For those of you who do not know me, please understand that animals in my stories came to us with no where to go. We hope to send them to places bigger and better than what we have. During the summer, non-snake reptiles are outside, but in winter are indoors where the quarters are more cramped.
I spent a lot of time in the reptile building yesterday. Much of it was spent cleaning and moving things around. I tried, unsuccessfully, to repair the hinged door on our scariest snake, the Rock Python, so decided I would do something I was actually looking forward to, moving Juliet. Juliet is about an eight foot long Boa who came to us in an awfully big aquarium, but still not big enough for long term. She had been in it a few months, and I was always trying to find a way to upgrade her to one of the bigger cages, which meant one of the bigger snakes would need a new cage. Mind you, the last one we bought, 4x4x8 ft was $1300.00. I wasn't sure we could afford it.
Several days ago I had an opportunity to make Juliet's life so much better when shopping at a store in Czech Village. I know, you wouldn't expect one of the stores there to have items for large reptiles for sale. The antique store Kris gets Torben and I to take her to on a regular basis (Yes, my 14 year old loves antique hunting) was selling a jewelry case. The price tag of $20.00 took me by surprise. It was 3ft high x 2 ft deep x5 ft long. That isn't enormous, but more than necessary according to the "herper world". Though it was old it was very sturdy, with two panes of glass on all sides and the top. It wasn't tempered but since Juliet isn't in a habit of striking at the glass I wasn't too worried. I told the owner I didn't need the shelves, and that I didn't care that the built-in lighting didn't work. I wanted it!
As is typically the case in such situations I committed to it and paid before I could think of logistics. First, the thing was HEAVY. I was with Kris and a friend of hers, no big strong Torben was there to help. I and the owner (a man perhaps in his mid 80's) began the process of trying to lighten the thing. We removed the shelves and sliding glass doors. The thing was still heavy! The man got a small trolly and had me lift it so he could move it under one end. Impressed I could do it, but doubtful I could lift even higher, he had me trade places so he could lift it really high (OK, so he was taller than me) while I moved the trolly to the center of the cabinet. Once on and steady, it was ready to be moved outside. That posed my next problem. Will it fit in my van?
I ran to get my van and moved it to a parking lot on the street right in front of the building. The other owner stood in it to keep anyone from taking it, which seemed to annoy at least one woman who tried taking it. It was parallel parking on that street and there was the typical amount of space left for me. If I had been driving the Subaru I would have been in like a flash. However, the Honda Odyssey is quite a bit bigger, so as I pulled up alongside the car ahead of my spot I immediately rewound my brain back 40 years to my driver's ed days. Happily I pulled it off just fine and popped the hatch, hoping all the while the thing would fit.
The next step was my most dreaded, moving it out and into the van. Fortunately there were two younger men and a woman there who overheard me saying "Gee, I wish we had some help" to the owner. Of course, I made sure I looked pathetic, yet cheerful, as I leaned against the cabinet. Luckily my annoyingly loud voice (according to my two kids) was enough to get their attention. "Hey, you want help?" Guy One said, then turning to get a yes from his buddy that is was OKay to drop their fun Saturday shopping to help a stranger.
The Cabinet rolled out fine and made it to the curb. It took the two guys to get it up into the van. The problem was that even though I had put down the far back seats, the second row seats were in the way, requiring I remove one of the two I had in there (The third is perpetually absent. Not sure why.) and fold it and put it to the side. The remaining seat was pushed as far forward as it went. Guy Two had to go up into my van to help pull it in. I was appalled at the fact that this guy looked so GQ that the filthy back seat floor would make him back out of the job for fear of soiling his clothing. But no, he was cool. His poker face didn't reveal a thing. When it was all done, we ever so slowly closed the hatch and high-fived our good-byes.
I found Kris and her friend. With the adjustments to the van it required one girl sit in the front and one in the very squished back. They fought over who got the front, like sisters, until I told them that the girl who got the back seat also got to choose the music on the way home. Kris immediately volunteered for the back, meaning we would be listening to Glass Animals and Neutral Milk Hotel all the way home. I didn't mind.
I couldn't wait to tell Torben. I thought he'd think it was an awesome buy, but should have remembered....He's Torben. My need to get Juliet into a different cage wasn't a priority for him. He really hoped I could fix that Rock Python's door, so had trouble being happy about Juliet.
So, get to the Lex and Juliet thing. Isn't that what the Title of this is referring to?
Well Torben and I got the case into the reptile house with much grunting and banging of knuckles on door jams. In the center of the room it looked great. I was so excited!
I had the opportunity to move Juliet the following Sunday while Torben, hios nephew Conner, Kris, and two of Kris's friends went to Iowa City. The set off and I went to the reptile house. As mentioned earlier I made a failed attempt to make the Rock Python's doors open and close more easily, but redeemed myself when I got two turtle pond filters cleaned, and topped off their water.
It was at this time that I decided I needed to move Juliet. I put the wood shavings, a big hiding place (she lacked this in the smaller cage) and big water dish in, and then pulled the big girl out of her old pen and into the new. She immediately checked out all the walls, the hide, the water, before she lying there and chilling, or water a snake does when it just lies. The sliding doors were the only thing that still needed work. We had special locks that could be installed into plexiglass but I couldn't drill into the glass. I decided a simply stick would do. It wouldn't be pretty, but did the job. I measured what I would need, closed the doors and headed to the house garage for something to use.
While I was in the garage my son, Joseph, and his friend stopped by. As usual, I am always so happy when he comes by even if it is just for a short spell. He spent almost a year and a half in New Zealand until this spring. My ability to see him every few weeks still thrills me. Joseph needed to check on the beehives we have going in our back yard. I chatted with his friend, Helaina, and completely forgot my mission. An hour later, they were gone and I set about finding and cutting down a stick.
I walked back to the reptile house, happy as a lark, listening to music with my earphones. Life was so good.
When I entered the building I instinctively looked immediately at the glass case, and its open door.
Immediate panic threatened to surface, but I just calmly began walking around and looking any and everywhere she could be hiding, saying "No, no, no, no....." tossed in with a few F bombs, all the while thinking "Please Oh PLEASE don't be in the ONE spot I don't want you to be in!" Lex's pen. Lex is the over Nine foot alligator.
I continued the search, and when I failed to find Juliet I dared go over to Lex's pen and ventured a peek. There was Juliet, behind Lex's pool, with her tail almost within reach. "Shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit!" was all I could say. I was absolutely livid at the fact that she just had to go to the one place I really didn't want to have to catch her.
My brain was a whirlwind of thoughts, my emotions were all over the place, what was I going to do? How will I get her out safely? What if Lex sees and eats her? What will Torben say!!!!?
Once the flood had occurred
and things began to level out in my head I was able to talk myself into being sensible. This was my plan. I was not stepping foot out of the building, and going to sit and watch Lex and the snake. When Torben got back, he could distract Lex while I went in and got the snake. That would be a great, right? This is of course IF Lex doesn't not see and want to eat Juliet! If Lex saw the snake I would have to distract him with a large rat Torben had thawing in the refrigerator for someone else. Mind you, this was thing number two that would make Torben annoyed with me, right after number one, which was letting the snake out. Once Lex was distracted, would climb up onto the edge of the turtle pool in the next pen and go to the space between the large garage door and Lex's fence. This was not a 100% guarantee of safety, but all I had. Once I had my plan, I took a pic and sent it and a text to Conner. The following are those texts:
Me: Hey, You guys close by?
Conner: Just leaving the mall now, I believe we are dropping the other girls off on the way home.
Me: OK. I have a situation. My fault But no human is in danger. Just keep Torben in a good mood in case I don't remedy the problem.
Conner: I will try. Should I let him know anything?
I then sent the following three pictures to him:
Me: Um, Our little secret.
Conner: Ahh, I see.
Conner: Hopefully the gator isn't hungry.
Me: I am hoping Torben's insistence that I stay safe will make up for the fact that I am waiting it out.
Conner: I think that is a good idea. Let m e know if we should call off dropping the girls off and come home.
Me: t will be completely fine once Torben is here to distract Lex. The biggest problem is his over-the-top reaction when he sees it.
Conner: Ahh makes sense.
So I sat and sat, thinking all was well. I played on my phone, looked up ever 30 seconds or so. It was all going fine. I texted Conner again.
Me: Aaaaaaaanyway, just sitting here watching. Snake moving so slow Lex hasn't seen it.
This was true, she moved about a centimeter a minute (Yes I can think in metrics!). She was creeping ever so slowly along the ledge. Things were going great.
Conner: Dropped Izzy off, heading to Cameron's.
Then the texting had to stop. At one point, well into my second hour in the ordeal I looked up to see this.
Oh my. Lex is talking to Juliet. Doesn't he know she has no ears?
I immediately grabbed Little Ratman (Yeah, I named them. So?), ran to the fence and yelled "Leeeex. Leeeeex. Come on Lex!" Lex knew I never spoke to him like that unless I meant business, as in FOOD. He quickly turned, saw the rat and pushed his head over the edge of the pool. No, Lex, not far enough, I thought. I keep dangly it, using a long tongs,l and called him. He got his chest up onto the edge. Good enough Jenni?" No. I dangled it m or, when finally, Lex let his whole bondy out and grabbed the rat. I immediately got up on the edge of the trutle pool (it is up against Lex's fence) and jumped to the floor on the outside of the far wall, near the big garage door. I glanced quickly at Lex, knowing he is greedy and may want more. Nope. He was swallowing the rat down. I reached over and grabbed poor Juliet's front portion and dragged her unceremoniously out. I then put her over my neck, and got back up onto the turtle pool, all the while watching to be sure Lex was not looking at me. He was, but stayed calm. The problem came when Juliet started sliding into the water, pulling me backwards. I pulled her off me and dropped her into the water, jumped down, and grabbed her tail.
I had her! I rinsed her off a bit and put her into her pen. She immediately curled into her water bowl, got out, then went into her hide, where she stayed the next 24 hours.
I texted Conner.
Me: Lex saw snake so I had to sacrifice a rat.
Conner: We are only a few minutes out
Oh, the timing.
Me: Got snake. Took a swim.
Conner: We are here.
It occurred to me to not even tell Torben. However, I had used a six dollar rat he had set aside for someone else. I dreaded telling him. Why? Well he wasn't necessarily going to be mad at me and yell and stuff. He was going to have a crazy "Oh my God. Sweetie! What are you doing? You could have killed yourself!" rant. Then he would shake his head and get another rat. It took a long time to tell him that I did NOT go into the pen with Lex and that I was not going to let myself get killed. He spent the entire evening shaking his head and murmuring under his breath. He was, however, mad at Conner for not telling him, which is completely ridiculous. What was that going to do? Torben would have freaked out, drove poorly, and crashed the car. Or, he wouldn't have crashed the car, but came home early and been so annoyed with the situation I wouldn't have wanted to be in the building with him.
If this makes it sound like Torben is a bad guy. I don't want it too. Torben loves me. He want me to not die, especially at the hands of a reptile. The "incident" with me and the rattle snake nine years ago was a close enough scar. Don't know what I'm talking about? Well read my book! Torben is worried about me, and shows it in a crazy and frustrating way. I am used to it but do what I can to avoid it. He has enough stress in his life, as do I. We just want to do what we can not to add to each others.
So, Lex was for a moment enamored with the lovely Juliet, whispering his sweet nothings to her. It was good she has no ears, since he was saying "Oh Juliet, my beauty, how shalt thy taste?"