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My son was rewarded in August, 2018, for some now-forgotten accomplishment, with a snake.

Actually, I’m certain the accomplishment had something to do with school. We’re not big “…get an ‘A’” people, so I know it wasn’t grades. I’m sure it involved him overcoming his resistance and general disdain for school. Or something.

In his defense, the structure, inane repetition, and cacophony of the classroom really wear on him. I think he’s destined for art school. Which is fine by me.   

Anyway, I was quite surprised my wife agreed to the selection of the reptile as the reward. Of course, at the time of the promise the reality of having to ante up seemed so distant that surely this influenced the acquiescence.

I was out of town when the snake arrived. It was a small, baby rattlesnake. 

I’m just making sure you’re paying attention. It was a small, orange and white baby Ball Python, which my son promptly named Creamsicle, “Creamie” for short. 

I think it’s a Ball Python. Maybe it’s a Boa Constrictor of some sort. Either way, it squeezes things to death and eats them. Well, first it strikes them with its jaws of doom, then squeezes things to death and eats them. Namely, mice.

If you ever check the Humane Society’s website to see if reptiles, particularly snakes, are advisable as pets, you’ll quickly find the answer is a resounding “no.” Apparently harboring an animal that has the potential to constrict your airway is a bad idea. Particularly when that animal is completely lacking the neurological capacity to (a.) recognize that it has an “owner” (b.) develop an emotional/psychological bond with humans and (c.) look at any registerable heat source as anything but food.

Which brings up an interesting topic. While I was still out of town, my wife sent me a photo of a desiccated, previously frozen mouse (they come pre-packaged/pre-frozen at the pet store) she had attempted to “heat up” by running under hot water and feed the snake. Even I found the image disturbing, although I was duly impressed by her willingness to handle/deal with the snack. The snake wasn’t interested.

Obviously by the time I was back from my work trip, after several attempts, frozen mice had been completely ruled out as a feeding option. Which left the alternative, live mice.

So we bought some live mice. Interesting fact, mice, when they’re on the menu at a pet store, are listed by “flavors,” or I guess “vintages:” “fuzzies” (baby mice), “hoppers” (adolescent mice), “small-adult” (you get the idea), “adult”, “obese” (just kidding there’s no obese vintage). As the snake grows, you just move up from newer to older vintages. Pretty simple.

However, it turns out that Creamsicle had/has some anxiety issues, because she wouldn’t eat the mice. We’d drop them in the enclosure with some extra-long tweezers…(of the many rules, one of the most important is not ever touching mice with your hands – not that you’d want to – as if you do, and your hands get near the snake, even if you’ve touched the mouse two hours ago but not washed your hands because you’re a disgusting human being or in a fraternity, the snake will chomp you real good)…and then nothing would happen.

The snake just sat there, being a snake, except for the striking-constricting-eating part. I’m not kidding, we’d watch, and the mice would kind of play around in there, dig and climb, then warm up under the heat lamp. At one point, I found them literally cozied up to the snake, cuddling for warmth, like she was their mom.

Well, this sent my previously stoic wife into a tailspin and I was no longer impressed with her ability to deal, as she insisted on rescuing the mice. And feeding them. Again, I’m not kidding. I tried to explain that it didn’t make sense to feed the food. We weren’t a pet store. She ultimately agreed, but then later I caught her with the mice, and she had placed a small saucer of cream in their storage box. I’m not making this up. 

So now I have a stupid snake with emotional problems and pet mice. 

Eventually my wife realized the futility of trying to keep the little creatures alive. After another failed feeding and several calls to the Hewitt Reptile Emporium where Creamie was purchased for advice, we faced a serious problem. What were we going to do with these apparently inedible mice.

I consider myself a fairly tough person. I grew up bird hunting and fishing and all that stuff. I worked in an emergency room for a few years, volunteered for the fire service and saw stuff. However, suddenly I was super grossed out and somewhat scared at the prospect of having to execute these fuzzy prisoners. 

So I took them outside and drove over their box with my Subaru. Well, actually, backed over. 

Now, before you judge, let me emphasize that at the time I thought this to be the most efficient, rapid and humane form of mouse execution. Plus, it prevented me from having to utilize the other options I’d come up with, including manual strangulation with my fingertips, the Gillete blade/toothfloss/popsicle stick guillotine I’d built, or a forced overdose of Percocet. 

I do wonder what my neighbors thought I was doing.  

As time went by (weeks), and we recovered from the trauma, the snake slowly learned to eat. I think there’s something wrong with her though – we watched as she’d attempt to strike a mouse, and wholly miss, I mean by A LOT, and end up with a mouthful of dirt, her head covered in it, and she’d slink back into her hide. Obviously not a natural hunter. Which makes me wonder about the breeding practices of pet snake growers, at which point I stop because life is complicated enough.

So, even though snake started to eat, we’d still occasionally end up with some, ah, “leftovers.” Typically one leftover. My wife still insisted on another method to deal with the mouse outside of murder, so we tried (a.) leaving it in the enclosure forever until the snake ate it, which was actually unsanitary (b.) returning it to the store (against policy) and (c.) setting it free.

So with the whole setting them free thing I largely protested for obvious reasons, not the least of which was my concern my neighbors’ homes would become “mysteriously” infested with mice. Nonetheless, my wife’s wishes prevailed and I walked out to our front lawn (in November at this point, about 40 degrees out and damp), and placed this one extra mouse on the grass. 

I must admit, I expected it to dart off in a flash, like most city mice. However, it just sat there and started shivering, made one half-hearted confused hop, then nothing. Which makes sense, it grew up inside under a heat lamp. This thing stood no chance in the wild, and would undoubtedly die a miserable, slow death.

So, overwhelmed with compassion and shaking at the emotional impact of it all, I scooped this poor bastard back up into his container, hardening myself to register its demise as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Then, it BIT ME.

Stupid mouse bit me. I can only imagine what this looked like. An incompetent boob trying to release a mouse into the wild, finally realizing it was a failed plan, awkwardly scooping up the rodent with soft, gentle hands, then WHAM he’s dancing around shaking his finger and cursing…this is like a cartoon, what an idiot and oh my god he just threw the mouse back into the box and smashed it with his foot….

It’s true. In that moment, I became a heartless mouse smasher. I no longer felt. My sensations died. I’d become a robotic killing machine. 

And it stuck. After that mouse tried to kill me, the months went by and Creamsicle slowly grew more adept (meaning barely adept) at “hunting,” but we frequently had leftover mice. And I offed those little bastards outside by instantly crushing them with my foot (I had shoes on and stuff…and they were in the little to-go box the pet store people sell them in. See? That makes it better).

I know, it’s horrible. I’m sure some of you are reaching out to the F.B.I. as you read this. But I had to do what had to be done. I’m not proud of it. But I did it. 

Nowadays Creamie has taken over being a lethal killing machine. I haven’t had to murder a rodent by hand (foot) in months. Months. The other day, I bought some mice for her, then stopped by the grocery store to pick something up. When I returned to my car, there on the passenger seat was a mouse that had weaseled his way out of the to-go container. He (I’m assuming it was a he for some reason) was just sitting perfectly still, facing forward, as if he was ready for me to buckle his seatbelt and take him on a drive.  

So I did. Probably smiling like The Joker. Driving him to his doom.

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