Suburban Safari

By Lois Podoshen
Yorktown Heights, New York

Coming home and being greeted by your teenaged sons at the front door is never a good sign.

“Oh my God, what’s wrong?” I screamed as I threw open the car door and ran to the house.

“Mom,” my older son, Jeff, said as he and his brother barred my way, “you really don’t want to go in there.”

In my mind, I conjured up the worst catastrophes I could think of. Did the toilet back up and spew sewage on my new carpet? Did the washing machine overflow?

“A fire, was there a fire?” I asked, as I barreled past them, into the house to assess the damage.

Garter Snake

A garter snake’s place is not in the kitchen. (Photo: Geoff Gallice / flickr)

“Mom,” said my younger son, Lawrence, following behind me, “we don’t know how to tell you this, but there’s a snake in the house.”

I paled. My knees buckled. My heart nearly stopped. If there’s one thing you don’t tell your born-and-bred-in the-wilds-of-Brooklyn mother, who won’t even go into the Bronx Zoo reptile house, it’s that there’s a snake in her house.

It had taken years for this transplanted city girl to get used to cohabitating – with the birds that thoughtlessly awakened me at morning and the rabbits that feasted on my impatiens for breakfast. And I have never gotten used to the idea that snakes dare exist on the grounds of my suburban home. Now I was faced with the possibility that one of them actually had the audacity to enter it.

Trying to regain my composure, I shouted, “Get me my Mylanta! And make it a double! And if this is some kind of ploy you guys cooked up to get us to buy you a kitten, let me tell you right now, this is not going to work.”

“Don’t worry, Mom,” Lawrence said. “He’s just a garter snake. He won’t hurt you. We’ve got him cornered behind the bookcase.”

I glowered at the bookcase, wondering which of the heavy tomes had lured the snake to our abode. Was it Zen in the Art of Archery?, Golf Tips from the Pros? or The Second Jewish Book of Why? Chug-a-lugging Mylanta all the way, I quickly retreated up the two flights of stairs to the kitchen and safety. And there I stood for more than an hour, pacing and fretting until my husband, my fearless warrior, returned home to rescue his damsel in distress.

When he finally came through the door, I screamed, “Thank God you’re home! There’s a snake in the house!”

“What kind?” he asked.

“What kind? The kind that is supposed to be the yard and not in the house scaring me!”

“It’s just a garter snake, Dad,” said Lawrence.

“We’ll look for it after dinner. Let’s eat,” my husband replied.

“No one is eating until that snake is found,” I said, seeking refuge in the bedroom.

With that, my three hungry warriors donned their Rossignol ski boots and, armed with a nine iron, a putter, and a Big Bertha, stealthily sought out the interloper, whom I had named, Sammy. The now infamous bookcase was moved only to reveal that our slippery friend had out-snaked us.

“I am not staying in this house until that snake is found,” I said, looking through the yellow pages for the nearest motel, and wondering if Mylanta came in two-liter bottles.

Knowing I meant every word, the warriors called an animal control specialist who told us the only way to catch Sammy was to put down glue traps. He assured me the chance of Sammy climbing two flights of stairs to the bedrooms was remote. I didn’t know if this was the truth, or if my husband had paid him to say it so I wouldn’t take a room at the Hilton.

“He’ll come out when he’s hungry,” the specialist said.

“How long do you think that might be?” I asked.

“Could be two weeks. Call me when he reappears,” he said as he laid sticky glue traps in our family room.

I gave up on the idea of a two-week hotel stay but yelled, “I am not going down there until that snake is caught.”

When I saw the glue traps in front of my washer and dryer, I knew I had a problem.  I headed to Victoria’s Secrets to purchase two weeks’ worth of underwear. This was war! And I was going to show Sammy I was in for the long haul.

Returning home loaded down with my supplies, which consisted of 14 pairs of Victoria’s finest panties, none of which were in animal prints, a terrible thought hit me. How was I going to tell my brother and his family, who were coming from Maryland for the weekend, that the guest rooms were now occupied territory? I dialed their number and tried to adopt an upbeat, nonchalant air.

“Hi Cathy,” I said to my sister-in-law, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

“Sidney Poitier?” she asked.

“No,” I chirped. “Sammy the Snake!”

“Sammy the Snake? You invited a member of the Sopranos to have dinner with us?”

I told her the snake story and hoped my brother was standing next to her when she fell.

“Don’t worry. We’ll just double up in the upstairs bedrooms with my kids,” I assured her, not really believing this myself.

The next evening, they arrived – my brother, his wife, their crying infant, and their over-tired four-year-old. Lawrence took one look at this road-weary group, wrapped himself in a blanket, scooped up his pillow and announced loudly as he headed downstairs, “I’ll take my chances with the snake.”

Sammy did not appear that weekend, nor did he appear anytime during that two-week period of hide and seek. My husband continued to go downstairs to use the computer and my sons went downstairs to listen to music without ever encountering my nemesis.

But by the end of two weeks, I was desperate. I was running out of clean underwear. Hoping Sammy was on a diet or had enough reading material to keep him busy for a while, I ventured down the stairs. As I put my foot on the first step, I saw something sticking out of one of the glue traps. Before I fainted, Sammy and I both looked at each other and yelled, “Gotcha!

lois podoshen 2Lois Podoshen is a freelance writer and former teacher whose feature articles have appeared in numerous magazines in New York. Her four children’s books are used to teach reading across the United States. Her latest book, Trying on Bathing Suits & Other Horror Stories, is a collection of 22 humorous tales that answer life’s burning questions such as “If you can’t whistle ‘Dixie’ and your spouse flunked clarinet, are those viola lessons for your child really a good investment?”

Since her encounter with Sammy the Snake, she has moved from New York to Florida, where she says she has not encountered any snakes in her home… yet. To read more of her work, visit

Published on Thursday, May 2, 2013

4 Responses to “Suburban Safari”

  1. May 2, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    This was really funny! The mental picture of you chugging Mylanta and fleeing upstairs had me laughing.

    • May 3, 2013 at 1:38 AM

      Thanks for your comments. I am really deathly afraid of snakes and this was quite an ordeal for me, but I tried to find the humor in the moment. It also helps to have a family that does funny, out-of-the box things. Check out my book, Trying on Bathing Suits & Other Horror Stories, and you’ll see what I mean.

  2. Claudette Sandecki
    May 2, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    Lois, your piece shows how much humor can come from a precise verb. Enjoyed this.

  3. Sandy Rib
    May 9, 2013 at 3:35 AM

    Reminds me of the time I brought in plants in my Virginia house. It had gotten cold and the plants were to remain in the rec room for the night. A Sammy appeared on one of the plants and hid. I started to yell my head off. My husband came and could not find it and suggested that we go to sleep upstairs and I thought thatn he was out of his mind. I said that I would not move until he was found.
    After a few minutes, I spied him(her?) in the fireplace behind the curtains. My husband covered him with a gigantic towel and carried him oiutside.
    Now, when I work among the bushes, you can bet I look before I leap.
    Enjoyed your encounter that I could relate to.

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