What’s That Poking Through the Bricks?

You know how sometimes when you’re looking at something intently—a basketball game on TV, for example—and something else suddenly catches your eye and even though you know what it is, you pretend it’s something else?

That happened to me last week.

I was watching West Virginia play Iowa in the NCAA women’s tournament, mostly because I wanted to see what the hoopla over Caitlin Clark is all about, when it happened. The fireplace in my living room is surrounded by white bricks, all laid horizontally except for the top row, which is comprised of thirty bricks laid vertically. The TV hangs on the bricks, directly above the fireplace.

Caitlin was charging down the court, itching to try a three-pointer, when I spotted the aforementioned object directly above the top left corner of the TV. Dang, I muttered to myself. Another stinkbug. My house is infested with them. But it was awfully big for a stinkbug. Probably a moth, right?

But I knew better. What I saw was a snake’s head, easing out of a hole between one of the top bricks and the crown molding above it. This is not the first time I’ve had a snake in my house. In the 25 years I lived in an old farmhouse way out in the country, my family found copperheads inside four different times. And at least one rat snake almost certainly made his permanent home in our attic.

Judging by the appearance of this snake’s head and eyes, I was positive it was non-venomous. I didn’t want to harm it. But I didn’t want it slithering into my living room, either.

What to do? What to do? A hammer wasn’t the answer. Nor was a cast iron skillet. Not only would those items likely kill the snake, I’d be left with a big ole mess to clean up. Perhaps a flyswatter was the best tool. I could tap-tap-tap the snake gently on the nose until it pulled back into its hole. But the flyswatter was hanging on a hook on the back porch. To get it, I’d have to leave the room and thus take my eyes off the snake. If it was gone when I got back, I wouldn’t know if it was inside or outside.

Then I spotted the flashlight plugged into an outlet near the fireplace. I grabbed it and shined the light directly in the snake’s eyes.  GIT!!!!  I hollered, even though I know snakes don’t hear well. But dogs do, and Kamala came charging from upstairs barking hysterically. That did it. The snake retreated.

But my troubles weren’t over. What was to keep it from coming right back in? I needed to fill the hole it had been poking out of. But which hole? Each of the vertical bricks had a hole above it. The snake could likely re-enter from any of them.  In the garage I found a package of a dozen bamboo campfire skewers. I shoved the pointy end of each skewer into a hole. But that left 18 holes empty.

The only thing left to do was try and repel the snake with a smell. Lysol seemed just the thing. I found a giant spray can in back of a closet where I’d stowed it in 2021 after I got my Covid vaccines and decided that repeatedly spraying every doorknob in the house probably wasn’t going to keep me from getting sick. I saturated every vertical brick on the fireplace.

As to whether the snake reappeared, I have no idea. I’m writing this column from my daughter’s house in Denver. For all I know, the snake and its kinfolk are partying hearty back in Tennessee. But you can rest assured that by the time you read this, I’ll be home and armed with a plan to fill in every last one of those holes.

(April 6, 2024)