Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Snakes and Turtles and Kittens! Oh My!

I'm turtle sitting this week for my now former next door neighbors who have gone to Costa Rica until their new house is ready to move in.

I kind of got tricked into doing this. My neighbor told me she was going to give me all of her potted plants, so I got excited and then she asked me for a favor, so of course I couldn't say no after she'd given me the plants, right? Too bad after I'd already said yes she informed me that her son had taken the plants instead. I wanted to say, well why didn't HE watch the damned turtle then?

At first I was kind of excited to have a turtle for a week. I thought it might be interesting to watch, but then she brought him over in his travel tank, which is ugly and has no decorations and then the whole thing took on an air of captivity and pathetic resignation instead of cool turtle diorama. I am going to have to at least make this poor thing an island of rocks in there. It's just awful. He's neck deep in water in a glass box. It makes me want to set him free and say he got lost.

I can't do that though because he's never been wild. My neighbor found his egg in South Georgia and made a bet with her dad. Her dad said it was a snake egg and she swore it was a turtle egg so they decided to hatch it and see. When it was a turtle, she decided to name him Sherman (questionable name for an Atlantan) and keep him as a pet. Sherman is now thirteen years old and has never lived outside of a tank. He would probably die.

He's probably going to die anyway because he's in my care and I have bad luck with such things. Thirteen sound pretty old to me. I don't know anything about turtle lifespans but it would be just my luck that this particular species of turtle has a lifespan of exactly thirteen years and one week. I'm terrified of Sherman perishing under my watch. I don't know what I'd tell my neighbor. Hey, you managed to keep this thing going for thirteen years but I couldn't drag it out another week? I've watched a lot of old sitcoms and this is a common plot. I'd have to go find another turtle who looked exactly like this one. Didn't they do that with Tiger, the dog on the Brady Bunch one time? But on the sitcoms, the owner always knows the replacement isn't the real pet. I'd get caught.

This reminds me of the time I watched a snake. I'm just not good with reptiles. Are snakes and turtles reptiles? I'm not so sure, but close enough. Whatever.

Years ago, back in my Bubblegum Kittikat days, I agreed to snakesit for a Python who belonged to a cocktail waitress. The cocktail waitress had met a customer - a dashing German business man. She decided she was instantly in love and had found her soulmate and was going back to Germany with him for two weeks.

Now let me interrupt the story for a moment to say it is never a good idea to ever run off to Europe on a whim with German business men you meet in a Florida strip club. This did not end well for the cocktail waitress, but that is not what this story is about.

This story is about me watching her snake. And her kittens. Yes, there were kittens too. It was bedlam.

The cocktail waitess, who clearly had poor judgment, also exercised poor judgment in asking me of all people to watch her Python and her kittens. While I have kitten experience, I have no snake experience, but you know me. I was trying to be cool and edgy again and I was all like, hell yeah I can watch your snake. I think I imagined  looping it around my neck and taking it on long walks.

I had never interacted with a snake before. I believed myself fearless. That is, until I actually got to her apartment and she slung the thing across my thighs. I felt instant terror. It was like some primal buried instinct to fear snakes suddenly surfaced. I never knew I was scared of snakes, but now, dammit, here I was after having agreed to care for this thing, finding myself scared half shitless of the thing.

To make matters worse the snake felt like an, umm, aroused male body part. Ok, why am I being a prude here? The snake felt like an erect penis, albeit an inhumanly gigantic one (which made it even freakier). I couldn't get it out of my head that that's what it felt like. I felt naughty holding it, the sensation was so similar. So then not only was I scared of it, I also couldn't touch it without blushing.

There was also the issue of feeding the snake. It ate live mice. There is no way that I would ever, ever, ever feed a live mouse to a snake and watch it unhinge it jaws and swallow it down. I could never live with the guilt. Did I tell the cocktail waitress this? No. I told her I would certainly toss old snakey a mouse while she was gone. Did I actually do it? Of course not. I don't know what I was thinking. I swear to God some of the crap I get myself into because I just cannot say no to people.

Well the cocktail waitress left on Lufthansa and there I was in her apartment, where she'd asked me to sleep. She lived in a rough area of town, but I thought I could deal. I went to bed.

I couldn't sleep.

There were sounds outside. Was that a gunshot? Probably.

What if the snake got out of its tank and constricted around my neck while I was asleep? I had heard stories. It could happen.

What if it got out and ate the kittens?

Oh my God. A sound.

I lie there and tried to imagine it away. It was my overactive imagination. Of course it was.

Except it wasn't. Someone was actually trying to break into the house through the bedroom window in the bedroom where I was trying to sleep. Why do these things happen to me? Why?

I had no idea what to do. I didn't have a cell phone. There was no house phone. I couldn't call 911. Should I lie there and hope they gave up? Should I get up and let them in the front door and let them take whatever they want and hope that included the snake? Better yet, could I use the snake as a weapon to scare the robbers away? I could beat them with it or use it as a lasso, or a whip! Yes, a snake whip!

Finally I decided to flip on all the lights and start yelling for the robbers to go away. I don't know what possessed me to do that, but it worked and it was uncharacteristically brave of me. I'm still shocked, writing this, that I had the wherewithal to do that and even more shocked that it worked.

I waited about a half an hour and then I ran, no I FLEW out of that apartment and went back to my own safe home. There was no way I was sleeping in that place with robbers and a snake. I was so traumatized that I didn't go back for two days and the only thing that made me go back was those kittens.

There had been what I thought were about three or four kittens, but in my brief absence something happened and the kittens had multiplied exponentially. It was like Tribbles. The house was suddenly overrun with kittens. They were everywhere and I had no idea where they had come from and of course they were hungry because I had only left food and water for three or four kittens and now there were TWENTY three or four kittens.

Most of the kittens had congregated on or around the snake tank and the ones who were on it were using their little razor sharp claws to tear up the screen lid. They wanted snake meat instead of kitten chow apparently.

This could not end well. Two things could happen and both would be terrible. A. the snake could swallow the kittens. B. the demon kittens could descend upon the snake in a feeding frenzy, overpower it and kill it.

This was a total freakin disaster from all angles.

I decided to do the responsible thing and put out more kitten chow and water and just leave.

I came back two days later to find that yes, I had killed the snake. I hadn't fed it and now it was dead. It had turned white. Even its eyes had turned white it was so dead. I poked it with a stick and it didn't move. Yes, it was dead. Ok, but at least the kittens had lost interest in it and had now set to work at destroying everything in the apartment. They were doing an excellent job.

I didn't know what to do with the snake, who had clearly died of starvation plus trauma from being harassed by kittens plus probably neglect by me. Of course this happened. Of course the snake died in my care.

Again, I decided to do the responsible thing and leave.

I concocted a lie. I would tell the cocktail waitress that the snake died the morning she got home. I'd say it was fine the night before and maybe it had choked on the mouse that I, of course, fed it. Same with the kittens. They had been little angels with fur while she was gone and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the very morning of her arrival, just after I left for work, they must have gone ape shit and destroyed the apartment, but no, it had not happened while I was there. As for the kittens multiplying - I didn't notice a thing. I thought there had always been over twenty kittens in the house. For all I knew, maybe there were.

A couple days later, and oh dear God, when was this girl coming home, the dead snake began to peel. Ok, well at least he didn't stink. He was drying up and peeling. Fabulous. There went my lie though. I could never say some old, flaking, peeling, dessicated strand of what was once a virile, pulsing, throbbing, hot....SNAKE (what'd you think I was going to say?) had just died that morning. Nope.

Should I throw the snake away? Are there laws about snake carcass disposal? Should I bury the snake? Should I chop it up and feed it to the bloodthirsty kitten hoards?

Once again, I decided to just leave it.

A couple days later, I came back and it had peeled more.

Finally, finally, finally the cocktail waitress came back from Germany. Jesus, Finally this would be over, but I'd have to come clean. I'd have to tell her I killed her snake.

I decided to avoid her and not meet her at her apartment. I couldn't bear to see her face when she saw what the kittens had done and when she discovered the snake's dead, limp strap of a body all peeling in his tank. I decided to just see her at work and act like I had no clue what happened.

I was very nonchalant.

"Oh hey Nina," I said. Breezily. I was breezy about it, "How was Germany?"

Act like nothing happened. NOTHING HAPPENED.

But wait, she was acting like nothing happened. Maybe she hadn't been back to her house yet.

"I'm so sorry you couldn't have more fun with the snake," she said.


"Yeah," she went on, "Bad timing there. I guess he decided to shed his skin as soon as I left."

"Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah."

"He's not as fun when he goes dormant," she said, "And look, I totally owe you one for the kittens. Yeah. I apologize. My friend keeps rescue kittens at her house and finds them forever homes. She's like a kitten foster mom. So at the last minute I got scared of going to Germany by myself and she came along. I told her drop the kittens off at my place and you'd take care of them with my kittens, but I had no way to reach you to let you know, so I knew you'd figure it out anyway since you're so smart like that."

Yes.  Because I'm so smart like that.

Let's hope things go a little better with the turtle.


Arwen said...

LOL, I'm not sure if it's fortunate or unfortunate for you but most turtles live more than 100 years.

One Mean MFA said...

I've heard that turtles carry salmonella, so be careful with Baby Lawns.

Okay they do:

I hope I didn't make the hypochondria kick in.

Jean_Phx said...

What a great story! Thank you. And, yes, we do want the story about the German business man.

ohsoang said...

So was the snake dead or dormant?

Melanie said...

Only you! :)

Tiffany said...

Well, at least turtles don't shed their skin! =) Good luck with him and watch out for salmonella.

Diary of Why said...

Turtle sitting is the worst! I had to watch two turtles, one of which seemed hell-bent on killing the other, which involved a lot of violent thrashing and clunking around in the tank until I couldn't even sleep at night. And I had to feed them and clean their tank and oh, it was awful. Good luck to you.

JoeinVegas said...

Sounds like you do a great job taking care of animals. No complaints out of her, huh?

Dayna said...

Gosh I was really rooting for that snake to be dead.

K2 said...

I bet the name Sherman came from the comic strip Sherman's Lagoon

miriam said...

A few years ago I agreed to watch two hamsters for my neighbor and her kids while they were out of town.
The day before they came home I went over to feed them, reached in the cage, and they were gone. Not dead. Gone. Missing.
Then I couldn't remember if I had actually just opened the cage or whether it was already open because I forgot to close it the night before.

I spent almost 4 full hours, crawling around her apartment with a flashlight looking for them to no avail. I went home, thinking I'd come back in morning to look again. I thought they were coming home at 8 PM that day. Turns out it was 8 AM and when I went over they were already home.
Her little son ran up to me "The hamsters got out of their cage AGAIN. They were in their hideout behind the washing machine."
Turns out the bars on the cage were actully loose and the hamsters had escaped previously. They ran straight into the laundry room which is where the hamster food was kept.
I never did tell her I had been crawling through her apartment for the evening.

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