One Tall, True, Slithery Tale

Snakes. Plumbing. Two not-so-fun words that go worse together. Using a drain snake to unclog the shower drain? Yuck. Rumors of snakes in the sewer? Double yuck. Finding an actual, real snake in your toilet? Dreadfully Yucky.

Veronica Rodriguez and I have similar horror stories. Ok, her snake story involved a 12 foot python; that does qualify her for many more years of therapy. I guess everything is bigger in Texas. But I’m fairly certain we have this in common: Veronica will likely follow in my footsteps and share her snake story for years to come. We can’t help ourselves, we owners of tall, slithery tales about close encounters. They are just too good not to tell.

Mine may be familiar, as it first appeared in the Washington Post five years ago. So skip it if you have Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) or if you’ve already read it/heard it/heard it way too many times. To all the rest, prepare to relish the fact that this happened to me and not you… though watch your backside. For  you never know what lies within… THE BOWL.

Re-enacting THE MOMENT. Except in a nicer bathroom with snake decals.
Re-enacting THE MOMENT. Except in a nicer bathroom with snake toilet decals. Thank you, bizarre Halloween store.

My Snake in the Toilet Story Laughs at Your Scary Camp Story

It’s a question for the ages: What is one’s moral breaking point? The point where the rule of law is brushed aside, the point where we stomp on the light and cross over to the dark side. Let mine be a cautionary tale, an example of how quickly one can reach that point.

I am, for the most part, a law-abiding individual. I wait at crosswalks. I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in years. Another key fact: I am not a nature wimp. I have held a tarantula, rescue lady bugs and leave our porch spiders very much alone. An ant farm is sitting on my fireplace mantel at the moment, thanks to my son’s overzealous godmother and a fact sheet that claims these ants need 60 to 70 degree temps. Yes, I even follow the fact sheet.

But still . . . we all have a breaking point. My moment? That would be the snake in my toilet. The toilet I came perilously close to using.

Perhaps I should have been better prepared. There had been a vague snake sighting in our basement about a week earlier. I did a little online research, guessed it was probably a harmless rat snake and dutifully noted that it’s against Maryland law to intentionally kill a snake. My husband was sent downstairs fully prepared to remove any offenders and deliver them to my neighbor’s yard. After an exhaustive two-minute search, no snake was found. There was a general agreement that the sighting was imagined.

Until. Until I went to use the basement bathroom, hereafter known as the “the scary bathroom.” Extensive details are unnecessary. Let’s just say I was poised to use said bathroom when something — some little voice, the spirit of Saint Patrick, perhaps? — told me to check the toilet bowl. And there, curled half in, half out, was a snake. A snake that registered evil intent in its beady eyes. It was me and one writhing, leering snake, somewhere between six inches and three feet (okay, I registered the leer, not the length).

I slammed the lid down and screamed. My 5-year-old came running. “Snake,” I gasped, pointing at the toilet. We carefully opened the lid, at his insistence. And there, still leering, was the snake. A snake that’d been denied its true prey. A snake whose next victim was surely a juicy chicken-nugget-fed boy.

And that, so help me, was my breaking point. My descent into lawlessness. The toilet seat was slammed shut. The adrenaline kicked in. Flush. Squeal. Repeat. Flush. Squeal. Repeat. Until the moment we eased back the lid to see . . . nothing. And believe me, nothing had never looked so good.

So now, I’m left to ponder my action and what it says about me: Nature-hating criminal? Fierce protector of her family? Financial genius who just saved herself a lifetime of therapy resulting from an unmentionable snake bite on an unmentionable area?

This much is true: For the rest of my life, in toilets near and far, lavish and basic, I will always, always check the bowl first. For one never knows what lies within.

(First appeared April 23, 2009 in Washington Post.)

A supposedly harmless black rat snake. Think about what you'd do before you judge.
A supposedly harmless black rat snake. Really? Think about what you’d do before you judge.

Author: Kristin O'Keefe

Kristin O’Keefe has bartended in Scotland, written speeches for college presidents, and led communications & marketing for an economic development organization. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney's, Barrelhouse, Your Teen, Grown and Flown, and Scary Mommy. Find her on Twitter @_KristinOKeefe and Facebook at Kristin O'Keefe, writer.

10 thoughts on “One Tall, True, Slithery Tale

  1. Julie-Anne Geddes says:

    Wow – very freaky. In Australia we have deadly snakes, the brown snake and the red belly black snake, the venom is lethal, they are both protected species. We have seen a brown snake in our garden and also slithering across the road ..any way I’ll be checking the loo from now on.

  2. Rima says:

    Loved that story the first time; loved that story again! Did he ever come back? Did you seriously never see that snake again? I probably would never use that bathroom again!

    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      Rima, he not only never re-appeared, he told his friends and family. No snake sightings in five years. We re-did the bathroom, but it still ranks as least-favored…imagine that.

  3. Sarah Jones says:

    I have to admit that my very favorite part of this is the re-enacted photo. The photographer deserves a Pulitzer.

    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      Sarah, you even see my cavities, that’s how good a photographer he is. Since he is ten, I think he will take a popsicle over a Pulitzer. But in time, who knows?

  4. Darlene Campbell says:

    I first read this as published in the Washington Post and it is so weird and funny I had a very good time reading it again. The photo works…I thought it was the real thing until I read the blurb.

    1. Anne McElvaine says:

      enjoyed? this story the first go around and enjoyed? it again! not fond of snakes anywhere, any time and would freak out if seen in the toilet… but do love your writing – keep on keeping on!

  5. Megan says:

    Oh! I had a similar story just recently (Rhode Island). I have a small office in my basement. I was working down there and got up to use the bathroom. I came back and saw a snake out of the corner of my eye right next to my chair. I then did a double-take, assuming it was probably one of my kids toys. And then it moved! So I ran upstairs and said to my husband (rather calmly, I think)- “there is a snake in my office.” He said, “there is not.” And then came downstairs. Turned out to be a northern ring neck. So I tell my 6-year-old the next morning…. And his response was “was it a king cobra?” “Nope, not a king cobra.” “Good thing because then you’d be dead!” “That’s true. Thank you for putting things into perspective.” Anyway, enjoyed reading your story!

    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      Ha! We can laugh about the snakes later, right? At the time it is terrifying! How did you get it out?! I hope the husband took care of that. Thankfully I had my toilet to flush 🙂


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