It’s been a long day. I rolled out from the farm with a load of trees at 7:05 this morning, headed into Alabama. I was back by 11:30, but there has been a blur of activity every step of the way. I had commitments after work in Columbus that lasted up until twilight. Drove home. The evening finally ended at 9:30 when I got off a conference call with the guys from church.
I know I need a shower, but I’m still sitting, thinking about whether I should move or not. My thighs ache from working in my shop over the weekend. An old man squatting and kneeling and standing repeatedly makes the quads twist up in knots. The last few mornings I’ve walked down my kitchen steps to my truck with a bit of a wabble.
Going up steps is not an issue. Going down is where the pain hits you, and my thighs let me know real quick when I have abused them. I should exercise, I know. Deep knee bends like Coach Orr taught us. But I am stubborn. Life is cruel. Yesterday, I was 45 and could do about anything I wanted. Now, I’m contemplating giving my body to science early if they’ll take what’s left of it.
I’m ready to force myself to go take a shower when I look across the room and from behind the leg of the end table next to the sofa there’s a beady set of eyes at floor level looking at me. Maybe I’m dehydrated and seeing things. There are shadows. There’s only one lamp on.
I get up to take a better look and the eyes retreat out of sight. Dang! Last thing I need right now is to be crawling around looking for some critter in the house.
In my over 40 years of marriage, I have always been the critter getter. That’s not a job that was spelled out in the vows we took, but it seems to be an unwritten law, that if ever a roach or a mouse or a spider or a cricket tries to sneak across the living room floor during reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, the man is supposed to handle the disposal of said critter.
The TV is on. We are both half watching, half sleeping. Maybe reading something more interesting than whether or not Raymond will be an idiot again. And out of nowhere, Beth shrieks and throws her shoe across the room.
“Ooooh. Get him!” she shouts.
After I recover from a mild heart attack I ask, “Get what?”
“Did you not see that spider? It ran from the fireplace and went under the recliner.”
Well, I did not see it. Women have a sixth sense about these things. I think that their flesh just naturally crawls when spiders enter the room. You can’t tell me she heard it. I’m pretty sure she didn’t smell it. Dogs smell. Not spiders. At least not until after you squish one.
All I can tell you is that out of the 5 million critters I have handled over the years, I don’t think I was ever the first one to spot any of them.
These days, it is my job to both see and destroy. There’s no one else to do it.
So, I get down on my hands and knees at the edge of the table. My thighs are squealing for mercy. I can’t see a blessed thing. I reach up and turn on the lamp on the table and from behind the couch a little green lizard darts across the floor headed for cover under the recliner.
My mama was deathly afraid of snakes. Really, anything reptilian that even looked like it slithered. I was away at college, so I didn’t get this story firsthand, but I’ve relived it over and over through the telling of it.
Dad was a work. Mama was home and working at her sewing machine. She got up to go to the kitchen and check on something. On the way through the den, she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. Maybe a bug, she thought. But when she moved the chair, a snake raced out and went into a crack in the baseboard and up inside the wall.
She panicked. I mean hand shaking, nerve racking, jitters all over panic. The thought of a snake in the house was more than she could stand. So, she called Dad.
“You have got to come home. There’s a snake in the house and you’ve got to do something about it.”
“I’ll see if I can find him when I get home from work.” Dad was not worried.
This was middle of the morning. He did not get off until 4:00. Mama was not satisfied, not one bit with his lack of concern.
“John, I am not staying in this house with a snake. You have to come right now and get rid of him.”
Dad knew that when she called him by his given name he didn’t have any choice.
Of course, when Dad got to the house the snake was nowhere to be found.
“Are you sure you saw a snake? Maybe it was just a spider.”
“I think I know a snake when I see one. He went in that hole right there and I haven’t seen him come out.”
Dad pretty much knew that if he wanted to sleep in his own house that night, he had to figure out a way to deal with this. He went out to the kitchen and came back with a can of bug spray. The crack in the baseboard was smaller than a pencil, so it couldn’t possibly be much of a snake.
He bent down, aimed the nozzle, and fired away. About two seconds after he pulled the trigger, a small green snake darted out from under the baseboard. Mama yelled, “There he goes,” and Dad, out of pure reflex, stomped down with his boot.
“Don’t you dare let him go.” Mama was back in panic mode.
Dad was thinking, “If I pick up my boot and he gets away we’re gonna have to move out of this house.”
Dad slowly lifted his boot. Mama stepped back to the bedroom doorway.
“Did you get him?”
Dad always said, “That was the flattest little snake I’d ever seen. Like somebody had ironed him into the floor.”
I’m thinking about that flat green snake right now in my pursuit of a little green lizard. I scooch over to the recliner and lye down on the floor. Belly flat. Eyes at lizard level. I can see his tail poking out from behind one of the chair legs.
I reach as far as I can to take a swat at him. He moves toward the door and pauses out in the wide open. A basic tactical mistake that John Wayne would never make. If you can imagine this, I pounce and grab in one stealth move.
The lizard finds a new home outside.
I go take a shower, two ibuprofen, and go to bed. My day is done.