I WAS RECENTLY fascinated with a story about a California woman who found 92 rattlesnakes under her house, in particular the number “92,” a number so specific, it had to mean that someone had counted them all. Realizing this, I expected a very different headline.
WOMAN DIES FROM RATTLESNAKE BITES WHILE COUNTING RATTLESNAKES
Had I found a bunch… what’s the collective noun for a group of rattlesnakes? A gaggle? A litter? A herd? A congress? A pride? A bevy? …
Had I found a shitload of rattlesnakes under my house the headline would’ve declared just that.
MAN FINDS SHITLOAD OF RATTLESNAKES UNDER HOUSE; GETS THE F**K OUT OF THERE
That’s more like it.
Other than the eerie aspect of 92 (wait, one just popped out an egg—93) creatures slithering around mere inches beneath some woman’s humble abode, something else was troubling me about the article. Then I realized what it was—the story was a rare example of simple reporting without some type of left-wing or right-wing interpretation of it. Most headlines these days have more spin than a Minnesota Fats massé pool shot, and so it seemed odd that the story was a straight-down-the-line delivery of a peculiar set of observable facts. I almost would’ve preferred some type of alternative:
COMMUNAL CLAN OF COLD-BLOODED LIBERAL BEASTS IN HEATHEN CONGRESS UNDER CHRISTIAN HOUSEHOLD
It seems proper to approach this story from the Christian angle. After all, the Garden of Eden was overrun with snakes, following the general rule that if a person sees (or in the Garden of Eden’s case, converses with and takes food from) one snake, odds are there are ten more they don’t see living in a nest close by. What I’m saying is Christians and snakes go back a long way and so it seems reasonable to tilt the reporting to reflect that.
I’d gotten so used to the weaponizing of the news cycle that the rattlesnake story was a bit of a disappointment. I mean, where was the manufactured outrage?
RAMPANT OIL FRACKING FORCES TERRIFIED AND DESPERATE WILDLIFE TO SEEK REFUGE IN SUBURBIA, CITY COUNCIL DEMANDS INVESTMENT IN GREEN ENERGY
There we go. The rattlesnake story was starting to make more sense, framed in the us-versus-them, good-versus-evil, urgency-versus-apathy language of our era.
92 RATTLESNAKES, ALL WEARING RED MAGA HATS AND TYING THEMSELVES INTO NOOSES, FOUND INFILTRATING HOUSE IN ORDER TO DISRUPT, INTIMIDATE AND OVERTHROW
The nerve of these goddamn slimy beasts! What type of country are we living in when innocent homeowners have to endure harassment from venomous reptiles whose only goal is to subvert democracy for their own corrupted loyalties?
HOMEOWNERS CHARGED WITH MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS AS EVIDENCE SUGGESTS RATTLESNAKES HAD NO POLITICAL AFFILIATIONS
Wow, the impudence of some people! Shameless attention seekers, that’s what they are. Those snakes should do us all a favor and eat those bastards, and then there’ll be a few less liars running around out there.
I must admit, I admire the reptile way of life. They are different from us warm-blooded creatures. Mammals are skittish, suspicious, always running this way and that way, in constant need of stimulation. Reptiles are like Buddhists. They can sit in languid satisfaction for hours on end, even without a television. They move when they have to, sink their fangs into some encroacher when they have to, shed their old skin when they have to, practice a raw diet, curl up with one another when they require a little companionship. They’re also pure muscle, which is damned impressive. No such thing as an obese reptile. A friend of mine once took me to his basement to show me two red-tailed boa constrictors he had for pets. I toggled back and forth between terror and fascination, even when my friend lifted one out and put the thing around my shoulders. It was a specimen of pure power. I was certain the thing could crush my head like an egg if it felt like flexing.
“One’s friendly and one’s kind of mean,” my friend said, looking from the snake on my shoulders to the thoroughly identical one in the cage.
“How do you know which is which?” I said, figuring it was a good time to pose the question.
“The mean one will start poking with his snout.”
I listened to my friend discuss his respect for these creatures as he lectured me on some interesting facts about their killing power. Out of politeness I smiled and nodded, even as the snake I was wearing started butting its head into my neck.
“Just relax,” said my friend. “They can smell fear.”
“I must stink so bad right now,” I said.
Theirs is a fine way of life, I decided. It’s all in the perspective. With that said, I could envision the rattlesnake story headline in the New Age journal…
WOMAN FINDS 92 PHYSICALLY FIT STOIC PRACTITIONERS OF PEACE, PATIENCE, REJUVENATION & EUDEMONISM, MOVES UNDER THE HOUSE WITH THEM TO STUDY THEIR HABITS
Here’s to peace, patience, rejuvenation & eudemonism (happiness) in the New Year.