Last week I shared a meaningful, honest moment in my life that helped define and shape who I am today. So in this post I’m going to tell you a story that has nothing to do with that. Or if it does, it does only through some serious subconscious influence.
Rewinding to the second grade, I’m in a classroom with wimpy colored yellow walls, a floor mat infested with cooties, and cages of classroom pets that we have all come to adore: particularly two hamsters Pinky and Fatso. However, for show-and-tell the previous day, Kyle brought in his pet boa constrictor.
Now, all attempts at subtle foreshadowing aside, let me give you the facts. We had one snake in its terrarium. We had two hamsters in their terrarium. And of all the places to put these two cages, our teacher set them right next to each other.
So when I come into school that next morning, my initial response is to go check on the animals after they’ve had their “slumber party.” Though with two glass terrariums, the hamsters looking at the snake, the snake looking at the hamsters, I promise you Pinky and Fatso did anything but sleep.
Angling my face around the python’s cage, I can’t find it anywhere. Partly terrified, I rush to my teacher to get her attention. She comes over, points to a stick, calls it the snake, then tells me to get ready for class. I then point to the stick, call it a stick, and tell her that I won’t get ready for class until she I see the snake (quite the brash statement for my typically polite self).
Well, my persistence convinced her to investigate further, and that’s when we noticed the top of the cage was ajar. Where could this be going you wonder? Well instantly my seven-year-old brain put together the facts: the snake can’t be found in its cage, the lid is misplaced, the hamsters are right—the hamster! Pinky! Fatso!
(Be warned: the horror I am about to describe is not fit for a seven-year-old audience in love with their hamsters.)
In the hamster cage, there is only Pinky. And Pinky is laying on his back, his feet frozen in the air, his body petrified as though Medusa herself had given him a wink. And at this point, when my urgent pulling on my teacher’s pants nearly pull them off, she looks over too.
And this is when the pandemonium ensued.
I’m pretty sure the teacher was two syllables into telling me to remain calm, when I shout: “Pinky’s dead! The snake’s escaped!” And all the other seven-year-olds within earshot all turn to look, comprehend what I have screamed, rush to the terrarium, scream themselves, and run around in circles. One girl locks herself in the closet and won’t come out until we find it.
At this point, there was no choice but to evacuate the classroom (except for the girl who’s locked herself in the closet) while Kyle—the snake’s owner—calls his father to come over and help with the investigation. Meanwhile, all twenty-four of us stand in the hall as I recount my discovery in the most elaborate and arrogant fashion I can manage, which even at that young age was pretty elaborate and arrogant.
Finally, when the father comes, I nominate myself through infallible logic (“I found it missing! I should get to look for it!) to be part of the search party with Kyle and his dad. And in 15 minutes, Kyle ends up finding the snake curled behind a box, a distinctive lump in the middle of its body. Apparently Fatso had found a new home.
And at this point in my life, college nearly over, I’ll be searching to find my new home in life. Let’s just hope it’s not in the stomach lining of a boa constrictor.