your doom! Prepare to be devoured!”
One of Dad’s eyebrows kind of slid up, and he pulled his right arm out from under the Chest, revealing Squeaks clinging to it with all four sets of claws whilst delivering the dreaded Mongoose Death Bite(tm) to the back of Dad’s wrist.
“Honey,” said Dad, mildly, “Your rat isn’t helping all that much.”
“Are you sure you need the boys help?” inquired Mom, as she sat back in the chair, with Squeaks firmly anchored to her lap.
“Hmm?” mumbled Dad’s voice from behind the Chest.
“Too right, Jim, old boy, I mean, that is a predator after all,” chimed in Tom, helpfully.
The head of the python appeared over the top of the Chest, with one of Dad’s hands clamped around its neck, “I’ve got the pointy end. Boys, see if you can find a tail on this thing.”
Chris and I began to root about happily under the chest, and with the aid of a couple of Dad’s walking stick collection, we pried the south end of the snake out from under the Chest.
“Dad, we found…oh, yuck.”
Now, the Discovery Channel will tell you that, when disturbed, some species of snake will: “Secrete a noxious substance from their tails.”
Folks, I’m here to tell you that if a snake “secretes” that noxious substance, then a firehose “secretes” water. Got a hell of a range on it. Enough range, as a matter of fact, to reach out and paint a mother from her eyebrows down to the mongoose retching in her lap.
And her with waist-length hair.
“Eep,” said Chris, rather eloquently I thought, as Mom slowly scraped black/green grease off her face with one taloned hand.
“Bad luck,” murmured Tom.
Dad popped up like a prairie dog. “What?”
“Dad, it, uh, sprayed…”
“Did any of it get on you?”
“Ah, hmm. On us? No, but, umm…”
“Good, good. Don’t let the hind end get back under the Chest. Ali, come here.”
Ali Cheap-Cheap, who had been watching all of this with intense fascination, jumped and pointed to his torso, “Boss?”
“Yes, you,” One of Dad’s hands reached out and got Ali by the front of his dashiki and pulled him behind the Chest. “Hold this. When I tell you, I want you to drag this end towards the door. Boys, when I lift the Chest, drag the tail out from under, okay?”
Dad got his fingers under the edge of the chest, puffed a couple of times, and then lifted what I swear to God was half-a-ton of hand-carved teak wood.
“All right, pull.”
“Boss, you say ‘pull’, nah beef, he say ‘no’.”
“Pull the snake, Ali.”
“Bush man, I swear, if you don’t…”
About this time, Mom levitated some three feet off her chair and, a bit like a Roman candle, exploded in a flaming mass of eyes, hair, grease and claws: “Pull the [deleted] snake …”
…Ali took off like he’d been goosed with a cattle prod…
“…you [deleted] son of a [deleted]-[deleted] …”
…Tom’s eyebrows crawled up into his hairline as he regarded my rampaging mother…
“… [deleted] mother of a [deleted] goat…”
…Ali got to the end of the snake with approximately the same results as a running dog hitting the end of his chain, but he moved the snake about three feet…
“… [deleted] snake [deleted] IN MY HAIR!”
Dad vaulted the Chest, grabbed the python in the middle and heaved him onto the front porch, where he bounced twice and skidded into the yard.
Watching the snake haul scales in the general direction of Port Harcourt, Dad sniffed reflectively, dusted off his hands, turned around and the first thing he saw was Mom.
“Honey,” said Dad, somewhat bemusedly, “Why are you covered in grease?”
Mom glared at Dad, whipped around, and with Squeaks still firmly clenched in her hand stomped into the back of the house, muttering explosively and gesturing wildly. Crashing sounds drifted back.
“Redheads,” opined the worldly-wise Tom.
Ali was practically dancing in rage, “Boss! Dis beef, fifty Niara!”
“Ali,” murmured Dad, as he poured two glasses of Mr. Daniels finest, “You have gold?”
“Ah, Boss! I have gold necklace. A necklace such as only a princess could wear!”
“Oh, Boss! Seventy Niara is taking…”
“Trader man,” Dad contemplated the bourbon, “Madame has gone for to fetch her machete.”
“A blessing on your house, Boss.” Ali traded the necklace for the money, bowed once and hot-footed it out the door.
Dad gathered up the necklace and both glasses of bourbon, and began wandering in the direction of the destructive noises emanating from the back of the house, “Bye, Tom. See you at the office tomorrow. Boys, go play. Stay away from anything with an appetite.”