OF SNAKES AND MIRRORS by Wendy Tong
What are the cats looking at? I thought. They were staring at the round mirror above the sofa. They couldn’t see themselves; the angles weren’t right. Sitting as I was a few feet away from the sofa above which hung the mirror, I could see that it was not hanging very flush to the wall, its top sticking out slightly more than before. There seemed to be more of a tilt to it than usual.
Curiosity got the better of me, so I went over to have a look. I had to put my head right up to the wall to see anything in the dark shadow behind the mirror. There was something there. Dark, reptilian, even menacing. My mind had begun to work its suspicious way.
“Erm … Look, there’s something odd behind the mirror,” I called out trying to sound brave. “Take the cats out of the room so we can have a proper look.”
When he returned, we moved the sofa a bit further away from the wall. I got closer; maybe closer than I should have.
“It’s a snake of some kind,” I said, as nonchalantly as I could.
“I’ll fetch a stick,” my husband said, marching away with purpose. He comes back, hands me the stick, and backs out of the room, with even more purpose.
It’s up to me now; alone before nature.
Fortunately, any phobias I may have do not apparently include snakes coiled up behind mirrors in one’s sitting room.
The mirror comes easily away from the wall, and something large uncoils slowly and falls gently onto the floor. My memory may be playing tricks but I remember the thing being quite huge as it slithers its way away.
My brave husband opens the front door and my gentle persuasion with the aforesaid stick has the thing heading that way.
Right out of our door and straight under the neighbour’s.
After a short pause for thought, I knock on their door while Himself retreats indoors with the excuse of having to let the cats back in. But I know he’s really trying to avoid speaking Spanish.
There is no reply to my knocking. This worries me as I know they have a small child and I don’t know if the snake is dangerous or not. Finally, I decide to knock a little louder; then I resort to shouting.
Eventually the upstairs bedroom window opens and a young man leans out, looking puzzled and a bit disheveled.
In my best Spanish, which is awful, I try to explain that a serpiente has gone in under the door and is now in his house. A little later, having tamed his hair down and sporting a shirt, he opens the door and beckons me in.
He nods and disappears further into the house. He returns with a stick, which he hands to me.
“Oh, you want me to look for it, do you?” I say. I mentally roll up my sleeves and poke around a bit under various pieces of furniture. No luck.
The Father of the house, the Man, as it were, comes home and stands there staring at me in amazement. This is an unusual venue for me, especially brandishing a stick.
There is a quick-fire exchange of Spanish among the two men.
Slowly, carefully, he eventually gets across the opinion that there could not possibly be a snake in his house as there is not enough space under the door.
He closes the door to show me. I agree there is not much room, but I know what I saw. With graceful efficiency, I explain that I did indeed see the creature slither under his door.
“No, no, no…” he counters.
Having cleared my conscience and done my neighbourly duty, I head back home. I refrained from shrugging my shoulders as I walked away.
At that moment, the younger man, who had retreated into the house again, appeared, screaming.
The snake had appeared and I couldn’t stop a small smile from passing over my lips.
Papá then scooped it up with a broom and a long-handled dust-pan and was off down the street with his catch.
I didn’t watch the end of the story because I knew that it would probably end up whacked over the head. Poor thing; all it wanted that cold, wet winter was to be warm and dry.
I’ve told this story many a time; people often refuse to sit on the sofa under the mirror.
© Wendy Tong 2015