Friday, July 08, 2005

Remains of the Day

"At first I thought it was a set of pop-beads."

My sweetheart has stopped me at the curb to show me what she's found before we cross the street. In her palm lie small, dainty coils, bright polished white, tiny knobs. They look indeed like pop-beads, but no pop-beads I've ever seen have looked so delicate or sinuous as these.

I smile down at the magic. "Snake skeleton."

"Two of them."

Both together fit in the palm of her hand. Earlier we had come across a dead tarantula -- or one's shed carapace; we weren't sure. It was small, about the diameter of a quarter, intact and beautiful.

Now she returns to the grassy strip between the convenience store and the vet's office. She rubs her hands vigorously together, powdering the snake bones so that they can sink into and nourish the soil. Later we pass a snake skin -- much larger, shed and crisping on the road -- which she lifts carefully, her hand in a plastic bag, to bring home. We'd thrilled the first time we had seen a shed snake skin in the yard. We had taken pictures, then cut it up for compost.

I think the snakes are black racers but am not sure about that, either. We've seen one slither along the railway ties setting off juniper bushes by the post office, another patrolling the outer perimeter of the local strip mall. Up in Boston we'd once found the corpse of a tiny viper outside the JFK/UMass subway station, on a bridge overlooking traffic-choked I-93.

At around 3 this morning I took a stroll outdoors at my sweetheart’s request, to see how far the sounds of her sawing would carry. She crouched in the kitchen, handsaw poised over a large piece of plywood set on a quartet of milk crates. (Last year, during Hurricane Frances, air pressure had lifted the board of our attic hatch and settled it back down askew. This year she plans to nail sturdier stuff into place.)

Sagittarius rose in the southeast as I stepped outside; not far off Jupiter floated in Virgo. The Summer Triangle came close to zenith. I followed faint traces of the Milky Way as I padded barefoot toward our back door and listened to the muffled sounds of grinding coming from the kitchen. Nope, we weren't going to wake any neighbors.

I stepped back inside. “The crickets are louder than you are.”

She nodded and continued to saw.


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