THIS ‘N’ THAT: Raise The Sigils But Watch Out For Snakes


illustration: josh clark

“Game of Thrones” gives us more than a weekly dose of gratuitous sex and violence, including amazing ways people can kill each other. You may scoff, but the HBO smash hit is also a educational device. Thanks to GOT (that’s how the cool kids refer to “Game of Thrones”), we know what a “sigil” is. For the benefit of the 20 or so people in the Western World who do not watch the show, a sigil is a symbol that represents a family.

Some of the families, or “Houses,” on GOT have wimpy things on their sigils—fish or, for goodness sake, onions. But most are menacing images—like dragons or direwolves. (A direwolf is like a regular wolf, only tougher and smarter. Sadly, they’ve been extinct for 10,000 years, which is why armies on “Game of Thrones” don’t have bazookas or howitzers.)

The point of all this GOT nonsense is every family should have a sigil. Bill Gates might have dollar bills on his. The Manning family—footballs.  The Bradys—flat footballs. The Smuckers family would be jars of strawberry jam.

It’s not by choice, but the obvious sigil for my family would be a snake. Snakes don’t scare me; it’s just I prefer for them to be somewhere else—like Montana, New Zealand, or Mars. Still, my family that attracts snakes.

It began with my grandmother. Long before I was born, my grandmother was working in her garden when a six-foot blacksnake—a foot or so bigger than my grandmother—appeared behind the tomato plants. Rather than shrieking in terror, sheused her trusty hoe to surgically remove the snake’s head. The local newspaper even carried a story on the the snake being decapitated. Admittedly, a grandmother-kills-snake story wouldn’t make The New York Times or even the Daily Commercial, but it was big stuff in my hometown.

When I was a kid, my mother reenacted her mother-in-law’s feat. I spotted a snake at least 20 feet long in my seven-year-old eyes. It was probably a four-foot blacksnake. My mother crashed the hoe down on the poor critter’s head with a vengeance. No newspaper story this time.

A few years later, a snake crawled up a kitchen drainpipe at my mother’s and wrapped itself tightly around it. To me, this would mean burning down the house and moving to Alaska. There wasn’t a hoe in the kitchen, so my mother grabbed a can of Raid and sprayed him right in his eyes. The snake slithered down the drainpipe, cursing evolution for not giving him eyelids, and screaming in snake language, to “beware of the crazy lady with the bug spray.”

Snakes left me alone until we moved to Florida. We should have been warned by the signs at the interstate rest stops. You know the ones that say gigantic snakes lurk nearby and can devour pets, small children, and slow, fat old men.

The day we arrived at our new home, I saw a cute little earthworm on our driveway. I grabbed its tail and picked it up. The little twerp swung around, opened its mouth, and directed a jawful of fangs at my hand. Little snakes, however, are a bit slow—mentally and physically. He missed my hand and bit himself in the back. The poor dopey snake curled up and died. The snake coroner described it as a “self-inflicted snakebite.”

Since then, it’s pretty much been the “Snake of the Week.” First, the country club incident. We were at a country club restaurant with out-of-state friends. A monster snake slithered across the sidewalk in front of us. We thought our friends would be upset but they handled it very well. They politely requested the quickest route to I-75 north.

Last week, our noble dog Paris and I were sitting outside when a hungry looking snake popped up and growled at us. Paris thought for seven seconds (two dog seconds) about chasing it. Then, Star Trek fan that she is, she said, “Resistance Is futile,” and went to sleep.

Clearly, we have to find something else to protect us from snakes. We’ll buy a mongoose. Maybe we’ll get two mongeese, mongooses, mongi.

On second thought, one mongoose should be enough.


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