My mom was in the office the other day just sitting around with us and chatting. I told Julius to show her the book and have her point out the snakes she's seen because she's been roaming the woods for close to a hundred thousand years.
And she didn't disappoint with the stories. She told him of the time she had a big showdown with a black racer that chased her. She was out with a client and stepped over a log and the client said, "Isn't that a snake?" And she said, "Where?" And he said, "On that log between your legs..."
She looked down and sure enough there was the racer and, as she described it, she leaped about four feet straight up into the air. I picture this like in those cartoons where the characters jump straight up and their legs are moving like they're running for a few seconds before they get any forward motion.
The snake, obviously perturbed, began chasing her and she ran at top speed away from it until she couldn't run anymore. Finally she turned, breathless, and said, "I can't go on... if you're gonna get me, just bring it on, snake!" Apparently calling his bluff she scared the snake back and he turned and fled the other direction to find a new log without some crazy redheaded lady jumping around on it.
Rob asked, "Racers aren't poisonous, though, are they?"
She admitted they were not. He asked, "Then why were you running from it?"
"Because it was chasing me."
I thought that sounded completely logical.
* * *
She also told of the time when she and I were living in a temporary home after the place we lived in had burned. It was an old, charming home, and had been long-empty and now was full of tiny little mice -- "popcorn mice" as my mom refers to them. They were so very small, smaller than half my thumb and they'd wander around in scurrying packs. You'd open drawers and they'd be hanging out in there having little parties in the soup ladles and dish towels. At night when we'd watch TV we had to keep our feet up on the coffee table so they didn't run up our pajama legs.
Invariably in the country where there are mice there are also snakes. One day I was walking through the kitchen and heard some kind of strange sputtering noise and was sure my mom had left something in the toaster oven. I glanced into the glass door and didn't see anything and the noise stopped. I walked by again later and heard it again and couldn't get over that there had to be some sort of short in the cord and it was sparking or something. So, I decided to unplug it. I pulled the toaster oven forward on the counter and started to follow the cord back to where the plug was. It was then I saw the noise was was not an electrical short but the biggest black snake I'd ever seen in my life. It was stretched across the back of the counter behind the toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker and cannisters I couldn't see its head or tail, but could see in between the stuff on counter that it stretched a long, long, long way.
My life passed before my eyes and I ran screaming out the back door, "MAAAAAAAAHHHMM!"
Valiant warrior that she is, she ran in, brandished a large kitchen knife and waved it menacingly at the snake who decided to take cover inside the cabinet. Except for its head which it poked up through a crack in the cabinet and eyeballed my maniacal, knife-wielding mother. I'm not sure if that was self-preservation or if he was trying to decide if he could take her.
I stood on the arm of the couch in the next room being completely cowardly. But, to my credit, I was 12 or so and hadn't yet inherited the whole knife-brandishing thing yet. That would come later.
At this point, Julius interjects into the story, "Did you chop his head off, Grandma?" I cringed. He sounded way too excited about the head-chopping. She admitted that was what her intention was but he kept going back down into the cabinet and eventually we lost track of where he was.
He said, "Did you know that if you chop a snake's head off his body keeps moving? Alex told me that and it's true you know."
She said, "Yes, it is true. Dead snakes keep moving. Even if you cut them up into little pieces all the pieces keep moving around for a whole day afterward. You really need to cut them into small pieces."
I glanced over at her. "Mom..."
She looked at me and shrugged. "Women hate snakes. They hate them because of the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was deceived by a snake and that's why women hate them."
I froze in the middle of typing and looked over at Julius who was looking at me for some indication of whether or not this was the truth. I rolled my eyes. He looked at Grandma and then back at me. I started typing again.
My mom continued, "In fact, there's something wrong with a woman who likes snakes. Watch out for those women."
I scrunched down in my seat, getting closer and far more interested in what I was typing. I'm wondering what kind of strange ideas my oldest son will have about women and families by the time he is old enough to start dating.
At least I hope he doesn't fall in love with a snake lover, because if he does he'll have a lot of explaining to do with his grandmother.