On Father’s Day this year, Dad, Peony (my four year old daughter), and I went for a leisurely ride in my ski boat for the first time this season. My parents had dropped the boat in the water earlier in the day, and it had waited patiently in the rough river until the wind calmed down enough for us to tool around. First, I lured Peony away from the neighbors by asking if she wanted to go for a ride on the boat. Then, I asked my dad, who was watering some grass seed, if he wanted to join us. He sort of grunted and mumbled at me, which I took to mean yes.
“When will you be ready?” I asked. He gestured to the seeded area that still needed watering.
I said, “So like, five or ten minutes? That’s good. I gotta go put Peony’s swimsuit on.”
“Alright,” He said (not a big talker, my dad).
About ten minutes later, bathing suits and sunscreen on, we waded into the greenish water and hopped in the boat, and to my surprise, my dad, who is usually happy to be the passenger, plopped himself down in the driver’s seat and cranked the engine. I realized he probably wanted to drive so he could see how the boat was running.
Dad picked up something, glanced at it, and tossed it to the rear of the boat.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Looks like a snake was hibernating in your boat,” he says with a mischievous grin. “I looked for him but I couldn’t find him anywhere on the boat.”
I got up and retrieved the bit of shed skin to show to Peony. I tucked it into a pocket on the dash and with Peony snugly fastened in her life-jacket, we proceeded to go upriver, toward Potomac Creek. Once we entered the creek, I realized dad would probably head toward the Ski Cove (which is now just a fishing cove since they ran us off by putting up “No Wake” signs. Bastards). I love the cove. Even if we can’t ski there and the days of hanging out with that particular group of skiers are long gone, I love the cove. It holds many, many happy memories for me, and even if I didn’t have a single memory it wouldn’t matter, because to me it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I digress (shocker!).
After the cove, we headed back down the creek toward the river when my dad, peering at the floor between his feet, exclaimed, “Man! Look at that snake!”
My head snapped around and I saw the black, menacing head of a snake, peering up at my dad from under the dashboard.
Luckily the snake charmer was aboard.
I hopped up on the seat with Peony in my arms and said something like, “Can you get him?”
While the boat was still in gear and moving, my dad went into snake-snatching pose and reached down to grab the snake behind his neck. He pulled the snake out and it just kept stretching out until my dad, who is nearly six feet tall, had his snake hand stretched out behind him. Finally, the snake’s tail appeared and dad flung the snake in the water. This was followed by a terrible, musky stink.
“Phew, was that the snake that made that stink?” I asked.
“Yep,” my dad said as he craned his neck, trying to spot the snake. He let off the throttle and at the same time, I stepped down from the seat with Peony, who had remained silent this whole time.
“P, did you see that snake?” I asked her.
“Yeah!” she replied in her tiny voice, “Baba threw it in the water!”
Then my dad grew concerned for the snake.
“I hope he makes to shore…” Dad worried.
We spotted it zipping through the water and turned the boat toward it. As we coasted by, the snake curved and headed for the side of the boat. My side of the boat. He swam rapidly toward us and again, I snatched Peony up and this time plopped her in dad’s lap, away from the perceived threat of Mr. Snake. The snake’s head was high above the water and he was swimming fast. Soon, he bumped against the boat and I was doing my scared girl/eek a mouse/yikes a snake dance from tiptoe to tiptoe again on the seat.
“He just wants to get back on the boat,” Dad said calmly. (!!!)
“I think he tried to strike the boat! Did you see how his head was all up?” I exclaimed, stepping down from the seat again as I kept an eye on the snake.
“Naw,” Said dad mildly as he returned Peony to the seat, “He just wants to get back on is all. I hope he can make it to shore. I would have left him there if she wasn’t on the boat.” He gestures to Peony, “He started to turn toward her and I don’t want her to get bit. We don’t know how she’d react, you know, she might be allergic.”
“Hey,” I said, “Did he bite you?”
“Naw,” Dad replied.
“Well, if you want to catch him, I can pull over next to him and you can snatch him up and we can take him to shore” (Seriously? Snake rescue? That thing was six feet long and as big around as Peony’s forearm! But Dad seemed really concerned for the snake’s welfare.)
“If I had a net or something….” Dad trailed off.
“There’s mom’s beach bag; we could use that,” I said slyly as I picked up the mesh bag and imagined my mom’s screechy reaction to it being turned into a snake-catcher.
My dad looked at it then resolved, “He’ll be okay.” Then he looked up to the sky, “Unless that gets him.” I looked up and see an osprey flying around.
“I dunno Dad; that was a big snake.”
“He was a pretty color blue,” My dad mused.
“Yeah! He was really blue. What kind of snake is that? Hey! I have a camera phone! Let’s see if we can find him again and take a picture.”
While we searched for the snake I noticed that Dad kept looking down on the floor where the snake first appeared.
“Do you think he has a friend?”
“Naw.” He replied. “I searched all over this boat for that snake. Gary asked if we were gonna take the snake for a ride. I guess we did.” He smiled.
We couldn’t find the snake, so he must have made it to shore. On the way back to the beach, dad continued to glance down at the floor where the snake had popped up. At one point, he looked at me and said, “What would you have done if it had just been you and Peony?”
The next day I happened upon Dad telling our neighbor the snake story and as I walked up I saw him gesture to two different scratches on his leg: One on his inner calf, the other on his inner knee. “The snake DID bite you!” I accused.
“Yeah,” Dad admitted, “Twice. I didn’t want you to get upset.”
“Hmpf,” I grunted. I’d heard that before, that he didn’t want to upset me while we were in the middle of some unasked for adventure. The last time was when we were caught in two big storms in the middle of the river in my little boat. That’s a story for another time, though.
PS The snake looked blue in the water, which was pretty green that day, and it had pale white markings on its back and a white stomach. It was about 5-6 feet long and it was as big around as Peony’s forearm (2 inches in diameter, I reckon).