Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Used To Have A Snake

Yes, it's true. His name was Malachi. That's him pictured above, desperately trying to escape the paparazzi flash of my camera by burrowing into the armpit of my girlfriend. I'm calling him "him" when in reality I have no idea what the gender of this serpent was. I forgot to ask when I impulsively bought him one day, undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol, from Sue's Zoo Pet Store in the Stop & Shop plaza of New Paltz, New York. And aside from that, I never made any attempts to find out for myself, as I was sure they would necessarily involve turning the snake upside down which, in Malachi's case, was out of the question.

This snake did not care for me. And reasonably so as it could sense that I bought it for no other reason than novelty. I had no deep seated interest in the species, nor in the reptile world in general, but rather I did enjoy the graphic appeal of its concentric black and white stripes and the fact that, according to Sue, "it eats other snakes". Also (and in retrospect this may have been the primary driving force behind my ultimate decision to get Malachi), I very much wanted to name something.

Malachi ate mice. Or rather, these things were so tiny and barely alive that I don't even think they qualified as mice yet. (Guess where I stand on abortion). He did not allow me to watch him devour these little guys, but unbeknownst to him, I was hiding behind my closet door 95% of the time doing just that. There was even one time when I could have sworn that, with a mouth stuffed entirely full of the upper torso of a baby mouseling, Malachi peered through the crack between the door and the wall and looked me dead in the eye, Tell Tale Heart style. But I must have been mistaken, or at least he didn't care about me, because he went right along snacking.

We had some decent times together, I suppose. Once I let him slither around on my carpet for awhile, which he seemed to enjoy as much as a snake can enjoy something. He even had a starring role in a sculptural installation I created on campus.
But mostly it was just me using him for temporary bouts of personal satisfaction. Malachi was not that special to me.

SPOILER ALERT: Malachi is dead.

One cool, Autumn morning I awoke to find that my snake's house, a large rectangular tank of glass, was without a snake. Malachi was not big, perhaps a little over a foot long (probably one of the reasons I was hardly able to take him seriously), and the possibility of his escaping from his tank seemed highly unlikely. But alas, his absence stated otherwise. I looked everywhere. I looked in spots there was no way he could be. And nothing. I had to go to sleep that night with the knowledge that at any point in time, I could awake to the feeling of a cannibalistic reptilian worm forcing its way into my mouth, ears, nose or worse. And I had to go to sleep with that knowledge for TWO WHOLE MONTHS, because Malachi was nowhere to be found.

Life became simpler. I accepted Malachi as dead. My grieving process was not lengthy. Sixty days essentially afforded me the opportunity to forget about him completely. I ceased to speak his name, moved on with my life, and focused more on my human relationships. Part of that focus entailed written correspondences with several of my geographically distant friends. Upon completing a letter one day, I went upstairs to my room seeking an envelope. Casually, I strolled over to my storage bin where I kept them, opened the drawer, and looked inside to find coiled upon my box of envelopes the hate filled, cyclindrical, and very alive body of Malachi who, immediately upon seeing me, let out a hiss so piercing and shrill I almost went into cardiac arrest.

I shut the drawer.

Geting Malachi out of that storage bin was the definition of a nightmare. Apparently bitter about not having eaten in over 60 days, he was being less than cooperative. I eventually wrangled him out and disgustedly placed him in the inhospitable confines of a cardboard shoebox into whose cover I had crudely and incompassionately stabbed a one inch hole so this wretched creature could breathe.

Our relationship pretty much deteriorated after that. It was quite evident that neither of us had any love for each other. I told Malachi I never wanted to see him again and gave him to my friend Hilary. He persisted for awhile, living the bitter life of a snake who spent two months in a plastic storage cube without nourishment. And now, according to Hilary, he is dead. I'd like to say I miss him but... yeah, I don't.


  1. I hope your inability to bond with Malachi does not stem from your upbringing.......