One warm summer, I spotted a little green snake in our back yard. I cautiously watched it slither across my line of vision, stopping only a few feet in front of me to warm itself on the sun-drenched concrete slab behind my house.
I immediately recognized it as a non-poisonous garter snake because my father sent me a book on reptiles for Christmas earlier that year. He told me that it was important to know your reptiles because he was missing one of his fingers due to a poisonous snakebite. Since I have a great affection for all of my limbs, especially my fingers, I made sure to memorize every snake.
Despite my slight apprehension, I was lulled into a trancelike state as I watched the snake gently move his head side to side, probably surveying the area for his next warm meal. I must have stood for quite some time because Nagymama started calling my name.
“Stephie! Vhat are you lookink at?”
“Shhh, be quiet, you’ll scare it away!”
“Scare vhat avay?”
“The snake! Don’t worry, it’s not-”
Before I even utter the word “poisonous”, Nagymama reached over, grabbed a loose brick, and threw it on top of the snake. I think my grandma must have been a ninja in a past life because somehow, the brick landed right in center of the creature. I watched its final death throes in horror before it went limp like a deflated balloon.
If that wasn’t traumatic enough, Anyu wouldn’t even let me give the snake a proper burial.
“Don’t you dare touch dat ting,” she yelled, “It’s full of diseases!”
The next spring, I got sick of the brick, so I moved it back to its original pile. My mother immediately noticed that something was wrong.
“The brick!” she shouted, “Dah snake was under dat brick! Now you hands are full of poison!”
“Anyu, there is no poison, it was a garter snake.”
“Oh, so how do you know?”
“Because Apu sent me a book on snakes so that I wouldn’t get bit by a poisonous one and lose my finger like he did.”
“Is dat vhat he told you? You know, your fodder lost his finger because he got drunk and ran it over wit a lawn mower. Now go vash your hands before you die.”
Photo by Ivan Tortuga