The Day I Became an Outhouse

This week is going to involve a lot of waiting. My order from Book Depository is taking much longer than I had hoped. I won’t know if I got a job that I’m really hoping for until at least Friday. Ryan and I have applied for a gorgeous apartment, and we’re not sure exactly when we’ll hear back. On the upside, my wedding rings got fixed overnight, so I can’t complain about that.

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It’s like they were never broken! Courtesy of Eternity Jewelers in Alexandria, VA.

So, to amuse myself while we wait, I’ve been reading My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It’s a cute contemporary romance set in Connecticut. I’m a fan.

Dreamy Boy Jase has a menagerie of pets. His corn snake, Voldemort, escapes, which leads to this gem of a quote:

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Amusing on its own, sure–but why would I find it memorable? Gather ’round, children. It’s time for Twirly’s Anecdote From Junior High.

Long before I was Twirly, before I’d ever touched a flag or a sabre, before I went to public school, I was a seventh grader at Portsmouth Christian Academy in Dover. (Say that five times fast.) PCA is one of those schools with charmingly strict dress codes: polo shirts of certain hues (I was once written up for wearing a purple shirt; purple is the Devil’s color, apparently*), Docker style pants in khaki or navy, gym clothes with the school logo emblazoned on them. The only day when we were granted any form of freedom was chapel day. My favorite chapel outfit was a stretchy skirt of pinks, blacks, and yellows with a frilly black shirt to match. What does this have to do with defecating corn snakes? We’re getting there.

*No, I was not told that Purple Is The Devil’s Color. That’s my own commentary. PCA is not one of those Christian schools. It was a good school with great staff, and dress codes are equalizers, blah blah blah. Not the point.

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Ah, yes. The days of sneaking disposable cameras into school… and Steven jumping out the window during class. (Note: This photo was actually taken during eighth grade, but you get the idea.)

Until seventh grade, I was deathly afraid of snakes. It didn’t matter that I’d practically lived in the woods until that point, or that I’d done enough research to know that most of the snakes in our area weren’t poisonous (and that stripes that were red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack). They were in the same category as siders: if you saw one, you screamed.

You can imagine my horror, then, when my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Hafner, announced that our class would be hosting his pet corn snake. Corny the corn snake, to be precise.

My peers clustered around the cage  to watch Corny eat (crickets, if memory serves) while I sat calmly with my head on my desk. I wasn’t the only squeamish one, but it felt like I was.

That afternoon, while waiting for my mother to pick me up, Mr. Hafner took Corny out of his cage. I watched, transfixed, from the other side of the room.

“He won’t bite,” Mr. Hafner said to the only other student in the room (a boy, of course). “You can hold him.” The snake wrapped around the boy’s hands, lazily curling his spine. “Leah, do you want to try?” Mr. Hafner asked.

“She won’t; she’s too scared.” It wasn’t vicious, or even accusatory. But I had a paralyzing crush on the boy in question, so it felt like a challenge.

“I’ll do it,” I said, speed-walking across the room. Before I could take it back, Corny was wrapped around my left arm.

He wasn’t so bad, to my surprise. I’d never been brave enough to feel real scales before, and the sensation was fascinating. I still didn’t love his eyes or mouth, but watching his body twisting around was soothing. Perhaps my fear of snakes had been unfounded.

Suddenly, I was coated in a foul odor. Mr. Hafner snatched Corny away from me as the boy made retching sounds through his laughter. I looked down: my favorite chapel outfit was streaked with putrid yellow ooze. My sister heard me scream from down the hall.

I was forced to wear one of my father’s sweatshirts on the way home, my clothes crumpled up in the trunk. I no longer feared snakes; I hated them.

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