I also remembered passing a dead snake on the road on bike the evening before.
"It's dead," my grandmother said, "so just cut it out of the netting and throw it away."
There was something that seemed so demoralizing about that, so I decided to cut it away completely to give it a proper burial free of the trap that killed it. The holes in the net were small and dug into the flesh of the snake. Cutting it free would require me to push into the body with the dull side of the scissors blade, and cut very gingerly to avoid breaking skin. Before getting started, I held part of the body in my hand and it felt warm somehow. I cut the first ring away, and the body relaxed. After the second, I felt what seemed like an uncoiling inside and realized it wasn't dead at all, but had been stunned. The snake's head raised and looked toward me. Its tongue flicked.
It took me a painstaking hour to free the snake from the netting. The last cut took the longest because the netting was so close to its head I was worried it would try to bite me. It didn't though. It flicked its tongue, and kept its head raised, but kept still while I dug into its body the 7 or 8 times it took to free it.
When it was finally free, it slithered off to what I thought was the middle of the garden. I thought I had time to rip up the rest of the netting so it wouldn't happen again, and began ripping it all up. I didn't even realize the back of the garden, which backed up to a thick bramble, had netting behind it. I started pulling that last section away, and my heart dropped. I looked over and there the snake was, caught again.
This time, Harold (this is the name I used when pleading with him to be nice and forgive me and not bite me) was not quiet or calm or patient. He was mad and scared and, I'm sure, hurting. He wasn't caught in quite as many places, but the stuck spots seemed stuck more deeply and in a more complicated configuration, and this time, the spot where his head was caught was far enough away that I could get bitten while cutting it.
The next hour was terrifying. Sweet little Harold lunged at me several times and struggled quite a bit. About 2/3 of the way through, my grandmother brought me some incense and pulled a chair over. The incense was for the mosquitoes that had begun eating me alive, but I thought that somehow it might calm the snake as well as ward off skeeters.
"Sing to him," she said.
"You sing. I have too much to concentrate on.
Person 2: You pay attention to which animals or animal imagery appears to you on a regular basis. It could be in life or in dreams.
It bothered me that I couldn't think of what mine could be, and
suddenly, as if I hadn't been going along just fine without one all this
time, I desperately wanted to know what mine was.
Sweat poured off of me as I tried to avoid slipping with the scissors. My hands shook, and my grandmother started singing.
I swear it worked. Harold stopped moving so much and calmed down with the lunging long enough to get to that final piece of netting.
This time, when he got free, there was nothing else to run into and he got far far away. The relief I felt was so intense I could hardly process it. Having life in your hands like that isn't an easy burden to bear, especially when helping requires endangering yourself.
I couldn't help but be reminded of the incident in DC earlier in the year when myself and a colleague where faced with trying to resuscitate a man dying from a heart attack. We performed CPR while the wife and son watched, but there was nothing to be done. There was just nothing to do.
I just couldn't let the snake die. When there's a choice, there's a way.
And it's no wonder that when the pain in my chest began late that evening on Monday, I thought I was having a heart attack.