As all good adventures do, it all started out with a text. A text from Not-Crazy-Renee, specifically…right before she headed out of town for the holidays.
Explanatory Footnotes for this text:
1. SBB refers to Snaky Butters Buttercup, Renee’s five-year-old’s pet Ball Python, who has grown a good deal since I last shared photographs of her.
2. She wouldn’t starve. Snakes eat once a week but she sometimes gets a two-for-one week when Renee misses a week. This was just discussed in the last Not-Crazy-Renee post.
3. Another neighbor’s chicken did indeed pass on to the wild eternal yonder (via a black trash bag) while I was on chicken duty. No one has trusted me with anything larger than Fuzzy the Betta Fish since.
So although I knew I didn’t have to feed a Python, by myself, with no instruction booklet, I’m always down for an adventure.
But this one worried me more than most.
I admit it: I was a more than a little nervous about my ability to not botch this up.
I mean, I like Snakey Butters Buttercup a good deal, and I’ve held her once and seen her fed twice, so obvs I’m an expert.
But what if the unexpected happened?
What if, when I pulled the top off, she took advantage of my newb status and suddenly leapt out of the cage and sprinted under a heavy piece of furniture?
Or what if she choked on the mouse?
I mean, what all could go wrong while I was alone in the house with a python, a mouse, two cats, and my children?
But despite my misgivings, I added Snaky Butters to my color-coded to-do list.
…and I asked Siri to remind me about meal procurement.
And so we went to the pet store – not a place I frequent often, due to my anti-pet status.
I did a slow walk around the store, looking for mice, while the children fawned over the adorable bunnies and gorgeous parakeets and in general upped their desire for pets by tenfold.
I walked to the counter, picked the guy with tattoos and gauged earrings (because he wouldn’t be grossed out by the fact that I was buying something alive that would soon be dead), and told him I needed one adult mouse.
He started toward the back of the store, and I followed.
“What do you need it for?”
“A snake. My neighbor’s. I’m feeding her while she’s out of town. Because I’m the best neighbor.”
He looked at me with distrust in his eyes.
“Do you even know how?”, he said rather condescendingly.
“I’ve watched twice. I’m going to call and let her walk me through it.”
“Do you know how to stun the mouse first?”
“You really should do it OUR way. You just put the mouse in a plastic bag THWAP it on the counter. And why does she feed the snake LIVE mice anyway? You know she can get them frozen.”
“Yeah, she tried that first. It didn’t go well.”
“I bet she just likes watching the snake eat live food. Most people do.” He waggled his eyebrows menacingly, implying that Not-Crazy-Renee has a sadistic streak.
We walked into a tiny closet that smelled of a twenty year collection of artisan mouse pee. As I choked and stumbled out the door, he asked “Do you want to pick out which mouse you want?”
“No. I just need a mouse.”
He reached in and grabbed a mouse by the tail as it wriggled, desperately trying to reunite with its family of 47. “If you want to really impress your neighbor, I can give you some tips about how to swap her snake over to frozen mice.”
“She’s really good at googling. I’ll let her do that if she wants to.”
He plopped the mouse in a flimsy box and headed back up front. “Okay…are you sure? My snakes used to eat live, but I’ve successfully moved them ALL to frozen…”
“I’m good. I promise,” I said as I quietly wondered how many, exactly, “ALL” meant.
“Frozen is cheaper….” He rang me up. “That’ll be $2.71.”
I think Renee can handle $2.71 per week of snake food.
We got out to the car and I realized that I didn’t have a secure place to store my wiggly, squeaky, rocking-the-paper-thin-box snake food on the way home. I didn’t trust the mouse (after all, they sometimes chew through their containment), and I didn’t want to put it in the seat next to me and then stop quickly and propel the box to the floor, setting the food free in a moving vehicle.
So I did the most logical thing: I handed a live mouse-in-distress to my five-year-old.
“Hold the box carefully. Don’t put your fingers in the air holes. Do NOT open the top.”
On the way home, I listened to Noah and Ali’s running commentary on the new friend.
Noah: “His name is Dunlop.”
Ali: “If I were to make a movie about Dunlop, it would be titled ‘Dead Ahead’.”
Noah: “Dunlop smells like shrimp. Want to smell him through the hole? Ack! He keeps nosing me through the hole!!”
We pulled up into Renee’s driveway and I sighed with relief – we did not have a runaway situation.
I put Dunlop on the table and watched as he nosed his last airhole.
It’s the Circle of Life, Dunlop. The Circle of Life.
I put Renee on speakerphone, and I started rehearsing what I knew.
“Okay. I know I have to stun Dunlop, but first, I need to put SBB in her feeding box, right? How do I get this lid off?”
“Loosen the strap. If she’s under her rock, lift it straight up. Then find the metal hook in the windowsill, and lift her into the box with it. Did you find the hook?”
“I’ve already gotten her into the box.”
“Whoa. You’re quick.”
The hardest part was transferring Dunlop. He did NOT want to leave his cozy new home.
His tail snagged.
Then his little foot snagged.
The cat was waiting right under my feet to take care of any escaped snake food.
Finally, Dunlop was transferred, then stunned.
“Did he faint, Mom?”, Ali asked, intently attempting to understand all the steps of her first feeding.
“Yup. So he won’t bite Snaky Butters.”
I dropped the mouse in and Snaky immediately began constricting.
“It’s almost like they’re hugging!! ….. Why is she hugging him so LONG?”, Noah asked, quickly growing bored with the process.
Noah moved on to the kid’s riding toys, but Ali watched as Snaky arduously worked the apparently largish mouse down the hatch.
And then we were done.
And I immediately knew I had solidified myself as THE Number One Neighbor in The United States of America.
I’ll be waiting by the mailbox for my official commendation from The White House.