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The snakes (my two, anyway) were overdue for a feeding, so I drug myself off the couch and staggered around the apartment in preparation. I haven't been feeling well all weekend and really didn't look with fondness on the idea of going through the song and dance of all that is entitled in reptile feeding. It had to be done, so I fucked off with the self-indulgent whining and got my ass up.

Aristotle gets two mice because he is still so wee, which I don't fully understand. I realize he's a male and male ball pythons are smaller than females. Damballah and Mrs. Robinson are unconfirmed females (sexing based purely on visible qualities points towards girls). Mrs. Robinson came to me as an adult, but the Engineer got Damballah when she was a yearling, much like I got Aristotle when he was around the same age; they were about the same size.

But, Damballah at two-some years was so much larger than Aristotle is now. It's vaguely concerning. When I got him in January of 2008, he could fit coiled up in the palm of my hand and stretched from fingertips to the crook of my elbow. Now, almost three years later, he has gotten a bit rounder and stretches from my fingertips to just over my shoulder. But, he has the tiniest little head, the length of my index finger and about the width of two fingers together at his widest point. So he's kind of long, but he hasn't bulked out like Damballah did by this age.

He's been a fairly steady eater, with the except of a small handful of brief hunger strikes due to him being a goofy eater who'd rather strike the prey, squeeze it, then proceed to hang out with it all fucking night like its his new best friend. All in all, I'd say he eats slightly better than your average ball python is expected to. Given how picky they tend to be, as a breed, and all that. I know that every snakes has its quirks and a lot of feeding issues actually come down to husbandry and not the breed; I recognize these concepts most heartily. But, and that is a very big BUT, I am also very very glad that I am not the one saddled with Damballah's care and feeding. She is solely the responsibility of the Engineer (as is Betelgeuse) and I am PERFECTLY FINE with that because she goes on hunger strikes like she's getting a pay check. I would pull all my hair out.

So, he eats well, right? He totally should have outgrown his tank by now. I started him off in a smaller tank because it was all I had the money for at the time, thinking I would buy a new one when the time came (and we could use the smaller tank for a new hognose, see how crafty I am?), but the time never came. Ever time I would come into a windfall of a little bit of play money, like tax return time or student loan disbursement leftovers, I would look at his tank and decide it just wasn't needed yet. If he still had plenty of room, then the money would be better spent elsewhere.

And I would think his genetics and bloodline are semi-decent because he came from an actual breeder and not a pet store like Petco/smart where the snakes can be of of dubious quality. Then what's the goddamn problem?

The Engineer tries to placate me with tales of male vs. female snakes and how vastly different the sizes can be; I'm taking that into account as well, don't think I'm not. I took that into account to a certain point, but now it seems clear to me that it's gone beyond that. I think he's stunted or something. No immediate health concern really, just...small.

It makes me a bit sad because he's such a beautiful snake and I was really psyched for when he got kind of big, because he would be just gorgeous. He's not an incredibly fancy morph, just a pastel, but he was pretty and he was thriving under my care and he was mine.

He's still all of those things, I suppose. miniature.

Mrs. Robinson made an absolute mess of her dinner this evening, which is a bit uncharacteristic of her. I gave her the usual thawed out and warmed up rat, which she hissed at and took from the tongs before I could release its tail, and I left the room to give her privacy to eat and to get Aristotle's mice together. When I came back some time later, she was still in the middle of swallowing the prey, which is nice because I very rarely see her in action. She generally pulls the prey under her rock and eats it there where I can't see or takes so long to get down to business that I get bored and leave.

Tonight, the rat was only halfway in her mouth, so I sat down and watched for a bit. At one point, she moved a coil of her body and I saw bloody aspen beneath her. What the shit? Further worried examination through the tank was unsuccessful, but when she finished swallowing, there didn't seem to be any scratches on her. She yawned hugely while facing me dead on, so I also got an impromptu looksie down her throat. Nothing appeared wrong there either. So I'm guessing it came from the rat somehow. Are her teeth big enough to do the kind of damage that amount of blood generally comes from? Jesus.

It's not like the Wizard of Gore in there or anything, just some splashes on the aspen litter. But any blood in a snake's tank is cause for concern, in my opinion. Even if the prey is pre-killed and obviously dead, the claws can still accidentally cause damage if the snake is over-enthusiastic (Mrs. Robinson) or haphazard and graceless (Aristotle). Or a wood chip can become lodged in the mouth (which Aristotle has done on more than one occasion). Or hell, even just from a cleanliness standpoint. That shit's not sanitary to keep around.

I can't clean the crime scene up as just yet, even though she's long finished eating. She's got her head sticking out from her hide, inches away from the mess and I am not stupid enough to stick my nice, warm hand all the way in there and root around for a couple of minutes. Hell, I don't do that when she's not all fired up on hunthuntkillkill. I only reach in when she's completely under her rock or on the other side of the tank and facing the other way. And even then, I have someone act as a look out or keep my eyes on her the entire time and make a blind grab for her water dish, or her shed skin, or whatever it is that needs to come out of the tank at that moment.

I'm very familiar with my snakes and they, with me. Instinct will always outrun familiarity in a handful of circumstances; the knowledge of this and the forethought to be responsible about putting it into practice has been what has kept me bite-free these few years. And the Engineer, as well. I've been struck at once or twice through the glass (Aristotle, acting like a weiner when he was being a pig who just ate hungry and I leaned in front of his tank and once with my hand in the tank (Aristotle again, because the mouse dangling from the tongs in my hand had grown cooler than my hand holding the tongs), but never bit.

By these guys, at least. I've only been bit once and it was years ago. Commander Jurin's rat snake (was it a rat? I don't remember now, but it was all black and rat snake-shaped), Otis, nailed me once. But, that time, I kind of had it coming and Otis could be a little douchey when he was hungry, which he was.

It's surprising that none of us in Punk Rock Plaza ever really got bit by any of the reptiles we lived with. I got bit by my tokay gecko, but it was a fucking tokay and all they do is bite (Sirhan Sirhan, I miss him). And not because the majority of what slithered was of a cool disposition. We didn't lack for angry snakes, a reticulated python named Kubrick comes specifically to mind, but there were few injuries.

Astonishing to think, the pack of us in all our haze and ridiculousness, still had some small presence of mind and responsibility. Bodes well for our futures on at least some level, I would reckon.
thejunipertree: (Default)
I decided this weekend that I'd gone entirely too long without another copy of 'Bone Machine', by Tom Waits. I'd had it on cassette some time ago, but it disappeared during one of my many household moves. So, The Engineer and I took a trip to the record store and I bought it on CD.

Playing it on the way home, I was keeled over by a slew of memories and images. The memories hurt, even the good ones. But, it's a pain that I hold close to me and cherish.

Walking through the quiet city streets in the wee hours of the morning. It's still dark and silence has settled over everything, a grey and damp blanket. Music in my ears and a cigarette between my fingers. This world is a dreamscape and I'm its only inhabitant. I could walk forever like this. I could walk forever.

Well hell doesn't want you
And heaven is full
Bring me some water
Put it in this skull
I walk between the raindrops
Wait in Bug House Square
And the army ants
They leave nothin' but the bones

This large house, all to myself. Hunched over the keyboard of a bedraggled word processor that has definitely seen better days. The stereo, also battered, in the corner with its volume cranked to a just barely acceptable level. Pounding out words in a dire frenzy, scowling fiercely all the while.

Well Pale Face said
To the Eyeball Kid
She just goes clank and boom and steam
A halo, wings, horns and a tail
Shoveling coal inside my dreams
There are no laws
She's made of cream
She's such a scream

Sprawling on Donald's bedroom floor, with my brain reeling in a puddle of THC. Giggling hysterically and singing along with the rest of them. Telling Anthony that because he doesn't know karate or voodoo, that he wasn't allowed to sing the song. Inebriated gaiety as I colour in the dog's white spots with non-toxic chalk. "Go show Daddy how pretty you are!"

I'm gonna drive all night
Take some speed
I'm gonna wait for the sun
To shine down on me
I cut a hole in my roof
The shape of a heart

Laughing as he suggested 'who are you' as our wedding song. And not fully understanding the reasons why. Realising them, many years later. He's smarter then I thought.

How do your pistol and your Bible and your
Sleeping pills go.
Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?
Well I fell in love
With your sailor's mouth and your wounded eyes.
You better get down on the floor
Don't you know this is war
Tell me who are you this time?
Tell me who are you this time?


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January 2011

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