OK, before I get to my story of serpents, rodents, and adolescents - a sad, but true tale this week! - let me mention that the launch party for my new novel is THIS SUNDAY, April 23, from 1 to 3 PM, at the Greenville Christian School Boardroom (across from the office) in Greenville, TX. If you are in the North Texas area and want a signed copy, please come on by!!!
And, if you are not in range to drop in, go ahead and order your own copy of THEOPHILUS: A TALE OF ANCIENT ROME, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or whatever online bookseller you prefer. Help me keep that sales rank up!! I'll furnish a link below, but for now, on with the story:
TERRI THE MOUSE
(and the not-so-hungry snake)
OK, I have three snakes as pets in my classroom. All three of them - Napoleon the corn snake, and Isis and Osiris, my two kingsnakes - have been prowling in their cages for several days now, indicating that they are getting hungry. Rule One of feeding snakes is that, unless you want the entire class to turn into a "Circle of Life" biology lesson, you DON'T feed the snakes when kids are in the room. I have a conference period right before lunch, so that gives me an hour and a half to complete the task with no juvenile witnesses to the demise of the Petco Feeder Mice.
Off to Petco I go, and grab three mice, getting back to the school by 11:10 (Lunch starts at 11:20). Fifty minutes for my trusty reptiles to do their work and dispose of the evidence. I even discarded the Petco rodent box in the trash can at the end of the hall. Napoleon is a voracious feeder, despite being over ten years old. His mouse was locked into a death hug within less than a minute of being dropped into the cage. Isis grabbed her prey right away, too, and began constricting it, so I sat and graded papers and gave a couple of make-up quizzes. Meanwhile Osiris is stalking his mouse all over the cage, striking repeatedly only to have the athletic rodent jump out of the way every time. Finally, he got disgusted and gave up. What I didn't realize is that after Isis hugged her mouse to death, she turned up her nose at swallowing it and left its limp body on the floor of her cage.
So the bell rings, and my seventh graders come pouring into the room. Worst . . . possible . . . class to witness a snake feeding! Immediately all the girls are like "He's so cute!" "Save him!" and "Let's name him Terri!" One of the boys offered me $20 for the mouse on the spot if I would pull it out of the cage and let him take it home.
I was like "Calm down, reptiles have to eat, let's get to work!" and finally they did. By this time Osiris had given up on the mouse; it was washing its face and putting on a show of cuteness for the kids while my poor hungry serpent sulked in the corner. Then one of the girls noticed the dead mouse in Isis' cage, and pandemonium struck again. I gave the still-warm carcass to Napoleon, who has no problem at all eating two mice in a day. He started swallowing it right away, and I had to redirect their attention AGAIN.
After they left, I informed Osiris he was a disgrace to snake-kind, and decided to drop "Terri" into Isis' cage to see if she found him more to her taste. That was when I noticed one of the girls had made a placard and put it in front of the snake's cage that read "PRAY FOR TERRI!!!" Well, Isis ignored this mouse, and I sat down to start grading papers, figuring maybe hunger would eventually do its work. Nope. Isis was NOT interested.
Moments later, most of the seventh grade came traipsing back in, with our art teacher, Mrs. Bragg (a very nice young first year teacher) in tow. They kept pestering me to save "Terri", and I said if he remained uneaten by the end of the day, they could redeem him. Mrs. Bragg began making a cage for Terri the mouse at this point. I'm glaring at my snake thinking: "Just eat the stupid thing already!" The seventh graders kept popping back in every few minutes to see if Terri was still hanging on to life, so finally I said "FINE! Take him!"
Of course, I was the one who had to catch him. Mrs. Bragg's cage proved to be a cardboard box with Seran Wrap over the top - any self-respecting mouse would chew its way out of that in a matter of minutes - so I pulled an old snake cage with a snap-on top out of my closet, dropped the mouse in it, and sent them on their way. So the art class acquired a new mascot, and I am still stuck with two hungry snakes.
Today produced a funny sequel to this episode. The 7th grade art class is making an illustrated children's book about Terri the Mouse, and sculpting action figures to go with it. They have already christened my likeness as "Indiana Smith."
NOW: Here is the Amazon link to my new book. Please, go buy a copy!!!