For whatever reason, I’m back in Winnipeg and it’s spring and I’m visiting my mother. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is out, the grass in the yards and on the boulevard is a crisp fresh green. We’re walking down the street towards home, talking, I can’t remember about what, when I notice that there are dead snakes, thick snakes, long and stretched out and dried in the sun, along either edge of the sidewalk. My mother is deathly afraid of snakes, but she doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t even seem to notice.

As we get closer to her house–our house–the house where I was raised as a child, I see that the sun hasn’t shone as much along this end of the street, and the snakes at the sides of the walk are alive. Seething and stretching and eyeing us. Still no reaction from her, which is odd, as she can’t even see a snake on TV, she can’t look at one in the pages of a magazine.

We’re nearly at the house, I can see the gate ahead of us, and the snakes are darker now, finned near the heads, hissing, with menacing eyes. “Are these real?” I ask her. She glances down at them and says, “No, don’t be silly. Look at them, they look like Dracula or something.”

We reach the gate and my mother opens it, steps over the ravenous, furious snakes to go up the front walk, up the stairs and into the house. She closes the door behind her. As she does so, a squirrel comes bounding across the front lawn, and I know that it too is my mother.

One of the snakes breaks away from the others and lunges at her, trapping her in its muscular jaws. “Do you think they’re real now?” I ask my mother the squirrel pointedly. The snake slings its head around violently and lets go of my mother the squirrel, sending her rolling across the lawn. She doesn’t answer, as she now knows she was wrong but she’s not one to admit it. “Are you hurt?” I ask, though I assume she must be, the snake must have sunk its fangs deep into her. She isn’t bleeding, doesn’t seem to be poisoned, but she is running hard from yard to yard to catch up with me as I continue up the street.

A few houses further, another of the black finned snakes slashes across a neighbour’s lawn and swallows my mother the squirrel right up to the neck. Though I’m not particularly afraid, it’s such an ugly sight that I can barely look at it. Besides, there’s nothing I can do for her now. I turn the corner and leave her there, her squirrel head sticking out of the black snake’s mouth, and I feel her watching me as I walk out of sight and away.


David Demchuk