My friend Dave’s taste in pets has always leaned toward the unusual. When we were kids, while most of us were bugging our parents to get a puppy, kitten, or even a hamster (“Yes Dad, I promise I’ll take care of it all by myself!”), Dave was endlessly lobbying for monkeys and iguanas.
There were many times when I’d enter Dave’s house only to hear something like, “David, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times, we’re not getting a tarantula!” He usually had to settle for turtles and guinea pigs.
So, it came as little surprise that when Dave moved out on his own, one of his first actions was to get a snake. Dave was a little vague about how the snake came into his possession—my guess is that he went on some sort of snake-hunting expedition in a nearby state park—but one day, I went to visit him, and there he was, holding an eight-inch garter snake lovingly in his arms. For some reason, Dave’s girlfriend didn’t visit him much at his new place, and they broke up not long after he moved in.
Vanished Without a Trace
All was well between Dave and his new friend, named “Jethro” for reasons known only to Dave. Dave said Jethro made the perfect pet—he didn’t bark and there was little in the way of cleaning up after him. Dave even claimed to have taught Jethro a few tricks, although when I asked for a demonstration, he said that Jethro was “tired and needed his beauty sleep.”
One day, Dave came home to discover that Jethro was nowhere to be found. He searched without rest for hours, only to find no trace. Understandably, Dave was heartbroken. He tried all the methods he knew of for apprehending a runaway snake, like putting a dead mouse inside an empty plastic soda bottle and poking holes in it to let the odor out, but to no avail.
Since snakes tend to travel at night, Dave also tried holding an all-night vigil. He placed plastic grocery bags along the walls and in various nooks and crannies where snakes like to hang out. After dark, Dave grabbed his flashlight and turned out the lights. He waited quietly on his sofa, hoping to hear the distinctive rustling noise made by a snake slithering across plastic bags. I’m not sure how many nights he performed the ritual, but Jethro never turned up.
Jethro’s Triumphant Return
At some point, Dave finally gave up hope that Jethro would ever return. The nighttime vigils eventually stopped, and Dave tried to get on with his life as best he could. He even found a new girlfriend, but he wisely didn’t tell her about Jethro and his escape.
Then, one night about two years after Jethro’s disappearance, Dave ventured into the kitchen for a late-night snack. He turned on the light to find Jethro perched contently atop a loaf of bread on the kitchen counter, apparently none the worse for wear. How Jethro survived all that time remains a mystery to this day, but happily, man and snake were reunited.
Unfortunately, Dave and his girlfriend broke up shortly thereafter. I guess Dave only has room for one love in his life at a time.