Harley and the Chicken Snake
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Itís another day in cubicle land as I clomp down the hall toward the pottery lab to check on the kilns to make sure the temperature is still rising. Up ahead on the floor near the wall I glimpse a long slithery thing. I slow my steps and hesitate to move further.

"Thatís not a - surely not." I glance around looking for Harley the janitor. I bite my lip to keep from hollering for him and decide to make sure itís really what I think it is. Maybe itís dead or just a piece of rubber. I didnít want to make an idiot out of myself if thatís all it turned out to be.

I move closer a couple of steps. The thing slithers forward a few inches, and I let out a very girly eek. "Son of a biscuit eater! Thatís a snake." Iíll admit Iím a great, big scaredy-pants when it comes to snakes. I look around for someone to kill it. Daddy, always my first choice, is not available, so I yell for the janitor.

"Harley!" I shriek. Where in the heck is he? I turn to go hunt him down but catch sight of him coming in from outside. "A snake," I say and frantically gesture toward the floor. By this time Iíve backed up nearly to the other end of the building.

Harley pushes through the double doors. "A what?" He glances at me and then at the floor where Iím pointing. "Oh." He stoops and grabs the back of its neck but doesnít get a good hold, and it twists around and bites him.

I wince. The whole grabbing-a-snake-by-the-neck-to-keep-from-getting-bitten obviously doesnít work.

Harley is an elderly fellow, skinny as a rail with an Elvis Presley haircut, and I fear a snakebite might be the end of him.

"Itís just trying to get in out of the cold to find a place to nest for the winter." The blasted thing bites him again before he gets to the door, and he drops it, shaking his hand as if it hurts.

"Wonít that thing make you sick biting you?" I ask.

"Naw, itís a chicken snake."

Chicken snake?

By now the snake has slithered toward the door and is fighting mad. It rears back and bites him again. Harley picks it up by the tail and holds it away from him as he carries it outside.

Good gracious alive! Is he nuts?

As I keep my eye on the snake, expecting it to swing up and bite Harleyís arm, a sudden vision of a baby being held upside down by one leg with an awed expression from the new prospective on its face flits through my mind. The snake has the same expression, only itís skinnier and scarier.

When Harley returns, I ask him, "Are you sure youíre going to be okay? That thing bit you three times."

"It didnít have any teeth."


I still shudder at the thought of a snake munching on my finger with its gums like an overzealous Ė well - snake. My imagination conjures blood. I shudder again, step around where the snake had lain and continue on to check the kilns.

I glance outside and see Harley shooing the snake away as if itís some kind of chicken. "You go on home now," he yells.

I push through the pottery lab doors, thinking he surely is nuts, but at the same time, I smile at the kindness in his heart for a harmless snake that only wanted some place warm to sleep.

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