It was mid-morning on a summer day and the sun was already blazing hot and warming the rocks around my strawberry patch. Baby was rolly-pollying around in his crib while I was out making sure my little strawberry patch did not dehydrate in the heat. I could feel the sunlight starting to heat through my hair to my scalp and I let the water from the hose run over my toes and into the soles of my flip-flops. Watering strawberries has long been a summertime ritual for me. Overtime the patch has started taking over what was once a simple front flowerbed. I do not mind that warm and glowing flowers are missing from my front stoop. No. In fact, I rather like their replacement. The white blossoms of the strawberry plants mixed with the rich red fruit are the perfect welcome mat to my home.
In the past the yield of strawberries has been small. Only a handful of berries have ripened over the course of the summer. It used to be I was proud of that. This year though, I see just how much these unyielding plants had been holding out on me. The fruit is plentiful. Each morning I am met with larger and larger handfuls of red berries. Yet this bounty does come at a price.
This year, for reasons beyond my comprehension, my small, front yard strawberry patch has become home to a couple of garden snakes. I suppose, to be more exact, I should call them garter snakes, but I simply cannot get the image of a bridal garter from my head when I do so. Hence, garden snakes. I know they are harmless and I am not usually afraid of scaly, slithering creatures. However, due to curious circumstance these particular garden snakes seem to have it out for me. They make me all jumpy and wimpy. When surprised I squeal like a little girl. The garden snakes seem to think this the most amusing sound in the world and are constantly trying to bring such a sound to my lips. This shriek has been known to echo throughout the neighborhood and on this particular morning it was much the same story.
Watering my impressionable strawberries often brought me calm and delight in the past. This year however, because of those two unwelcome guests, it is more like tiptoeing through a room full of mouse-traps. I moved the hose along making sure to brush each leaf and hose down every cranny. Moving back and forth I soaked the entire area, making as much noise as possible to flush out any hidden visitors. So when I bent down and collected the red fruits I had been lured into false security. The snakes would certainly be long gone and hidden by this point. I was sure they would patiently wait for me to finish my small harvest before making their reappearance.
I had already gathered a sizable handful of fruit when I reached down to pluck from a particularly lush cluster of strawberries. Then, just then, as my hand was vulnerable and outstretched, out sprang the silvery serpent. This was the larger of the two snakes, of course, and there was nothing sly or subtle about his lunge. I shrieked. I jerked my hand back and shrieked. I shrieked loud and it lasted long after the little devil had disappeared into a small hole. I did a little willies dance right there on the garden wall and chanted, "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" I stamped my feet and tried to shake the goosebumps from my arms. My hairs, each one across my arms, were standing on end. In fact, I would not have been surprised to see even my sun warmed hair on the top of my head standing at attention. His little prank and every nerve in my body humming with stress and adrenalin.
Needless to say, I cut my time in the strawberry patch short. I skittered to turn off the water and shook my first at the small garden one last time before re-entering my front door. The score stands thus: garden snakes 3, London 0. There seems to be no hope for me. These snakes intend to stay and my neighbors will simply have to suffer through my shrieks during every strawberry harvest. It is looking to be a very amusing summer for my neighbors, but not for me.