Death and Diamonds

The snake’s movements are pulled along, as on a current of fear. Every time I try to think of a 
plan to escape, it seems that the ten foot thing will point its head in that direction, making it impossible for me to move. Everything I've ever heard of about them on TV jumps around in my head like so much popcorn, screaming at me to sit still--the rattling noise is just a warning, the tongue is just smelling you, etc.

My sofa nap had ended when I began to dream about my little Ashton’s baby rattle
going a mile a minute, louder than I ever heard it before, loud enough to wake the dead, making me dream of following the sound through the house until I found it. But sleepy
eyes have opened, and here, sitting less than two feet from my leg is curled a thick, angry looking rattlesnake in diamondback pattern, flicking its tongue, looking me in the eye, waiting for me to even think about getting up. But I cannot move anyway, because I am partially paralyzed with fear.


That fear becomes complete, when I hear my other child’s little voice rising above the rattling noise, somewhere on the other side of the big house. Maybe if he would just go ahead and climb the staircase this time. Could I be a worse mother? But I hear the mischievous pattering of little shoes, coming at me from the wooden hall floor, around the corner and into the living room.

I think about moving again, but when I do, I actually slide my leg, and the big snake's curls move with purpose, and his rattle is louder. Its expression is alive, and as potent as venom. Something inside tells me not to move a muscle, or I'll be half dead before I get to the car, and the poison will make me sorry I was ever born while it burns my leg.

But drifting towards me, as the substance of a waking dream, is my little Jason, a year older than his little brother Ashton, who is safely asleep in the crib on the second floor. Stubborn, hardheaded Jason moves towards his mother as if he doesn't know what it is to be afraid
, and seems undeterred by my yelling, or by the big, noisy thing on the floor in front of me. My mouth is drying up, and I can hardly breathe. I couldn’t move now if I tried, even though little Jason is getting closer and closer to the thing on the floor…

And I scream, when the rattlesnake turns to my child, and darts outward, striking the boy’s leg. The scene plays in slow motion; I remember the diamond pattern, huge fangs, and its angry eyes. I seem to be moving on my own, brave now, as I get up and grab my little boy, lifting him up. The big snake is lifted too, stuck to the front of my son’s leg. The creature falls off and hits the floor like a thick rope, and begins to immediately crawl away.


Without thought, I grab my phone and haul my screaming toddler out into the Texas heat, leaving the baby upstairs. I curse myself for locking the car door, finally getting it open. I am on the phone to 911 as I drive. Dilemma! Should I brave the city traffic or wait for the paramedics while my son’s body swells with poison? The call is as much about the snake in my house, and the newborn in the upstairs crib as for advice. The operator tells me to hit the road and get that child to the hospital immediately, and that she will alert the police about the rattlesnake, and not to worry about my infant upstairs, who may have been asleep through the whole thing anyway.

My son's screams have tapered to whimpering as I get to the emergency room, which is quicker than the ambulance would have gotten to my house. Fate had been kind in traffic, because it was too easy for me to run the red lights without getting plastered, beeping the horn and flashing the lights like a maniac. My son is still alive and breathing when I get him inside. The nurses seem too calm when they take Jason, removing his pants immediately, and I think I hear someone say something about antivenom.

About a minute later, one of the doctors approaches me, looking at me strangely. While I frantically ask if my son will be alright, he takes me to the side, and tells me that in 17 years of practicing medicine he's never seen anything like it. Yes, my son would live, because the snake had sunk its fangs deep into the front of the boy's thick diaper, and the poison had been absorbed safely away!







                                                                          The Storyteller - 2004