You may remember dear, kind former neighbor, Not-Crazy-Renee. Or maybe you don’t. If you don’t, I demand that you immediately go do your homework and read everything in this category. You won’t regret it.
SBB is a Butterball Python that is the pet belonging to Not-Crazy-Renee’s seven-year-old daughter. She’s been around a few years and I kinda love her. I’ve fed her, I nearly got to mid-term-babysit her (as their realtor told them they could *never* sell a house with a snake in it and so Renee was going to move SBB to my house for staging purposes, but then her husband stepped in, fed up with realtor demands, and said “If they don’t want my house with a snake in it then they don’t deserve my house!” or something similar, thereby dashing my chances of being a snake foster mom), and in general we love each other.
But Not-Crazy-Renee had the indecency to move out of state last year. She went from being my neighbor to leaving me in distress and loneliness on a daily basis. I’ve been to visit her twice, the second time being last week.
I was thrilled to see that SBB had grown tremendously since my first visit last fall. In fact, I couldn’t tell that Not-Crazy-Renee’s children had grown, but totally gushed over how tall SBB had gotten.
Imagine my further excitement when I realized that I was assigned the bedroom in which SBB stayed, her glass cage just a couple feet away from my feet. And then there was my further incandescent happiness when I realized that SBB is nocturnal – and does little cage dances in the night – cage dances that make a cracking sound and feel thrillingly like she’s going to get out and eat me at any moment. Because it was clear that she definitely wanted to eat me in my sleep.
While I was there, the time came for SBB to have her weekly meal. Since she has indeed enlarged since she lived in Birmingham, she now gets two mice instead of one. Typically, Not-Crazy-Renee puts one mouse in the cage, and upon the finishing of that mouse, she puts the second mouse in the cage – the dessert mouse if you will. This is to protect SBB from any accidental damage from extraneous mice and to not confuse the feeding process.
But NCR always gets a little wacky when I come around, and on a lark, she stuck both mice in at once.
Then we sat back with our popcorn and waited expectantly.
The mice dumbly nosed around the cage, checking out their fortuitous new digs. They nincompoopedly skittered up to SBB, sniffing her shiny, scaly body with interest. We named the mice Eugene and Willard as we watched them idiotically bump into their upcoming fate.
Eugene was the first to make the wrong move. He walked right in front of SBB’s face and just stood there.
We knew it was coming. She pounced at high speed and grabbed him up, curling herself around him and retreating into her cave to finish the job of death before starting the job of lunch.
Meanwhile, Willard kept dumbly loitering throughout the cage, clueless of the dark, choky end that his friend was currently experiencing.
A few minutes later, SBB, needing to stretch out to actually swallow the now-deceased-Eugene (may he Rest In Peace), emerged from the cave and began positioning her jaw and neck (do snakes have neck? Are snakes all neck?) to work Eugene down the hatch.
As she had Eugene, face-first in her throat with his butt in the air (containing a bit of “I pooped my pants” sticking out like a last failed missile), Willard happened to walk by, chanting “der der der”, as is the custom of mice, the dumbest and naivest of all creatures.
But then Willard saw Eugene.
And I saw the scales fall from his eyes.
He, as the first second mouse ever to be allowed into SBB’s domain, had come to realize what this situation held.
And he ran.
He ran across the cage, found another cage, and I KID YOU NOT, started pushing woodchips in front of the entrance to create a barricade.
He cowered in the back corner of the cave, hoping that somehow he could wait out the wrath of this magnificently dinosauric (to him) creature.
But swallowing a mouse is no quick process, and SBB took her time getting poor Eugene down.
Willard is like me, whereas his physical response to emotions takes a few minutes to kick in. After a spell of hiding in his cave, he started shaking all over, panicking. He realized that he could not cower and do nothing. He sprinted for the cage walls and began climbing the seams, looking for any opening or looseness from which to escape.
Meanwhile, The Massive Creature behind him was swallowing the last bit of Eugene’s tail.
Willard began running and shaking, pacing and pushing, doing anything to escape this Jurassic Hell. He pondered his life, wondering what it all meant, how he had ended up here, and was this always his purpose?
SBB finished her dinner and moved on to find Willard, sensing his presence nearby. She creepily began flicking her tongue, chasing his scent in a slow, methodical, utterly horror movie fashion. She’d track him to a corner, and Willard would hightail it out of there. SBB would stick around for a minute, tasting the air, and then determining that the dinner course had indeed moved on.
Two times they came face to face, Willard being very still, thinking this would save him, and SBB tasting the breath coming out of his mouth.
Then Willard would peel out, spraying woodchips in SBB’s face. SBB would continue the slow, evil stalk.
I watched this for over an hour. I realized this was the first time in her life that SBB had a cognizant prey. A prey that realized he was prey and not just a dumb mouse walking into her outstretched hands (which she obviously didn’t have but those mice are so dumb she didn’t need them.) I wondered if she was enjoying the hunt. If she was feeling a primal urge inside of her to fully engage and win at something that she wasn’t predeterminedly set up to win.
But finally, she bored of the game. She lay down, stretching out luxuriously, facing the corner in which Willard shook and hid.
Hours later, I came in the room to go to bed. There were still two creatures in the cage. I had gone from sleeping with a snake to sleeping with a snake and his saved midnight snack. The night consisted of cave creakings and the scratches of a continuously fleeing Willard.
When I woke up the next morning, I miraculously still had two roommates. They now seemed at peace with each other, SBB givin’ Willard some respect props, both using the same water bowl and hanging out in the same area. No one was shaking, no one was hunting. They had truly become roommates – the type that maybe is infuriated by the other every now and then but wouldn’t be with anyone else. They were Chandler and Joey sharing an apartment. They were gossiping about Ross and Rachel.
After I left, Renee set Willard free. It had been nearly 24 hours and he clearly wasn’t going to be eaten.
I pondered his life, the crazy turn it had taken, and his new future, free and liberated. He had the world ahead of him, but he was probably also wounded from the horror flick he’d just lived through. He was the one character that made it out, trudging wearily from the haunted house, covered in blood and haunted by memories of his friends being brutally torn apart by the monster.
So I asked Renee. Do you think the PTSD he now lives with was worth his freedom?
I was worried for his mental peace.
But ever the optimist, she replied,
“I think of him like a gladiator that survived the arena and fought his way to freedom. He. is. Maximus Mouse.”
So there you go. He is a victor. He won The Hunger Games. He survived in the evil, bloody game of life.
At least for five minutes, until a hawk snatches him up.