“I never knew I was snake girl until I met this little guy,” the woman explains.
She has bleach blond hair, a nose ring, and is missing most of the teeth on the left side of her mouth, a detail that only becomes clear when she smiles.
Her sleeves are rolled up, revealing skinny wrists. On one wrist is a faded red Chinese symbol and on the other is a live baby python, wrapped around twice. The snake is no thicker than a cord of green rope. It quivers as it continues to wind itself more tightly around the woman’s wrist, unsuccessfully squeezing her to death. She laughs and strokes the scales on its back, like a cat. The woman is more likely to suffocate the tiny reptile with her love before it ever will have the chance to return the favor.
Customers stand in awe of the woman’s snake handling ability as they wait in the check out line at the pet store; the woman appears to be the only cashier, or employee for that matter, in the entire establishment.
“What does it eat?” a man wearing a heavy winter coat, holding a 30-lb. bag of dog food asks.
“We feed him a pinky mouse and he swallows it whole, it takes him a while but he always manages it. Isn’t that right?” She looks down and coos at the snake without a response. The snake continues to wrap itself around his wrist, tighter and tighter.
The people in line begin to get irritated as the cashier continues, “We just got three of these baby pyth’s in and as soon as I met him, I knew he was special.”
“Whaddya mean?” another man asks in spite of himself, he is first in line waiting to check out with a bag of dog treats and medium sized Christmas sweater still on the hanger.
Sharply the woman looks up, offended that her meaning is not clearly conveyed or obvious from the crowd’s observation of the snake and its good behavior, amazing charisma, and general likeability. The snake lifts its tiny green head and sticks out a pink forked tongue, scissoring it about in the air, further proving her point.
“I mean, quite simply, that he has the best temperament.”
She steps back behind the register, “You ready to check out,” without any inflection.
It is not a question, but a statement. She is done with these unenlightened fools. While she scans the dog treats and sweater, she holds her wrist with the snake close to her stomach, a maternal instinct to protect her adopted young.
They finish with the transaction and the man looks at the woman and then at the snake, “Thanks.”
He collects the plastic bag with his purchases inside and mutters as he leaves the store, “A snake with personality, what’s next, snakes in sweaters, working jobs and paying taxes, and then finally one day a snake in the White House?”
He laughs ruefully and shakes his head, “Never gonna happen.”