11 April 2006

The Eleventh Plague

No, we are not attending a Seder this year. I'm sure there will be several of them sprinkled about this island, but let me assure you there ain't no gefilte fish or matzoh on the shelves at le supermarche, and while the Anglican Vicar leans toward ecuminism, if his church is running a Seder, it is being done under deep cover. (As an aside, there is precedent for that. On both Aruba and St. Thomas, there are centuries-old synagogues with no floor, just sand. They were built that way to hide the fact they are synagogues. But you read that in the NY Times too, n'est ce pas? Anyway, no signs of Inquisitors on this island, so far.)

But just because we have no Manischevitz, does not mean we lack seasonal reminders of The Exodus. While the sea has not turned to blood, and so far there is no evidence of locusts, boils, hail, or an unusually high death rate among first-born St. Barthian sons, we do have drought, frogs, lizards, rats, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, flies, mosquitos, and Hummers.

And with the approach of Passover, an eleventh plague—well, not quite a full-blown plague yet—has made an appearance. Here are the facts:

Last week, we were resting on the chaise lounges at the pool after a hard day at the beach. Emily (age 8), and Hannah (age 5) were bouncin' around in and out of the pool while the grownups were discussing whether 4:30 was too early to start drinking. ( It may be in Cleveland, but definitely it is not on St. Barths. I needed to explain that to my daughter.)

The deck surrounding our swimming pool is made of 6" wide horizontal boards, which are screwed to longitudinal stringers, which, in turn, sit on horizontal 2x4's, which sit on ground. The deck boards are a dirty brownish grey in color, and are laid with a 1/8" gap between the boards, so if it ever rains again on this desert island, the water can drain off the deck. Immediately adjacent to the pool, there are hatches in the deck ( for skimmers, electrical connections, etc) where the gap between the boards is about ½ inch.

Liz and I were on the lounges talking, Pinks was in the kitchen putting salmon on the crackers ( Pinks and I were having cocktails whether Liz got converted or not) when Emily calmly said, "Oh look, Grandpa, there's a snake on the deck." We looked. Then Liz ran into her bedroom and slammed the door. Sure enough, sticking up through a gap in the boards, about four feet from where we were sitting, was the head and neck (do snakes have necks?) of a small (I would say a diameter of about one inch) brown snake. He was very still. Seemed relaxed to me. Like he heard us talking about cocktails and figured if he were quiet he could cadge some hors d'oerves and no one would notice.

The girls were delighted. Pinks, not exactly a snake fan, stayed in the kitchen. Liz was considering what to stuff in the crack between her bedroom door and the floor. Emily, elaborating on her discovery, said, "At first I thought it was a lizard, then I saw his forked tongue. Cool."

"Cool" or not, I knew my duty. I was the man of the house. It was up to me and
I rose to the challenge.

First I calmly asked the snake to leave. He did not flinch. Then I dangled a towel over his head. No result. I let the tip of the towel brush his head. He retreated. Success. I was about to declare us officially snake fee when he stuck his head up again. Same spot. Hannah was worried, "Don't hurt him grandpa, he's harmless!" She was right, of course. I had read somewhere that there are no poisonous snakes on this island, but how did Hannah know that? I repeated the towel tickle, and the serpent again retreated. After about ten snake-free minutes, I sounded the all clear, Pinks brought out the salmon on crackers, and Liz had a vodka on the rocks.

I wasn't sure we had seen the last of the critter, and emailed our house manager Dawn who has a six-year old son, Garrison, who LOVES this stuff. It is Garrison who takes all our prize dead spiders and centipedes to school and shows them off. Dawn phoned immediately. Garrison was home from school with the flu (damn northern tourists), but begged his mom for permission to come over and try to catch the snake and take him home to HIS house which apparently is short on snakes this year. As soon as I found out Garrison wanted the snake so badly, I wasn't so sure I wanted to let him go, and told Dawn I would stay with the status quo for while—after she reconfirmed that the snake was harmless, of course.

A week has gone by and the snake so far has not returned. Garrison the snakeboy is biding his time. I guess he figures that sooner or later we'll be visited by locusts or something and he will be in demand again.

Oh, yeah, I have since learned the snake is a garden snake, and eats insects, frogs, and mice. He is indeed harmless, unless you are one of the foregoing. He is considered a good luck charm. No wonder Garrison wants mine.

Happy Passover, happy Easter. Gotta run and take the boat out before the sea turns red.

A bientot.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home