Two things have distracted me over the last week. A wicked cold--yuck, enough said-- and a more wicked, four-foot-long gopher snake--ah, this might require some explaining. Remember my spiders-in-the-shirt gardening experience? So, so much scarier.
Last Sunday, I took a walk with my family through the foothills of my tiny town. You ever have an outdoor experience that leaves you feeling like you're Les Stroud from Survivorman? Or Bear Grylls from Man Vs. Wild? This walk turned into just that type of thing. And, quite frankly, the Wild kicked my butt. As Jeffrey Archer would say, hereby hangs the tale . . .
It was a beautiful, autumn day. Nothing ominous, no premonition about the ordeal ahead. We piled everyone, and the dog, in the back of our truck, found an isolated spot, parked, and began walking. We had a great time until my 12-year-old son complained about the heat. My husband cheered this kid up by chasing him around a field of sagebrush. Although we were all laughing and oblivious, this is where the downward spiral began. We continued our journey on the dusty trail until we realized that we had taken a wrong turn. Tired and hot, we had two choices: retrace the route we had just traveled or take an off-road shortcut. You know what we did, don't you? We took option B--the shortcut.
After crossing a vast expanse of open, desert plain, we finally arrived back at the truck. Our keys, however, did not. Somehow, they fell out of my husband's pocket. Of course, the spare set of keys were in my handbag. The one that was in the truck. So there we were, four miles from the outskirts of our subdivision with no keys and no cell phone.
The kids climbed into the truck bed and drank some water, and leaving our oldest teenager in charge, hubby, dog, and I headed out on a key-retrieval mission. It's hard, though, to search miles of desert at twilight. So we went to the place where my husband and son chased each other. Stooped, eyes scanning in all directions, we searched for about twenty minutes. I then heard a noise that I really didn't want to hear. Hissing. Really, really loud, close, hissing. I looked to my right, and it was as if the brush had come alive. Camouflaged in shades of black, grey, and brown, this coiled-up creature was amazing. Huge and terrifying, but beautiful at the same time. It was also seriously ticked off. Although the hissing continued in fortissimo, and the snake was vibrating with wrath, it made no move toward me. I backed away slowly, and then, I ran.
My husband said that I left a trail of dust hanging in the air behind me. I might have set a new speed walking record. (At the time, I thought it was a rattler. Only after researching and Googling did I learn it was a gopher snake.)
Looking a bit like the Joads from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, we eventually made it home. We now have three, count them three, new copies of our car keys, and we'll definitely take a cell with us next time. Live and learn, right?
Here is my question to all you writers out there. Think of the surprise encounter with the snake. How do you make your plot twists jump out and surprise your readers? I hope there's no hissing involved . . .