I’m not sure if my husband has ever considered that I might be a lunatic. He’s a quiet, loving man who never criticizes (Am I blessed, or what?). Even so, he may have questioned my sanity while I was writing Cold Rock River. I’d discovered the slave narratives and stayed camped out at the library for eight months. You couldn’t take the material out. What else could I do but return there daily? When he got really hungry he’d come over and find me, telling me I must be exhausted and should come home. Such a sweet man—I’m not even a good cook, yet he searched me out. Months later I was done with my research and back to a normal daily existence, if you call writing until three a.m. in the morning normal.
Then we moved. Once all of the furniture was transported and the boxes I’d so carefully packed delivered, my husband decided to take the kids fishing so I could have some time to myself to sort everything out. Perfect! There’d be no laundry and no meals to cook while I unpacked at least one-hundred boxes and put our new home in order. Once they left, I drove over to the deli to pick up a sandwich for my lunch. I’d need nourishment before beginning the laborious job of unpacking.
That’s when the trouble started. I parked the car and proceeded to the front door, quickly questioning what kind of neighborhood we’d moved into. Someone had deposited a pile of black hoses on our front door step. It was a bright summer day. The sun beating down caused the air above the ground to waffle, making it hard for me to make out what I was seeing. I set my lunch sack down and reached for the hoses, thoroughly disgusted that with all I had to do—now I had trash to dispose of.
As I reached out for the mass, it instantly uncoiled itself and slithered down the stairs and around the side of the house! It was a black racer, totally harmless, but what did I care? It was a snake. And at least eight feet long, I was sure of it, and bigger around than a giant tomato. I unlocked the front door and ran into the house, leaving my lunch parked on the front step. It didn’t matter. I’d totally lost my appetite. I leaned against the now closed front door and realized I was shaking all over like I had some kind of palsy.
I eyed all of the boxes stacked up in the living room. The shaking would have to wait. There was work to do. Visions of the snake slithering around outside my house would have to wait, too. Thinking he might be tempted by my lunched sitting on the step outside the front door, I decided to retrieve it. I opened the door, peeked out, and not seeing anything, snatched my lunch bag back into the house where it sat for the rest of the day on the dining room table.
Unpacking was painstakingly slow. I kept thinking of the snake and how could I live in a place that might have many more of them scooting through the lush foliage that surrounded our house. That’s when it hit me. The reason the snake was on the porch in the first place was because he was waiting for his mate to re-appear. She’d found her way into our house sometime yesterday all the while the doors were open for the movers to bring things in. I was convinced of it! That slithering black monster’s mate was in my house, God only knew where. I stopped unpacking and climbed up on the back of the sofa, eyeing each corner of the room. Nothing moved. I leaned over and looked under the sofa. Nothing there either. That didn’t mean anything. A snake could hide anywhere.
I got on the phone and called Arrow. Once I explained I had a killer snake in my house, they connected me to their wildlife division. They said they’d be out in three days. I assured them I’d be dead by then. They agreed to send someone as quickly as possible. True to their word, within the hour, a technician showed up at my front door. I walked across the top of the furniture to make it there and let him in. Thankfully, he had a snake hook in his hand. He’d have the errant mate in no time and return her to her companion.
Three hours later he’d scoured every inch of my house including the lid to the washer, which made me realize I could never again wash clothes without peaking inside and recoiling lest a snake be curled up inside. But when the technician lifted the lid to toilet I lost it. How would I ever be able to sit on the john in peace again? I pictured a snake coiling up to bite my butt. I dissolved in hysterics.
The guy from Arrow eventually calmed me down and assured me there were no snakes in the house, which by now was a mess. He’d gone through every box in the room. He left, but not without leaving an invoice on the dining room table next to my lunch. It was for $500.00. Obviously, the wildlife division was expensive. I curled up on top of the back of the sofa and waited for my husband and children to return. There would be comfort in numbers, so maybe I’d get to sleep that night after all.
They never did understand my panic. According to them, snakes were part of the landscape and a black racer was one of the most harmless of all. My husband paid the bill without saying a word. But I was sure he was watching me a little more closely now. Maybe he did think I was a lunatic, but was just to kind to mention it. There was the time I called the police to report a prowler in the middle of the night, which turned out to be my laundry basket toppling off of the dryer where it had been too precariously placed. And then there was the time I was driving home from Cape Canaveral and ended up in Pensacola instead of Atlanta when I was daydreaming about my next book. And what about when I locked myself out of the house in my nightgown (Don’t ask.), and the entire fire department showed up. For sure, my husband probably did think I was a lunatic.
Right now I am once again camped out in front of my computer in my nightgown. But I never go outside while I’m wearing it, so I’m safe and totally sane. My husband will just have to trust that I am.
Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River, Divorcing Dwayne and the recently released All That's True. Visit the website at http://www.jlmiles.com. Write the author at Jackie@jlmiles.com.