There it was again. Something was definitely moving in the bathtub. Claire leaned closer to the opaque shower doors. ‘It’ was making a strange scratching sound, like tiny nails on a chalkboard. Sitting on the blue toilet, in the completely blue bathroom, she was stupefied. Her hand took the initiative that her brain was vehemently protesting, as she slowly opened the shower door to reveal what was preparing to kill her. And it almost did. As only little girls can, Claire emitted a series of staccato screams that were so loud and high pitched that the lab rats on the Space Station heard them. Her only stroke of luck was that she was already seated on the toilet.
The deafening screeches from her niece instantly put at least a dozen gray follicles to root. Connie burst into the bathroom to discover Claire with her Smurf Underoos around her ankles, hyperventilating in between her siren wails. Connie quickly lifted Claire off the blue throne by her armpits. As the words were about to tumble from her worried lips, Connie saw the horror for herself. No wonder she’s flipping out. Opening the shower door completely caused Claire to bolt down the hall in an awkward hopping fashion, while pulling her Geranimal shorts and Underoos up past her knees. Connie’s concern for her niece morphed into her normal, defeated rage that flourished during the antics of her boys. There, in her freshly cleaned sanctuary, was a box turtle the size of her own head, snapping at a very concerned garter snake.
“James—Timothy—Dennis! Get your rear-ends up here NOW!”
Three blonde, stair stepped heads appeared in the door, each wearing an incredulous, ‘Who, me?’ expression.
Connie pointed to the tub, “Well?”
The youngest, Denny—who was infamous for giving up the goods to save his own delicate heinie flesh—predictably opened his mouth first. “We were having the ‘Battle of the Reptiles’!” This procured an elbow to the ribs from each older brother.
Connie’s eyes rolled back into her head as if she were about to seize. Lord, what have I done to deserve this? I’m a beautician...you couldn’t give me one girl? Through gritted teeth she seethed at them, “Get those creatures out of my tub and back to the woods. Go apologize to Claire…and then, you three will scrub this bathtub...now move it.”
Denny grabbed the turtle, and Jimmy wrangled the agitated snake. Tim searched the house for Claire, finding her in the kitchen, trying to downplay her spaz attack. “Sorry about the turtle, Claire…”
“The turtle would’ve been okay, but you know I hate snakes.” He couldn’t keep the Cheshire grin off his face, and it became contagious. She stifled a giggle, which invited a spittle-snarf from him. In unison, they exclaimed, “Uncle Earl’s!”
Claire was a pseudo tomboy; molded in the weeks she spent there every summer. Vacation Bible School was alright, but she loved playing in the woods with her cousins. They caught frogs and turtles, searched for arrowheads and fossils, got filthy dirty and bathed in the murky pool every night. But she refused to ever go back to Uncle Earl’s. His mounted deer heads didn’t faze her, but his ‘coffin-sized-plexiglass-snake-cage-coffee-table’ gave her nightmares for years. The coffee table was ‘home’ to a Boa constrictor as thick as a two liter pop bottle, and as long as her daddy’s car. Between the couch and the TV, the monstrous serpent coiled itself in its narcissistic display case. When it flexed its massive muscular body, the plexiglass bulged like an overinflated balloon. Claire wet her Care Bear Underoos and shrieked all the way out of the house. She ate her dinner on the porch, wearing a towel.
Tim and Claire were still laughing at the memory when Aunt Connie came in, giving him ‘the look’; without a word he scurried out of the room. She sat down on the brown floral couch next to Claire. “I’m sorry ‘bout those boys. You okay, Claire-bear?”
“Sure, I’m okay…Aunt Connie? Why do boys like snakes and girls don’t?”.
“I don’t know, Hon. That’s just how God made us, I guess.”
“I really like coming here to visit, but I don’t think I would like living with boys all the time. I sure hope I have girl babies."
Connie chuckled and kissed the cowlick on Claire’s head. Okay God, you give me a girl for two weeks each year... “Me too, Claire-bear. Me too. I’m secretly praying for granddaughters, just like you.”