Around the House: Snakes and Ladders 

How did that get there?

Anyway, I'm up there with my rubber gloves on, scooping. In my hand I see something wriggle. I assume it's an ant — every now and then, a colony will set up shop in the gutter, only to become refugees after I tear their little village apart — but it isn't. It's a worm.

I hold the mud with the worm in it in my gloved palm. It's a perfectly normal worm, about 4 inches long, squirming wildly the way our local worms do. This makes no sense. I try to make sense of it. A worm. Ten feet above the ground. In a rain gutter.

Did it crawl up there? Don't be ridiculous. Worms aren't snakes. Heck, snakes can't crawl up a wall. Maybe a bird dropped it — grabbed it off the ground, swooped up with it — oops — worm falls into gutter. Maybe … nope, that's it. I'm out of ideas.

I back down the ladder and put the worm on the ground. Miracle worm.

Things around my house are always showing up in the wrong places. Cars, for instance. I live on a blind curve on an under-lit section of a two-lane road, and now and then, usually at 2 in the morning, some idiot will go screeching off the road, through the guardrail and wind up teetering on the steep hill that leads to my back yard. Then my wife and I call the cops, grab flashlights and trot over to the wreck.

No one's been killed — yet. They've all looked drunk to me. We found one wobbly fellow sitting in the dark next to an SUV that lay cocked on its side, wheels still spinning. He looked me in the elbow and swore that it washn't his car. Shomebody else had been driving, he said, but he couldn't exshackly remember who. A cop took him away.

Tools, too, wander where they are not meant to be. I have two small children and a distracted manner, so I'm not sure whom to blame when I find a hammer in the sock drawer. Could have been them; could have been me.

I put the hammer back on its pegboard in the garage, only to notice an empty spot where the tape measure is supposed to be. A few days later, I find it under the couch. I interrogate the suspects: Did you play with this?

No, says the small child.

No, says the larger child.

I saw you, I tell the smaller child. (I am bluffing.)

Yes, I did, the small child corrects himself. I'm sorry.

Don't do it anymore, I say.

OK, says the child.

A few days later, I find it tucked among the Matchbox cars. Those kids! No, wait — I did that.

When we were looking to buy our house, we got it inspected. The inspector showed up with a large flashlight, an impressive collapsible ladder and a white hard hat. He shimmied into the crawl space and wandered the roof line. He checked moisture levels.

He clambered into the attic to check it out. A few minutes later, he came down looking shaken.

"You've got quite a snake up there," he said. "Blacksnake — a big one. Harmless, but it gave me jump, I'll tell you."

I called the relative who was selling us the house and broke the news about the snake.

"Oh, him!" she said cheerfully. "Is he still around? I call him old King George. He's been up in that attic forever. I don't know how he got up there, but there he is."

So we left him. Any snake that manages to get up in the attic deserves to be there, I figure. Whether he belongs there or not. HS


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