By Stephen Trolly
There are a lot of animals in the swampy woods of the southern states. I’ve seen eagles, an osprey or two, half a dozen owls (including one very unfortunate barn owl), a few bears, two moose, more deer than I can count (I hate deer for reasons that the front of my car will be very happy to explain), a timber wolf, and a coyote. My favorite animal that I’ve seen back there is actually kind of boring by comparison. It’s a snake. Interestingly enough though, it’s actually a poisonous snake: a cottonmouth. So, it’s not just a poisonous snake, but a really big, amphibious, and poisonous snake.
I don’t know why I like this snake. This one - it honestly sometimes seems to be following me around - has a long white stripe on its right side. I’m glad about that stripe, because one time, I went up to a cottonmouth that didn’t have it, and it tried to bite me. For some reason, this one never has. It just follows me around while I’m out walking. It slithers along quietly, doesn’t make any noise, doesn’t scare anything away, and eats a few mice or squirrels or whatever it catches. I’ve thought about giving it a name. Normally, only animals that I kill accidently get names. That barn owl? I named him Jeffery. Don’t ask why. It was just the first name that popped into my head. That was sad. It was sitting in the middle of the road at eleven o’clock at night. It was facing the other way, and by the time I had realized that there was something in the road, it was too late to stop. It turned around, looked at me, and tried to take off, but no. Feathers were everywhere, and I had to get my windshield replaced. I think I’ll name the cottonmouth Draco. He’s my girlfriend’s favorite character from Harry Potter. I don’t see why she likes him. I find him to be a whiny little prick.
For some reason–probably that of my personal safety–I never leave the house during hunting season. The thought of being out there and being mistaken for a deer or a bear or something is entirely unappealing. But I can’t help wondering about Draco. I never give him food, so I don’t know why he’s friendly to me. Well, maybe not friendly, but close enough. I wonder if he’ll try to tag along with some hunter while I’m not around. Does that sound like betrayal? It does to me. But the damn hunters won’t know he’s safe to be around. SHIT! I have to go out there. I don’t care if I get shot. I need to make sure that Draco is okay.
Draco was fine. I know that I was an idiot, making sure that a snake was safe. I wasn’t while I was out there. I saw two hunters that had their guns raised before they saw me. It’s not smart to wear a brown jacket outside during deer season. To make things worse, I actually asked one of them if they had seen Draco. I didn’t use the name. Believe me when I say this, I’m really not insane, but I do know how it looks. I was running around in the backwoods, in a brown jacket, in hunting season, looking for a cottonmouth, which I have named Draco, because I think I can tell it apart from every other cottonmouth. I know, I know. I’m such an intelligent person.
I’ve decided that the only way to keep Draco safe is to bring him inside with me. There are tons of mice and rodents and stuff running around that he can eat, and I have a pool out back. It’s the best thing for both of us. I don’t have to worry about him, and he won’t get shot because he got too close to a strange hunter.
Draco doesn’t seem to like it inside. He keeps trying to get away. Yesterday, he actually got to the fence that I built to keep him in the yard. I’m glad I built it now. Otherwise, he might have disappeared.
Emily broke up with me yesterday. Even worse than that, she blamed Draco. She claimed that I was so obsessed with “that stupid snake” that I didn’t have time for her anymore. Whatever. She’s always been high maintenance.
Draco doesn’t like it in the house, I know. So, I think I’m going to turn the pool into a swamp. He should like that. Then he won’t have to leave. He’ll like it out there, and I’ll always know where he is.
Draco doesn’t like his new swamp. When I took him out to show it to him, he tried to bite me. He’s still got the white stripe on his side, so I know he hasn’t gotten away, but I never thought he would try to bite me. He never has before. I wonder if he’s sick.
I think Draco may have gotten a piece of me with that bite. My leg really hurts, and it has swollen. But I can’t go to the hospital. If they find out that Draco bit me, they’ll take him away, and then they’ll probably kill him. No, I just have to live with this.
I know what I have to do. I’ll let Draco escape, and then tomorrow I’ll go and see the doctor. My leg is about to fall off, so I don’t think that it can be saved, but I’m not letting them get Draco. He needs to be as far away as possible before I leave the house. I hate to say this, but I think we’ll both be better off without each other.
I was right about my leg. They couldn’t save it, not that they didn’t try. Since I waited so long before going in, they had to amputate almost to the hip. At least Draco got my left leg. I need my right one. They said I was lucky I’d lived that long. But, either way, Draco is gone. I’m not sure how to feel about it. I know he’s out there, safe and happy, but, he was here for so long. I know things are better this way. It’s just hard to accept.
Emily came by today. She said she was just passing by, and wondered how I was doing. I doubt that we’ll start dating again, now that we both know that I’m such an idiot, but at least we can try and work this out as friends. Then again, her being nice could have something to do with me being a cripple now. It’s not like I still have a pool that she can come and use. For some reason, people are always sympathetic to idiots.
Maybe I’ll get a dog.
Photo Credit: Fons Reijsbergen