November 15, 2007
By Brandon Ripplinger, Henderson, NV

Bearing a white, collapsible, hat sized vented cardboard box in my right hand and a love contract required by Petco in order to purchase a creature of any sort in my left, I gleefully glided down the well lit corridor of carpeted stairs to the semi-subterranean level of the house where my cluttered quarters sat in suspense. I skipped two stairs at a time leaping in a sideways manner so that the forward foot stabilizes before the following foot thrusts me further down the stairs. It is a technique I use to achieve an equal rate of vertical and horizontal speed, which is inevitably thwarted when my route meets a right angle corner leaving me nowhere to go but into the wall. This haste halting heathen was initially drawn to wield a window before a blueprint inspector with common sense foresaw this moment and the disastrous potential of the pane placement.

I crashed carelessly, careening into and around the corner, withdrew and rolled my shoulder to absorb the impact with a tactic much practiced on these exact stairs, and tumbled another three steps to short, soft gray carpet, all the while the riley white rodent remained caged in the urine-soaked container. I walked a few steps with large windows on my right looking out to a serene green grass outlined with jealous cacti and rocks among a number of other dangerous entities of landscape design. My step slowed and I sauntered catching my breath but no less focused than before, despite the distraction of the sod. I passed a blue couch on my left decorated with chocolate covered raisins, magazines, pocket Sudoku, and the complete fifth season of “The Twilight Zone” just before I redirected left, not between the backside of the couch and a bright ruby billiard table. I paused to think through the order I would carry out this dubious deed. The safest approach became leaving the mouse on the pool table, so I did and continued to the tile floor of the hallway ahead. It was not so well lit or as exciting as the previous corridor but was much safer. I took an immediate right into a doorway to darkness.

The sight of my room was more bearable in the dark but I turned on the lights anyway. The room was not messy, but more of an undeniably abstract artistic expression and that expression pleaded, “Help”. The black nightstand standing about knee height, which was cleverly disguised as a pile of rubble held a bottle of germ-x which I extended to and sanitized my hands with. Thank goodness because the smell of alcohol overruled the smell of fermenting laundry and fast food mulch. On the other side of my nightstand was my bed, I think, and again after that was another nightstand giving elevation to a 1.5x2x1 terrarium. I flopped across the pile of debris among my sheets and fell backwards onto the floor at the opposite end of my bed and stood above the terrarium and laughed maniacally.

I pried open the locks for the steel mesh lid and slowly lifted a hollowed half log exposing Ethan, the terrible. The Royal Python curled more tightly around itself the closer I came until I picked him up and he spread out. Ethan is almost 2 years old and has grown to two and a half feet long. I crawled back across the bed holding the brown spotted snake until I reached a different terrarium, which I set him in. This one was slightly smaller so as to not consume more time than necessary. This terrarium sat on a bookshelf, a light brown with a dark stain. Above the bookshelf hung on the wall was a framed poster of Picasso’s “Old Guitarist”. I left the room for a moment and returned with Ethan’s new companion. The serpent explored his new environment thoroughly until he caught a whiff of what was in the box and he became completely still, as to resemble a log. I opened the rooftop style lid and without hesitation I picked up the mouse by the tail and dropped it into the pit.

The mouse investigated the cage without noticing the ball python on the opposite side. Ethan sat still until the mouse was looking away then the snake took time to turn towards it to guarantee attack success. The mouse made his move towards the snake’s side. Slowly the snake stealthily slithered into a switchback shape to lengthen the size of its strike. Curiously the rodent sniffed around just out of reach of the serpent, or so I assumed. The python extended openmouthed and forced its fangs into the rodent’s skull performing a flawless stationary hold with upper fangs into his left ear and lower fangs sunken below his jaw on the right side. He used this grab to reel headfirst into a self overlapping spiral, while he squeezed the sullen mouse until it as it fell still from asphyxia; this all in the time lapse of a muscular yip. I sat down on my sheets astonished at the sight and whispered to myself, “What a pathetic life I live,” and chuckled.

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