Running Home

Contributor: John Laneri

- -
I recently worked Montgomery Forest, a state wildlife preserve in East Texas. My intentions were to reappraise the site before opening it to the public.

As usual, most of my day was routine. Around five o'clock though, after an uneventful ten hours of following animal trails, I tucked my notebook away and turned for home. By then, I was ready to call it a day.

A few minutes later though, I heard movement in the brush. Curious, I stopped to take a closer look, wondering if the sounds were coming from the immature bobcat that had been tracking me for much of the day. I first noted its footprints near a creek earlier in the day.

After failing to see any activity, I continued on, remembering that Maggie expected me to attend a dinner party with her club group later that evening.

Suddenly, I spotted a snake about twenty yards ahead of me – its black body gleaming in the remaining sunlight. While snakes were common in the area, I rarely saw one in the open, especially one so large.

Quietly, I edged behind a tree and watched it pause and lift away from the ground before swinging its body from side to side as if searching.

Once I watched it coil in the shadows beside a tree, I began to wonder if it had produced the sounds that I had interpreted as a bobcat's. Some snakes, I knew, were skilled trackers – a thought that sent a series of shivers racing along my spine as that inevitable burst of adrenalin kicked into my system.

Logic suggested that I move past it without being seen so I decided to backtrack and circle rather than take my chances on a direct confrontation.

Soon, I was making my way along the side of a rocky hill that would take me toward the creek near my truck. Unexpectedly, the rocks were loose, and a few broke away under my feet. I looked toward the tree and saw the snake come away from the ground and turn sharply toward me.

Our eyes met.

In an instant, I was running, my arms and legs pumping frantically – fear taking control of my senses.

Finally, after what I thought was a safe distance, I looked back… no sign of the snake, so I eased into a slow jog and continued down the hill, wondering why I had acted so foolish. After all, I was a professional naturalist, a person comfortable with the out of doors.

Near the creek, I looked back to check my progress. That’s when I saw it again – all six feet of black, menacing snake moving like a demon, its body flying across the hilltop, charging directly toward me.

Certain that it was chasing me, I resumed running, my arms and legs charged with the terror coursing through my body. I chanced another look. To my surprise, it was closer, its body whipping back and forth, gaining steadily.

A moment later, I stumbled and fell, my momentum sending me rolling downhill and into the creek.

Spitting out a mouthful of water, I looked about and spotted it, watching from the bank, its eyes anticipating my next move. I took several steps to the side. It mimicked the move. I turned in the other direction. It followed, the tongue flicking back and forth.

Smart snake, I thought as I backed away and began wading toward the far side of the creek confident that once I had put the water behind me I’d be safe. I had to be smarter than a snake – at least that was my impression at the time.

It must have known what I had intended because it slipped into the water and continued in my direction, its sleek body speeding smoothly across the surface.

Turning away, I started a frenzied run up of the last hill toward my truck. Near the ridge, I looked back and saw it come roaring out of the water, again moving directly toward me.

Staggering on, I spotted my truck across an open plain and turned toward it, knowing that I was close to the end of my endurance.

Almost immediately, the snake was beside me, striking my pant leg – its body whipping back and forth, matching me stride for stride. Angling away, I took another deep breath, digging deep to grasp whatever energy I could muster.

Much to my surprise, it edged ahead of me then suddenly, it turned and coiled, it’s mouth poised.

I sidestepped to avoid the thrust, but my shoe caught a rock that sent me tumbling out of control. After that, it was on me, slithering across my shoulders and around my neck, its body wrapped around mine. I reached to fling it away. Then, coming to my feet, I sprinted the remaining few yards to the truck and threw myself inside, my nerves shot.

As I frantically dug into my pocket for the truck keys, I again spotted it in front of the truck. Strangely, I noticed it stop and look back in my direction. Once our eyes met, it lifted off the ground and presented me with what I can only describe as a look of satisfaction.

Ramming the gearshift into drive, I stomped the gas intent on getting my revenge. But for reasons that I cannot fully explain, I hit the brakes, skidded to a stop and waited until it had safely disappeared into the brush. Only then did I take a deep breath and head for home.

Maggie was not happy when I arrived late for her dinner party. But as I tried to explain, it’s not often one comes face to face with an aggressive snake.

Surprisingly, her dinner group was enthralled by my story.

Of course, I failed to mention that the snake had been a Black Racer, a non-poisonous species – one to be respected but not feared.

- - -
John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several scientific journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
Read more »
These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Furl
  • Reddit
  • Spurl
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

Help keep Linguistic Erosion alive! Visit our sponsors! :)- - -