|Written by Nathan D. Wilson|
|Thursday, 17 September 2009 11:21|
After his first week in kindergarten-classroom-captivity, Jack ate a pinky—a tiny hairless mouse unable to do anything but lie on its side wondering why the new cage smelled like snake. That first pinky left me with a load of guilt. No more. Jack would have to eat fuzzies. At least fuzzies can spastically burrow. But after the first couple, Jack was done. The next little mouse burrowed down and died of hunger in the cage.
Jack came home with us. He was, after all, my son’s bull snake—captured in rattler country, down by the train tracks along the Clearwater River. He’s more than two feet long, but thinner than my little finger. And now, in his new cage in our house, he makes friends with the fuzzies.
A young, white mouse is bred in the pet store for one purpose and one purpose only. The local pet snake population needs food. We fittingly bring the soft, blind thing home in a brown lunch bag and dump it in the cage.
There is a lioness in Kenya known to adopt baby antelope. When African Bambi’s mother is killed by one big cat or another, the lioness steps in to protect the orphan, and the orphan is grateful. Other times, she simply separates the calf from the mother and leads it away to some shady place where they can lie down. She will groom it. She will protect it from other predators.
The lioness is called Blessed One by the natives and Brain Damaged by some naturalists. When the calf starves to death, she will eventually find another.
Five antelope (all oryx) were fostered in a single year. At times, especially early on, the lioness shows signs of aggression, struggling with her impulses, but she is strong enough to suppress them.
The Blessed One has eaten only one of her foster children.
Jack, is this your problem? Are you Blessed or Brain Damaged? A picture of the Eschaton or of the Fall? How about confused and delirious? Through miscommunication and accident, Jack had all too little water in his kindergarten weeks. Perhaps he’s gone crazy. But he’s drinking now and seems healthy. Except for the fact that he’s refusing to kill.
In 1920, a missionary in Northern India heard reports of ghosts running with a pack of wolves. Being a missionary, he felt it his duty to track the pack and find out the truth. He camped out in a tree overlooking the den (a hollowed out termite mound), and that night, he watched the pack emerge. Among them were two shapes he could not at first recognize—girls sniffing at the air, howling at the moon, running on all fours. The missionary came back with hunters and took the girls from the pack by force. For years he worked to reclaim their humanity, to teach them to speak and eat their food cooked, to stretch their tendons so they could stand upright. His success was less than minimal.
Apes, goats, even ostriches, all have cared for vulnerable human young. All have abandoned the normal pattern of things and have shown odd respect and tenderness in a way many of the confused would call “unnatural.” There must be a break-down in the instinct grid, a short circuit. The maternal drive must somehow overwhelm the desire to eat. We need to get The Blessed One psychoanalyzed to find some trauma in her past that forces her to break Darwin’s laws.
What is unnatural is how many of our own young are thrown away, when wolves and wild dogs show more respect for the lives of children than do their own parents.
We would have more feral children in our own country, if we weren’t so efficient at killing them before the dogs even have a chance to pick up our slack.
Is Jack a Jacqueline? Did this snake traumatically lose a clutch of eggs? Are the edges of her maternal instinct so frayed that even a mouse seems like a decent replacement for little slitherers? Is my son’s snake a spinster with a cat?
There is a blood feud between the seed of Eve and the serpent—an old grudge. St. Patrick did his part against the lesser serpents, but the Heel had already crushed the great head. Patty was doing a lot of follow-up stomping.
The Israelites had their issues with vipers in the wilderness. We have only a few snake bite fatalities in this country every year (maybe five, maybe ten), but the number of annual fatalities in Asia shoots up into six figures.
Jack might have a mental problem (or a theological one). Or he might just be constipated from his dehydration spell. We give the serpent warm baths to loosen up whatever might need to come out. Nothing does.
At this point, he needs to eat. He hasn’t in months. It is no longer his decision. He does not have the authority to refuse. I call my uncle—the reptile influence in my life—and we settle in on the front porch for a session of force-feeding. Little balls of raw burger are going down this snake whether he likes it or not.
The mouth is pried open, and the raw ball is tamped in with a tiny stick. Jack writhes free and manages to fling the meat away. Apparently, he’s never tasted cow. We try again. Smaller this time. The struggle comes and fades, and then Jack sits still, with his mouth spread wide, corked with burger.
Minutes pass, and finally, Jack swallows. Slowly. My uncle massages the tiny bulge down the snake’s throat. He will take no more.
If the Blessed One has a mental problem, it is a mental problem that we will eventually teach every big cat. If some wolves have a bizarre respect for human children, it is a respect that will spread to every predator. Children will play with cobras.
What Jack is to a mouse, I am to him. He is an oryx living with a family of lions. We groom him. He is protected from predators. But unlike the Kenyan lioness with her antelope, we can feed him “unnaturally,” according to an older and future nature.
On the front porch again, Jack, with his skin a little loose on his bones, has a small ball of meat placed in his mouth. This time, there is no fight, there is no tamping with a stick. He works it back himself and swallows. He eats a second. A third. A fourth.
This is the triumph of Man. The fruit of a bruised heel.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 03 October 2009 00:14|