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Bears and Snakes – gratitude and a confession

If you’re going to sleep next to someone, make sure it’s your hero.

It is still cool on the front porch at 7:30 AM and the air rings with the Mockingbird’s “Tweedle tweedle plook plook” nonsense. I am eating our last chocolate-covered pretzel washing it down with decaf, and I wish I could say I am savoring the bittersweet crunchy saltiness, but that’s not how I eat. I’m a wolfer. I eat like a wild animal.

On June ninth I woke to the sound of an acetaminophen bottle hitting the dryer and found a large black snake on the laundry room shelf. At eye level. Moments later it dropped to the floor to hide beneath the washing machine. This led to an unwholesome rodeo, with Bob wiggling-walking the dryer away from the wall, then loudly smacking the washer.

Frozen and barely awake I stood by, clutching a bath towel and later, a broom. “Put on your shoes!” I cried, slipping into my Teva flats. Bob ignored the shoe cue and kept banging until the snake came out and then we herded it out the back door. We don’t know how it got in or if it’s come back, nor do we know how many snakes there might be inside our house right now.

I immediately noticed an uptick in nightmares. Bad people doing bad things, with me trying to defend myself and others from murder, rape, and dismemberment. Yes, my Catholic upbringing—all those martyred saints—has proven fertile ground for night sweats.

A week later Tami saw a sizeable Black Bear ahead while riding her bike a couple of miles from our house. She moved to the other side of the road and once she saw that the bear was more interested in eating leaves than chasing her, she pedaled like hell.

So now I am hypersensitive to night sounds, and also self-soothing with sugar which does nothing good for my sleep patterns. I know I’m overreacting, but hey, try telling that to my sympathetic nervous system.

The other night I was awakened by something scratching or bumping against the wall behind my head, and with my high-alert synapses firing away, I nudged my hero and woke him up. Unperturbed, he jiggled the mattress to recreate the sound I thought I’d heard, and then he got up and pulled the bed away from the wall. Nevertheless, I lay there for another hour before falling back to sleep.

When I woke to morning light—arms at my side, stiff as a corpse—I heard something moving underneath the dresser. My mouth was so dry I couldn’t muster enough spit to talk so I got up and got a drink of water before crawling back under the sheet next to my unflappable husband.

Bob has been all patience and fortitude throughout all this snake business. He always comes up with a plan and has not teased me once for waking him up or wimping out. He hasn’t even said, “I don’t know what’s come over you,” even though he must be thinking it. I surely am. All my life, I’ve been unafraid, good in a crisis, always ready to chase down dogs, wasps, and cockroaches. Then suddenly I turn seventy, find a five-foot snake where it’s not supposed to be, and I’m all a-puddle.

After hearing Tami’s story, I asked Bob to set the trail camera up near the compost pile in case a bear shows up to gnaw corn cobs and cantaloupe skin with the possums. But the notion of a bear in our yard doesn’t concern me nearly as much as a snake in our bed.

As I lick the last pretzel crumb and set down my empty mug, a black vulture lands on the lawn between the persimmons. I watch the mockingbird chase it out to the ditch. You badass, I think, and wander towards the road to see if there’s a carcass I need to move before getting out the pitchfork and the wheelbarrow.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

2 replies on “Bears and Snakes – gratitude and a confession”

Wow! I don’t think I’d be sleeping well either after all that. Glad that Bob is keeping a cool head.

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