The Garter Belt

(HA! This is the entry I wrote for yesterday’s Daily Prompt “tailor”, but added the word “moxie” to get it on today’s list as well. I’m so sneaky! Oh, stop your sneering. You know you do it too. Besides, it’s easily the funniest thing you’ll read on either list, so just read it again and be thankful.)

We’ve got this railroad-tie retaining wall that runs down the side of our property, and I’ve been worried recently that it may shortly refuse to perform its main function of “retaining”.Β  This would be a rather alarming state of affairs if it comes to pass, as that wall is the only thing keeping a Delaware sized chunk of dirt and toxic waste from crashing through our bedroom window. And the rest of the house. A portion of the wall extends down our driveway, and while not as tall as the other stretch it performs a similar service.

I first noticed there might be a problem with the driveway wall when I wasn’t able to park my Subaru next to NewWifey(tm)’s Nissan. We have a 2-car wide drive and normally I park on the right side, hugging the retaining wall so I can open the door far enough to squeeze my bloated carcass out. But I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been having to park closer and closer to NewWifey(tm)’s car on the left. Finally last Wednesday I was forced so far over that I couldn’t open my door far enough to get out. I considered the sun roof, but…bloated carcass, remember? I parked behind NewWifey(tm).

What was up with that?

I found out what was up as soon as I got out of the car. Or rather, what was out. The retaining wall had a distinct bulge in the middle, encroaching out onto space normally reserved for a Subaru Forester. The entire wall was additionally leaning several degrees from vertical and, perhaps most startling, a sinkhole appeared to be forming on the lawn side of the wall.

Oh well. Just another one of nature’s unfathomable mysteries. I shrugged my shoulders and went inside to grab a sandwich.

An hour later NewWifey(tm) happened to look out the front window.

Why did you park the Subaru behind me?” she asked.

“Huh? Oh, the retaining wall is collapsing and a sinkhole opened up in the lawn.”

WHAT?!” She bolted out the door and down the steps, not even bothering to put her shoes on.

Women. Hysterics over every little thing, amiright guys?

I stayed put in the recliner. For one thing my presence is very rarely needed, and even more rarely desired, during times of crisis. For another, it was a really good episode of “My 600 Pound Life“. I needed to know if Blimp du Jour was gonna follow Dr. N’s advice, or ignore it and end up being planted in a piano box before they rolled the credits.

About a half hour later NewWifey(tm) trudged back up the stairs and into the house. She had a look of defeat.

I gotta call a contractor” she said, and disappeared into the computer room. A few minutes later she was talking on the phone, her voice rising steadily as she went along. Finally I heard her practically bark “GOOD BYE!” before slamming down the handset.

She stormed into the living room. “Six grand!” she said. “Those fuckers want SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS – and that’s just to replace the retaining wall! The sinkhole and the collapsing driveway will be extra.”

“Collapsing driveway?” I said.

Yes – and how did you not notice that? The front of your car was sitting in a dip about a foot deep over there. Didn’t it seem odd that you were looking at asphalt instead of the garage door when you parked??

“I just assumed I was so hungover that my head was drooping.”

She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, we don’t have six grand. But I bet we could fix it ourselves for a lot less. We’ll just need to rent some equipment.” She looked at me. “Have you ever worked a backhoe before?

“Well…yeah.” I squirmed a bit. “But I swear, not since we’ve been married. Honest!”

She stared at me blankly for a second before a look of disgust took over. “Not ‘back-ho‘” she said, “‘BackHOE‘. It’s a big excavating rig with a shovel at the end of a long arm.

“Oh! That’s different. Then, no.”

Forget it. I’ll do it myself” she said, and went back to the computer room. Twenty minutes later she came back holding a legal pad with a bunch of figures scribbled on it. “Between materials cost and renting a backhoe for a day, I think we can get away for under two grand” she said.

“You’re going to work the backhoe?”

Yes.”

“Have you ever worked a backhoe before?”

No.”

“Aren’t you scared you might fuck it up?”

I’m not scared of anything.”

I can certainly attest to that. In the 16 years we’ve been married I’ve rarely seen her blink, let alone blanche, it the face of dangers that would have me reduced to a puddle of urine and tears. This is a woman who bangs on a metal pot and runs after bears in our yard to drive them away from our trash can, who got up on the roof in the middle of Hurricane Irene to brace our satellite dish so she could watch her K-dramas, who regularly eats my cooking. My little lady’s got moxie, I tell ya. So I knew she wasn’t lying when she said the prospect of hopping into a 40 ton earth mover and tearing into our property without any prior experience gave her no pause at all.

“Ok” I said. “As long as I’m not required to do anything more strenuous than bring you a restorative lemonade once in a while, you have my blessing. When do you plan on starting?”

Beer” she said. “And I’ll start cleaning up the area tomorrow and maybe take the top layers of the wall down by hand. The more I can get done first, the less time we’ll have to keep the backhoe. That should cut the costs down even more.”

Sure enough, the next day I came home from work and saw this:

Wall Demo resized

For the record, what you’re looking at is: the retaining wall bulge section, two top layers removed and piled on the side, a spade, a crowbar, a reciprocating saw, a pickax, and a small sledge hammer.

What are you not looking at?

NewWifey(tm).

I know. This seemed curious to me, too. The only time NewWifey(tm) ever steps away from a project is when it’s finished, or she has to poop.

I went inside.

“Hey baby” I called. “Where are you, honey? Are you pooping?”

Nothing.

That was odd. I checked the kitchen, the dining room, the computer room, even the back porch. No wife.

Then I opened the bedroom door.

I couldn’t believe what I saw. Mounded on top of our bed in the middle of the room was a pile of blankets and comforters the approximate size and shape of a Fiat 500.

And it was quivering like a 14 year old who just discovered PornHub.

“Honey…?” I said. “Sweetie, are you under there?”

No answer.

I lifted a corner of the mound and peeked under. It was NewWifey(tm) alright, but looking in an almost unrecognizable state. Her eyes were wide open and seemingly trying to escape from her skull. Her skin, already pasty Irish white, was now so pale you could almost trace her lymph system. She was tucked up in a tight ball, knees under her chin (filthy work boots still attached) and sweating like – well, again, that 14 year old.

“Pookie!” I said. “What’s the matter??”

Her bug eyes darted back and forth through the breach I’d made in her blanket fort. “Did you see it?

“See it?” I said. “See what?”

She pulled back farther into the mound. In a near whisper, she said “….the snake“.

Snake?

“A snake?” I said. “No, I didn’t see one. Not today, anyway. Why, did you see one?”

NewWifey(tm) gave a quick nod. I could see a new crown of sweat forming on her forehead.

“Honey!” I said, “Are you…are you afraid of snakes?”

She didn’t say anything, just glared at me with those bugged out eyes, and grimaced.

I laughed. “I can’t believe it! You ARE afraid of something!”

Just kill it” she said. “But be careful. It’s HUGE.

“Ok, ok. I’ll save the poor widdle wifey. Where is it?”

In the herb garden.”

I let go of the blanket and she immediately sausage rolled herself again.

Out to the herb garden then, to catch a snake. A huge snake.

The herb garden is just outside the picture, in the upper right corner. Over the years I’ve tried to grow thyme, tarragon, oregano, Thai basil, Mexican basil, Greek basil, marjoram, sage, lemon sage, and rosemary. I’ve failed miserably at all of them. A few years ago I threw up my hands and just let the spearmint take over, as spearmint always does. But I still call it “the herb garden” for some reason, perhaps to delude myself that one day I’ll try again and THIS time be successful, dammit.

So there I was standing in the herb garden, pushing aside stalks of spearmint and weeds, when sure enough I heard a rustle and saw a quick flash of yellow and grey shoot past my foot.

As I suspected, it was a garter snake:

Garter Snake Resized

Garter snakes are incredibly common in this part of the country, probably because mice are incredibly common in this part of the country. Always good to live near a restaurant, right? Anyway, I’ve been seeing – and catching – these things since I was a little kid. When I was young I kept them as pets. They’re absolutely harmless, unless you happen to be a mouse, and actually quite pretty (I think, anyway). About the only downside to them is their habit of projectile peeing all over you when they get upset. But as long as you don’t squeeze too hard or scream right in their faces, they’re pretty good at holding it in.

I went back inside the house, walked down the hall to the bedroom, and lifted the covers off NewWifey(tm).

“C’mon out, baby. It’s just a little garter snake. It can’t hurt you.”

She stayed curled up in a ball. “Are you sure?

“I’m sure, baby. Just a little ol’ non-poisonous garter snake. They’re everywhere up here. Frankly I’m surprised you haven’t seen one before. We used to call this area “the Garter Belt” when I was growing up, there were so many.”

It was HUGE.”

I laughed. “Aw, it couldn’t have been more than 14 inches. See?”

And I pulled the snake out from behind my back and showed her.

Two things then happened almost simultaneously: NewWifey(tm) screamed right in the snake’s face, and I reflexively squeezed.

The snake projectile peed.

So did NewWifey(tm).

I ran out the door, down the driveway, across the street, and about a half a mile into the woods on the other side before letting the snake go. He gave one last blast of urine as I released my grip and then he was gone, instantly disappearing into a warren of tree roots.

Back at DangerHouse NewWifey(tm) had reformed the blanket cocoon around herself, but she was now under the bed. I don’t know if it was some feral instinct to withdraw into a dark hole for safety, or if she just didn’t want to lay in the soup of various urines up above.

I knew reasoning with her would be futile, so I just backed out of the bedroom and closed the door. The recliner is perfectly comfortable for sleeping, and I always keep a small pillow stashed in the coffee table drawer for just such an emergency. I would be fine there for 3 or 4 days, which was about how long I figured it would take NewWifey(tm)’s adrenaline levels to drop back into the green. In the meantime I’d slide plates of food and bottles of beer under the bed three times a day, and take the used Depends away on my way out.

Ok, that was a bit of hyperbole. But it WAS pretty bad. We had to throw out the mattress pad, NewWifey(tm) didn’t sleep a wink that night, and I got a verbal lashing the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since that time I accidentally joined the NAMBLA mailing list instead of NASA’s. (There’s a “red rocket!” joke in there somewhere, I just know it.)

By the second day NewWifey(tm) was pretty much back to normal, although I didn’t press my luck. I tailored our lunch, skipping the linguini I’d planned in favor of soup, and trashing my bucket of gummy worms. I also refrained from pointing to anything longer than it was wide and screaming “SNAKE!!” like I wanted. Sometimes you have to be considerate of others, no matter how much the sacrifice, y’know?

Finally, on the third day, I said toΒ NewWifey(tm), “So when are you gonna work on the wall again? It looks like it’s bulging even more now, now that you’ve taking some of the layers off.”

Fuck that” she said. “I’m calling a contractor.

“You said we can’t afford a contractor.”

She bit her lip. “I’ll hook.”

“Honey. You’re just being silly. Look, I’ll tell you what. Every day before you start working on it, I’ll walk through the yard and catch or scare away any snakes. You’ll never see another one again.”

She gave me a dubious look. “What if you miss one? That thing was really camouflaged – I didn’t see it til it practically slithered over my foot.

“Well, yes, there is the small possibility that one could escape my eagle eye. But again: they are absolutely harmless animals, barring all that pee. And I hate to put it this way, but…you’re just gonna have to suck it up this time. We don’t have the money, and we’ll have even LESS money if the driveway collapses and the sinkhole swallows DangerHouse. You gotta do this, babe.”

She looked off into the distance for a bit, then sighed. “Ok, I’ll get back to work on the wall tomorrow. But you PROMISE me garter snakes are not dangerous?

I gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I promise, sweetie. You know I would never send you out if I thought it was dangerous!”

She forced a faint smile and hugged me. “Well, I guess I might have over reacted just a bit the other day. You’ve lived here your whole life. If you say those snakes won’t hurt me, I believe you. They still skeeve me out, but I gotta be a big girl and get this job done.”

“That’s my girl.”

I patted her on the head and we went inside for dinner (burgers – I wasn’t taking any chances).

And with that crisis behind us, I should now have a new retaining wall and a filled in yard crater by this time next week.

Unless NewWifey(tm) finds out about the other slithering denizens that inhabit our little mountain paradise.

Don’t anybody tell her, k? At least until I manage to scrounge up 6 grand for a contractor. Maybe if I started hooking….

Ok, gotta slither off to bed myself here. Sorry it’s been so long between entries lately, but I still seem to be mired in sloth for no good reason.

.

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47 thoughts on “The Garter Belt

  1. Aw shucks. Poor little garter snake. Here in San Diego I work at Mission Trails Regional Park, a large and magnificent wilderness park with 45 miles of hiking trails. (Happily I work INDOORS as the Gift Shop Lady.)

    In our park we don’t have snakes; we have SNAKES! THREE different kinds of rattlesnakes and believe me, they are a LOT bigger than your pretty little garter baby. Not only that but one of our rattlers is a nasty bugger and quite aggressive, as opposed to the others who are nasty only in defense. Alas, there has been some illicit interbreeding and we think that all our rattlers are getting more aggressive. But generally if they are not annoyed they do not misbehave.

    Our signs warn people to stay on the trails. It is always wise to pay attention to such signs. If a person has to be airlifted out by helicopter need I say that is very $$$$$? Needless to say when I go home I look cautiously under my car. In summer weather ANY shade is enticing and under a car is just as good as under a shrub. I have been cautiously vigilant now for 14 years and have yet to see one…but they are there.

    But if I do find one I will trade it for your garter baby, OK?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a deal!

      (Did you check the two links at the end? One is to a description of eastern timber rattlesnakes, which I believe are actually the most venomous of the rattlers. Fortunately they’re not aggressive, but still….brrrr. Gotta watch where I drunkenly stumble, y’know?)

      Like

  2. My son and his wife had a pet snake, Clyde, and I held Clyde more than once. I was staying at their house once when Clyde had escaped and was presumed gone to snake-heaven. Instead, I knocked something behind a dresser, pulled the dresser out, and spied Clyde. Rhyme semi-intended. I just let my son and his wife know that their prodigal reptile had returned. They fed Clyde and all was forgiven.

    Snakes aren’t my preferred roommates, but neither do they send me into catatonic shock.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. OMG – I had a pet tarantula when I was in college! A Mexican red legged. I named her “Debby” after my girlfriend’s much despised younger sister – she couldn’t stand spiders, and this rankled her greatly. She was a great pet!

          Like

          1. I was a terrible spider wrangler. The spider died. To be fair, the kids were responsible for coming up with spider chow, and nobody could be bothered. I should’ve let the spider go live on its own. In this part of the world a tarantula is preferable to the roaches and scorpions it has for lunch.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. I didn’t intentionally starve the critter. I was working radio hours (80 hour weeks) and couldn’t have told you half the time if I was giving it crickets or coffee grounds. They sort of look alike, don’t they?

                Liked by 1 person

  3. My mom reacted EXACTLY the same way to a little garter snake I brought home from the mountains when I was in high school. I like snakes, which is lucky since there were are lot of them where I hiked in CA.

    Good luck with your project. Mine are costing me about $4k 😦 But we had a deluge yesterday and my garage roof no longer leaks. But the rain blew in under the garage door so it still go flooded. Better not to make to many changes too soon…. New garage door Monday or Tuesday.

    The back hoe joke is always funny. Thank you. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HAHA! Yes, the world loves a good prostitute joke. They’re the butt of so many πŸ™‚

      4 grand, huh? Well, I’m glad it stopped the leak at least. Even if the floor still floods, at least you’re not in danger of the roof beams possibly disintigratng on top of everything else. Good luck with the garage door – I hope that fixes things once and for all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You said butt. Heh heh heh. 4k — 3k for a new garage roof, just under 1k for the door, removing the old one, installing the new one. I think that’s the price you pay for living in the hinterlands of the world and having no choice. I called a lot of people and basically just hired the ones who actually showed up to do the job and gave me bids. I’d love to have had some competition there, but there wasn’t any. OH well… Good luck with your retaining wall. I wish I’d married the male equivalent of your wife! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  4. So…the snake is cute, but you sir were foolish to ruin a mattress pad. Hee. Your story did just make me wonder if there was corollary between people who like big earth moving toys and a fear of snakes…it appears we are both married to one, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “A bit of hyperbole”. No! Not you! Ahh, garter snakes. Nebraska is also chock-full of them – my family can bore people for hours with stories about the times they: got into the basement and came pouring out of the wall and my mom freaked and made the neighbor chop all their heads off; made a nest in the garage door while we were on vacation and we were treated to a rain of chopped up snakes when we came home and opened said door; got mowed up to the sounds of my dismayed screams; were forced to go through “snake mazes” we made for them in our sandbox, and so on and so on (bored yet?). I’m surprised at NewWifey!

    Like

  6. That was very funny and I never knew about the projectile peeing. Your NewWifey sounds like a real keeper. Reading this reminded me of that old joke where the teacher is explaining farm equipment to her students and the one boy say, β€˜My sister is a ho and she looks nothing like that’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heheeee! Gotta love them oldies but goodies πŸ™‚

      Yeah, NewWifey(tm) is indeed a partner for the long term. She compensates for my many, many failings. It would be self destructive of me to get rid of her. Not sure why she stays with an anchor like me, though…. (Oh, and she’s not really “new”, btw. She’s my first and only, with the name springing from an inside joke).

      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this silly bit of scribbling! I’m very flattered that you would leave a comment.

      Like

    1. Wow! Thanks!

      Er…I think.

      I won an award? But I have to do stuff to collect it? I’m not sure I understand this concept. I use my blog exclusively to write silly stories – how do I work those requirements in? Do you want me to weave those 11 questions into a cohesive narrative? That’s hard! I’m too stupid to do that! And I don’t know other bloggers with “x” amount of entries – I’m new here! HELP! I’M STUPID AND NEW!!

      Can I just email you with my answers to those questions or something? I really don’t want to break the format of my blog with a non-story entry. Or am I being a spoilsport? Goddamit, if I made you cry I’ll never forgive myself.

      AAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGHHH! THIS IS TOO MUCH PRESSURE! I JUST WANNA WRITE ABOUT POOP AND BLOWJOBS AND STUFF, NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS!!!!

      But thanks for the mention in your blog. That was super awesomeness of you πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Fart!!!! Shit Modderfugger!!!…… it’s not a problem whaaaaaaaaa i am in tears…….NOT!. hahahahh….you are a wonderful and funny writer it is just a way to get urself out there even more. I think you might give fun answers and funny questions…. just do it if you feel, it’s all in fun and writing…. FYI I have another site here that is way different than this if ur interested check it…. https://monkeybrainissa.wordpress.com
        but have fun!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. MONKEY BRAIN! Oh, if only I had one (according to my wife), it would be a vast improvement. Cools stuff – you’ve got a way with words. And what gorgeous flowers grow in your pad! Even nicer than my plastic ones, somehow. Thanks for pointing me that way!

          πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Hmmm… seems like New Wifey needs a gift since she attempted all of this on your behalf. Massage? Weekend away all on her own? Your future contentment is up to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I REALLY DISLIKE SNAKES. IT LOOKS GIANT TO ME. We really have some big, horrible snakes down at our farm and our neighbor… right here in the city…where the snakes should not live…found a copperhead taking a nap on a bookshelf in their study. If that happened in our house, I would call a realtor within three minutes. No kidding.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That was perfectly terrible and shameful…but what did I expect from a snake charmer like yourself? Sort of funny though…still laughing. I am not that worried about a copperhead on any bookshelves in my house. I have myself thinking that they only live on the other side of the street. Makes sense. Why bother crossing the street? Obviously a lazy snake. You have been absent from blogging. Shameful again.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ooo, that’s true. Snakes DON’T cross streets. I read it on the internets. You’re safe. Whew.

          Yeah, yeah. Me public clamors for me again. What can I say, I revel in the attention not posting gets me. But ok, I can take a hint. I’ll drag myself from my torpor and throw the adoring masses a bone soon. God, you have no idea how I suffer for my art….

          πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

              1. “I am high maintenance.” You’re a woman, right? No need to state givens.

                So, yeah, ok, I get the hint. I’ll go back and scour through your archives in search of gems I may have missed while on my internet hiatus. How could I ever deny myself the pleasure of one of your entries!

                Thanks for haranguing me πŸ™‚

                Liked by 1 person

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