Agoraphobia

Donna Cook

 

The summer heat was beating down unforgivably on my shoulders as I tried to finish the three-mile run.  Alerted by a distinct rattling sound, I looked down at my ankles and sucked in my breath, hoping to become invisible. 

 

            The rattlesnake at my feet hissed loudly, waiting to strike from an angry curled mass of scales and slime.  Remarkably, I managed to avoid letting my foot hit the ground while jumping over the disappointed snake and screaming, “Larrrrrrry!”  Larry was my neighbor, and I knew that his two-year-old son, Tyler, frequently played near this very spot.

 

            Running like a crazed person, Larry answered my scream with a dumbfounded, “What?”

           

“SNAKE, GET A GUN!” I demanded as I tried to breathe.  “There is a huge snake in your front yard who is very disappointed that I am still alive!”

 

            Disappearing for a few seconds that stretched into an eternity, Larry returned with a huge gun.  About that time, Tyler ran behind his dad, screaming, “What’s wrong, Daddy?”  I scooped the little boy into my arms as Larry ran past me. 

 

            Seconds later the sound of the shotgun reverberated in my ears.  Tyler wrapped his arms around my neck in a death grip, climbing higher on my hip-as if climbing  over me would better protect him.  We peeked around the corner of the house to see the evil creature striking at Larry repeatedly.  They looked as if they were engaged in some sort of primitive dance.  “Looks like the first shot missed,” I said more to myself than to Tyler.  I pulled him closer and hid his eyes in my shoulders.  Larry bounced around the yard, avoiding the snake repeatedly until he could finally get off another shot.  Still holding my breath, I held Tyler tightly as I prayed that the snake would not be successful. 

           

I don’t think that I ever really believed that time could stand still.  Larry was backing away, and the obsessive striking had stopped.  Was the snake dead?  Did I dare look? 

 

            Oh, yes!  I wanted to revel in his misfortune!  The snake’s head was about twenty feet away from his body, and the nub left behind was disgustingly beautiful.  A mixture of relief and fear about what had almost happened drove me into near hysteria.  Feeling as if my legs were made of water, I sank down into a lawn chair to avoid dropping Tyler.   

           

“Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and a button,” Larry counted.  He was raving about the belt he was going to have made from the snakeskin, and I could see the wheels turning in his head as he planned how to save most of the pattern.

           

Sucking my teeth and rolling my eyes, I whispered, “You can have the snake skin!  I just want to go home, and I am never coming outside again! The outside world is not big enough for me and the snake population!”  Handing Tyler to his dad, I managed to run the rest of the way home before I planted myself inside my air-conditioned home with no plans of ever going outside again.