Lumachrome glass print, cliche-verre chemigram by Judith Nangala Crispin

GEORGE’S BACKYARD

By George Greenough

 

We’ve got a frog plague up here at the moment. With all the rain they’re everywhere. 

I take the cover off the boat and there’s ten green frogs sitting there looking at me. They’re in the house. You wouldn’t believe how loud it is in here. The snakes follow them in. 

I’ve got two brown snakes in the house. I found two skins by the back door last week; one a metre long, the other 1.2. I found a snakeskin next to my bed the other day. They like the upper parts of the house because the hot air rises. I sleep upstairs. They’re there but you never see them. You go into the bathroom at 7am to piss or 9am to brush your teeth and there’s a snakeskin that wasn’t there the night before. I’ve stepped on two in the house but I have quick reflexes. If I’d been in shoes I’d be dead. I was barefoot so I could feel it. If I was wearing thongs I wouldn’t have felt it. Being barefoot saved my life. 

The other day I’m walking through the garden to the mandarin tree and I spot a brown snake around metre long. It had already spotted me and was coiled with its body in a striking position. I slowly backed away. The snake turned and disappeared into some grass. I walked to the tree and picked a couple of mandarins. Eating them in the shade of the tree I headed back to the house, watching my step. 

The snake has doubled back though and was on the other side of the tyre garden where I couldn’t see it. I almost stepped on it. I was in short pants, no shoes, my right foot passing over the top of it. I extended the step of my right foot 250mm from the edge of the snake. Left foot 350 mm on the other side of the snake. From the snake’s point of view I’m towering over it. I posed a serious threat. My foot would’ve landed on it if it didn’t extend my step. I don’t blame it for what it did. 

I froze, my focus intense. I was watching its head. For several seconds; dead still. Neither the snake nor I moved. I watched the snake’s head move back slightly and the muscles tighten. It’s like a half-cocked pistol, pulling the hammer back one more click. I watched the head pull back and the muscles tense. Strike! As the head moved toward my lower left leg I figured where it would hit and moved my leg to avoid it. The snake recoiled, took aim and struck again. I avoided the second strike. My right leg was too close and while the snake was focused on my left leg I started to move my right leg further away, still focusing on the snake’s head. The snake sensed the movement, spun and instantly struck at my right leg, using a double tap – one strike followed instantly by a second. I avoided both strikes, putting my right foot in the garden. The double tap was followed by a third strike, just to be sure. I froze. The snake’s head rotated looking across to the pool. After five misses it moved off and entered the water and swam across to the other side of the pool, before disappearing into the grass. 

Good rush. You don’t forget things like that. It’s like the shark thing. 

SW