I feel something brush along my leg, I don’t know why I stood, I normally jump at the slightest unexpected touch. I glance down. In the subdued light of the far barn I can just make out a gleaming black snake leaning against my lower leg. The rest of the reptile’s body slides with slow purpose under the stall to where I stand with a water hose filling buckets. The tropical Florida night had invited me to wear shorts for the evening chore. It’s a decision I regret, as I feel the snake’s large triangular head press into me. It seems to adore the warmth of my skin. I freeze, and suck in a silent breath suppressing a scream. Wild things seldom appreciate the explosive sound of a terrified shriek. It would have surely led to an assault by deadly fangs. I keep quiet. My heart beats at breakneck speed, like the bass of a heavy metal death song. He, or she, I’m not sure which— My knowledge of a snakes sex anatomy is sadly lacking. It encircles my leg with a thick ropy body. I stare down at my ankle watching its body seamlessly slide along my flesh.
I flick a glance to the water bucket. The water reflects near the top. I maintain my statue posture as well as I can, while slowly folding the hose to prevent the water from spilling over onto the snake. A dousing with cold water would surely cause aggression as well. It was a cottonmouth water moccasin. The groundskeeper, Owen had mentioned there were some in the canal nearby. I knew they were venomous, treatable if you got help. I shiver, wondering how fast a person needs treatment? All we have in Canada are bears, and wolves, and crazy moose. None of them could have snuck under a stall and threatened me with death. Oh Canada— how I am missing thee.
I turn my focus back to the ground, and watch with silent relief as the snake lowers his head to the dirt, and unwinds off my leg slipping away under the stall. Maybe it was the garlic I had for supper?
I inhale a deep breath. I scream. I cuss. I jump up and down making strange noises.
The colt in the stall gives me a curious stare.
I shake my finger at him. “Don’t you look at me like that. What kind of horse are you anyway? Aren’t you supposed to protect me? You should have stomped him into the ground. Isn’t that what horses are supposed to do?”
The sorrel colt steps up to me and nuzzles my side.
I shake my head. “Yeah, yeah, okay apology accepted.”
Back at the house the family is hanging out in the living room, Dick is sprawled out on one sofa, and Tracey is sandwiched in between Zack and Tabby on the other sofa.
Tracy looks up as I enter the room, “Everything good out there?” she asks.
I shudder, “Yeah, except my leg was mugged by a snake.”
Zack straightens up with wide eyes, “What? You saw a snake?”
“Yeah, it was down at the far barn. It came out from under a stall, slithered around my leg, and then took off under the other stall.” I wrap my arms around myself and quake.
Zack smacks his leg. “No fair! I want to see a snake.”
Tabby sits forward and wrinkles her nose, “That’s disgusting! I would have bolted for sure,” she exclaims. Tabby gives me a look, it’s crossed between respect and sympathy. “Poor you.”
I smile at her. “Then I guess it’s a good thing it was me with the snake instead of you. I hate to think what might have happened if I tried to run with a snake wrapped around my leg. Probably a trip to the hospital.”
Dick studies me with eyes as expressionless as the snakes, “Did you make sure it was out of the stalls?”
I give him a flat look, “Yes. It was gone. I had to finish watering the rest of the stalls in the same direction it went.”
Tracey rubs her arms and shivers, “Yuck, I’m just glad it was you. No offense. What did the horses do?”
I shrug and shake my head, “Nothing. They didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Weird, I would have thought they’d freak right out.” I scrunch up my face. “It sure as heck bothered me. So gross!” I throw Tabby a meaningful look. “We’ll have to be really careful from now on. Who knows? It could happen again.”
Tabby nods and hugs her knees into her chest leaning back into the couch. “I’ll be very careful.” She stresses. The she shifts her body cuddling up under Tracey’s arm. “I guess Mom’s going to have to water tomorrow night, since it’s your day off. There’s no way I’m going to do it.”
Dick sits up a little, “There’s all kinds of critters that live in the canals around here. It’s a good place to get rid of a body. Actually—“
“Dick!” interrupts Tracey. “That’s not an appropriate thing to say around the kids.”
Dick chuckles and his eyes glitter, “Why not? It’s true. The gangsters around here can just dump the bodies in a remote waterway, or slough, and ta da! The alligators, and snakes, and Mother Nature will dispose of the evidence.”
Tracey stands up and shakes her head, “You’re talking out of your ass again.”
Dick thrusts his chin towards her, “Do a little research. You’ll find out I’m right.” He glances at me, “Problems are easily taken care of in the wilds of Florida.”
Tracey points at the empty glass beside Dick, “I think you’ve had one too many tonight my dear.”
The following day my new friend Carlin picks me up and we headed out to the Fort Lauderdale Beach. Carlin’s platinum blonde hair tosses in the breeze as we drive the freeway in her fire-red Camaro. Mötley Crüe’s, Smoking in the Boys Room blasts out of Carlin’s jacked up stereo speakers. In no time at all, we’re stretching out in the sunshine on our beach towels, and listening to the ocean sigh.
“Debby?” Carlin says, breaking the oceans spell.
I roll onto my stomach and look at her, “Yes?”
She brushes her hair away from her face, and props herself up on her elbows, “So I talked to my boss about Tracey and Dick—” Carlin’s blue eyes narrow in the bright sunshine as they meet mine, “She says not many people in the show circuit know very much about the Fatterods— but the ones that do know them— they know something. But no one’s talking. And the one’s that know something— they avoid the Fatterod family like they are carriers of the plague.” Carlin gives her head a shake, her hair flops with the gesture, “It sounds to me— like there is one hellacious secret. My boss thinks you should look for a different job.”
I’m beginning to think the same.