Last weekend, I found a snake in my bedroom.
Your actual ‘snake’ snake. Genuine article. There he is, on the left, bless him. Pretty little fellow, though he scared the bejeezus out of me when I casually lifted a carrier bag and found him under it. Well, I ask you – when did you last see a snake like that in a bedroom in North Leeds? Quite.
So, I rang Jack. Fat lot of use he was. I rang the local police, who laughed almost as much as Jack did. Mind you, I was giggling more than any of them, though that may have been hysteria setting in.
40 minutes later I was still on hold with the RSPCA and sammy there hadn’t moved. In fact, he was looking a little flattened in places, and I guessed I’d maybe trodden on him inadvertently. Well, I’d no idea how long he’d been there, had I? So, I nipped out and bought a dustpan and brush, since it seemed the only sensible approach (and since I was supposed to be packing to go camping in Wales, and wanted to get this herpetology episode over with so I could hit the road). Upon my return, …well, let’s just say that rumours of the snake’s demise were grossly exaggerated.
Once we’d both calmed down, and I’d stopped hiding behind the bedroom door (though the snake was now hiding behind the bed), I rang the RSPCA again. Another 45-minute hold, then a charming chap tried to talk me through his snake identification chart. A process mildly complicated by the fact that neither of us knew much about snakes.
“Does it have black zig-zag markings down its back?”
“No, it’s not an adder.”
“Oh, right. You’re sure?”
“Pretty much. In fact, correct me if I’m wrong, but none of our – what, three? – domestic snakes are pink with bright red blotches.”
“I think you might be right. Can you describe the shape of its head?”
“Only flippantly. What are the choices?”
“Uhh… ‘tapered to a point’ or ‘coffin-shaped’. Oh, that’s not a very well-chosen phrase, is it?”
“Not really. Does that mean ‘wider at the jaw’, do you think?”
“I guess so, yes.”
“It’s one of those, then.”
“What do you mean ‘Oh’? Is that a good ‘Oh’ or a bad ‘Oh’?”
“Well, it’s one of three things. Two of them are harmless, and we wouldn’t be able to spare the resources to come and collect it from you.”
“And the third?”
“You shouldn’t be in the building with. But it’s not very likely to be that.”
Jack was still being useless, so I rang a number the RSPCA had given me in Birmingham. A very bored-sounding chap said, within about five seconds, “It’s a North American Corn Snake. Harmless pet. Thanks for calling.”
“Wait!” I screeched, “What do I do with it?”
“Easiest way is to stick your hand in a pillow case, grab the snake, then turn the pillow case inside-out.”
“And that’s easy, is it?”
“Yes. Have you handled snakes before?”
This didn’t seem the moment to confess that I had, but only an eight-foot python. My snake was about fourteen inches long and finger-thin, and I didn’t want to hurt it. How hard do you have to grip a snake to stop it biting you, without throttling it? I’ve no idea. I let the helpful-but-bored Brummie go, and my gaze settled on a nearby shoebox. Ah-ha! Thirty seconds with a roll of gaffer tape later, I had a hopefully-snake-proof container.
I’m not entirely sure what happened next, but by the end of it, the snake was in the box. Or at least, something was in the box, and I could no longer see the snake in my bedroom. I packed, shoved all my camping kit in the car, packed the snake box carefully into the front boot, and set off.
The girls at the RSPCA desk looked at my shoebox and stepped back as I approached. “It’s a corn snake,” I said, as casually as I could muster, despite feeling wholly heroic. One of the girls stepped forward; the other ran. Oh, well. Next stop: Wales.
So: if anyone reading this lost a corn snake in Leeds last weekend, I know where it is. Unless, of course, it wasn’t in the box when the RSPCA girl opened it. In which case… well, sports cars should have fancy bonnet badges, right?