It was Saturday, and I was innocently watching Password Plus in the bedroom, not a care in the world, when Michael came in from the yard and said, “Okay, I don’t want you to panic, but…”
Let’s stop there for a moment.
I recognized the look in his face, the all too earnest composure I knew I shouldn’t trust. And the way he had his arms out in front of him, palms up like a re-assuring crossing guard who was determined to make certain I stayed right where I was or get snapped in half by a Cadillac. There was danger in the air and this is what I knew for sure: Michael had just found something outside. It was alive. It was poisonous. It was coming to get me.
And, back to scene.
“….there’s a rattlesnake in the backyard.”
I don’t really miss Hollywood apartment life, but the only wild animals we ever ran into there were the occasional rats smashed to rice paper in the middle of Franklin Avenue. And that was just fine with me. But ever since we’ve been living in the GreenBerry TreeHouse, I’ve had to confront all kinds of creatures I probably could have gone my whole life without getting to know. Some are cute and furry. Some are small and spindly. Some of the more predatory ones have left piles of blood, feathers and unidentifiable body organs under the bird bath. All of them, Michael tells me, are more afraid of me than I am of them. He knows that’s not true, but since I’ve stopped drinking alcohol he hasn’t come up with a better method for keeping me subdued.
Hey, why don’t we have a quick roll call of some of the new friends I’ve had up close and personal encounters with since we’ve come to the wildlife preserve known as the San Fernando Valley! Let’s see, there’s been…
House Centipede, also known as “Fucking Hairy Pickle with Legs.”
And now this mother fucker under the wood pile:
After observing the markings and bringing them up on line, it turns out this was in fact not a rattlesnake, but a harmless gopher snake. Nevertheless, I demanded Michael give it a good poke with a long stick, which he did, and away it slithered. You should always have a big, long stick and heavy gloves when working in the yard near a forested area. And someone brave like Michael. You never know what animal kingdom asshole is gonna try to set up a new home in your yard while your boyfriend stands on top the patio table in his shorts and J. Crew sandals screaming, “Kill it! Kill it!”
We also used to have this little white guy come to the back doors and piss off MysteryCat. We dubbed him Hans the Ghost Kitty. One day we saw Hans in the yard and the white furry skin around his throat had been torn off, the red flesh and muscle underneath exposed. We tried to corner him but he got away, and we’ve never seen him again. We hope someone in the neighborhood managed to catch him and get him patched up at the vet and give him a safe home, a deep pillow, a bowl with jitter-bugging blue and pink kitties parading around it. That’s what we would want for Hans, always handsome and dignified as he padded his short cut across our backyard mulch, instead of thinking he ended up as an evening snack for the coyotes that run our streets in the hours after midnight. Sure, it’s Studio City, where driveways are protected by automatic gates and house fronts boast their security system decals. But if you’re making your home on the wrong side of the studs and insulation, you better keep your eyes open. Who knows what’s lurking in the eucalyptus.