October 31, 2013
Big Bam Boom
I grew up in Texas, a place noted for its cowboys, giant belt buckles, rangers, below-average presidents and wildlife. The house I grew up in was an average sized colonial. You know, dining room and formal living room in the front with a kitchen and family room towards the back. My parents' master bedroom was also on the first floor. Out back we had a nice sized yard with a pool, a must for any Texan unless you wanted to turn into jerky in the summer.
My room was upstairs, on the opposite side of the house as my parents' room. It was a sweet deal since that meant I got to play music pretty loud all night long without ever really bothering them. At least they never admitted to being bothered. My room was the only room in the house with deep, dark blue carpet. (I have no idea why this was.) At some point - maybe around age 10 - the red, white and blue striped wallpaper had been removed but I can't recall what it was replaced with. My bed was pushed up against one of the two windows so I could look outside and see all the neighborhood goings on. And I watched everything in the neighborhood.
Late one night I was lying in bed half asleep, listening to Hall & Oates (Big Bam Boom to be exact - remember, this was the mid-80s and I was all cutting edge with John, Daryl, parachute pants and beret) and I heard an odd, random beat, something that didn't quite keep time with the music. I dismissed it and briefly fell asleep but by the time the cassette flipped over and Going Thru The Motions started, something wasn't right. The banging - echoing and coming from the hallway and, seemingly, above - got more distinct. I was pretty sure the attic was attacking.
(My deepest and darkest fear around that time was the attic, more specifically the air conditioning and furnace units in the attic. If I drew a schematic of the house in my head, I knew the menacing machinery was directly above my room and from it radiated aluminum vents, one of which occasionally caught a reflection of light through the grate in my room since it was placed not in the ceiling but high on the wall above my door.)
The banging eventually subsided, the threat seemed gone and I unpaused the tape and let the glory of mid-80s male duo-driven pop fill the silences.
And picked up a screwdriver.
Look, I'll never know why I did what I did but you can't Monday-morning quarterback a 12 year old (well, you can but it would be incredibly frustrating). I closed the door to my room completely, scooted a chair against the wall and climbed up with the screwdriver. I removed one screw, then the other and felt gravity pull the grate ever so slightly while a dusting of wallboard whitened my forearms. I pulled the grate out, stepped up on my tip-toes and gazed inside the vent. And there, returning my gaze with a red gaze of their own were four dozen baby snakes. Copperheads, I later learned.
Oddly they didn't immediately retreat but charged towards the opening regardless of the person - me - in their path. I lost my footing, fell off the chair and the chair itself toppled over behind me. The snakes poured - that's the only word that feels right - from the vent and landed around me. Furiously, I tried to open the door realizing that the chair had toppled in front of it. Somehow I opened it and charged down the stairs taking only one more glance down the upstairs hallway seeing that the snakes were slithering behind me.
I woke my parents up with a frantic "get out!" and that's precisely what we did. The middle of the night, the Houston suburbs, one nice suburban house, front door standing open, one family standing in the street wondering what to do next. Except very quickly we were joined by the people across the street. They, too, were frantic. Then the Lewiskis' - across the street, one house over - appeared in their nightclothes. The old couple next door soon emerged. We all stared at each other, our gazes only occasionally returning to our houses.
But soon that changed and we all found ourselves watching snakes emerge from our houses. They streamed out of our front doors, down the sidewalks until they surrounded us. Then they did something amazing. In a coordinated fashion they looped around each other as if every motion was pre-planned. And it was. Because in the road all of us saw snakes arranged in letters that said: Happy Halloween!
Posted by Chris at October 31, 2013 7:20 AM