And now, the final chapter in this four-part epic tale.
The Cast: Erich (detained), Myself (desperate), The Snake (deceptive).
This mighty python was going to kill Erich, and I was unable to render any help at all. I was powerless to save him. Amongst all this terror, we still had one thought shared amongst us: Keep this prize for ourselves. Despite all our best efforts to keep Erich alive, we did need to save the snake for the reward money. But time was running out—as well as space on Erich’s body for the snake to cover, and our options. It seemed that no matter what Erich or I did, he was not going to make it. No matter how he kicked and struggled Erich was still going to die. Then it happened. Erich uttered the words I will never forget…
“I’ve been bit!”
That was it! Regardless of whatever concern for the wellbeing of the snake we had had before, we were forced to choose between Erich’s life and the snake’s. We chose Erich’s. Fine, no reward. Whatever.
With the revelation of a bite, I knew the head of the snake must be exposing itself somewhere. This was where mercy shown down upon us from above—literally. Through the grace of the heavens above, a silver sliver of moonlight broke through the thick canopy of branches that had provided us with a cloak of stealth. That fragment of illumination hit upon that very fang of the python and revealed the exact location of the death’s head that was doing its best to devour my friend.
I groped around for anything to club it with and found what I thought was a sturdy stick. And with the first blow to the beasts head, the stick broke into pieces. That snake’s skull proved to be more sturdy than my makeshift club. Fortunately for us, that first strike seemed to give the serpent cause to rethink its attack plan. Its head began to move groggily about the ground.
The darkness made it difficult to find any suitable weapon with which to finish the job of slaying the snake—not to mention the hysteria that had ensued. Once again fortune found us in the form of a large rock. It felt solid and heavy in my hands as I used it to rain down a feverish series of blows. With each strike, I could hear the life-force leaving the body of that deadly python. Having never smashed in a skull before I was unprepared for the disturbing ‘clanging’ sounds being made.
Eventually, that long lanky servant of the underworld gave up the ghost. I had rendered it unconscious—if not, killed it. The desire to devour seemed to be just as gone as the life-force that drove it. It was easy to unentangle Erich now that the living rope that had previously held him prisoner had stopped being so naughty.
I helped my friend to stand and we stumbled out of the dark and into the bright illumination of the corner street lamp. It was here that I almost passed out. What I saw then, I will never forget. Erich’s right pant leg was not only torn wide open from about mid-thigh to mid-calf, but the corduroy was also now a much darker shade of green as it had been soaking up the blood Erich had been losing (remember he had been bitten only minutes before). Seeing the size of the wound in the pant leg, we could only guess and the size of the wound in Erich’s leg. We carefully open the flap of the fabric only to find a leg cover in blood and unable to tell, for certain, where the wound actually was. Worse still, blood was continued to pour from the wound (we knew this because blood began making a puddle in his shoe—he could feel it and he told me as much).
“What do we do?” The question was more for me than for my friend. I was in a panic. It helped to have my thoughts verbalized. Anything might have happened. The wound could be deep. The wound could be long. The wound could be deep and long. Maybe poison!?! (I didn’t know that much about pythons, also we didn’t know what kind of snake it was—so maybe it was poisonous, don’t judge, just keep reading)
“We gotta get me home.” Erich was calm.
“What if you’re poisoned?” My mind was racing trying to figure out the possible options of what might happen. The possibilities…?!?! Oh… Erich’s gonna’ die…
“Then we better hurry.” It surprised me how relaxed and collected of thought Erich was. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was concerned, but there was a calm logic going on within his skull.
“You need to stay here so the poison doesn’t get pumped into your veins.” I wanted him to be safe and not bleed-out.
“In the time it would take you to go to my house, get my mom, and then return back here, I might be dead. It would be faster—and better—if I just go with you.” Was Erich’s reasoning. And he wasn’t wrong. With that, we began the short walk back to his home. We knew he was hurt bad because with each step there was that sound that your sneaker makes after you step in a deep puddle and it becomes saturated with water. But his shoe wasn’t saturated with water, it was overflowing with his own blood—we knew it was overflowing because Erich was leaving a bloody footprint with each step.
By the time we reached Erich’s abode the cuff of his right trouser leg was dripping with his life force. At this point in the adventure (remember kids: When there is blood, it’s an adventure!) I was certain both Erich and myself were about to be no longer among the living. Erich, due to blood loss, me because his mother was going to kill me. But, what happened next shocked me for reasons I am about to share.
We walked in through the front door. “Back already?” His mother inquired, without turning to see the state we were in (sure enough, Jackie—Erich’s mom—and her daughters were caught up in some sort of Elvis flick). If it were me, I would have nervously approached my mother and awaited the rush to the hospital. Here, I was able to witness the calm loving approach to healing that could only come from trust and understanding.
“I got hurt.” Was Erich’s polite response. What is wrong with these people?!? Their lack of serious concern for the situation made me almost insane. But, it was about to get really good.
Author’s note: In case you don’t recall from last week’s story, the family was sitting about the sofa, watching television, their backs were facing the door.
With the last words now departed from his lips, Erich gracefully, smoothly, swung his leg up and onto the top of the back of the couch. Where it landed right next to his mother’s head. “Wanna’ see?”
Jackie, at first smiling, turned her head, eyes instantly locking upon the mess that was her son’s appendage, and responded with all the love that any decent mother with good sense would have, “Get your bloody leg off my couch, you could stain it.” This statement was accompanied by a solid left-handed smack to the back of Erich’s head, along with, “What happened to you?” Now the room was a-buzz with movement and questions. We were bombarded with, “Oh my gosh!” “How bad is it?” “Does it hurt?” “Oh my gosh!” “Are you dripping blood on the carpet?” “What did you two do?” “Did you get attacked by a dog?” “Oh my gosh!” This family is fun.
I could see where Erich got his calm attitude in a crisis from. Jackie quickly gave out the orders as she collected her things to take us to the local clinic (even though it was after hours) so that Dr. Artmstrong could, once again, stitch up Erich. One daughter was to call Dr. Armstrong and ask him to meet us at the clinic, another was to get a cloth to help stop the bleeding, another sister was tasked with ensuring that no blood had dripped and was leaving stains anywhere (there were only two sisters there at the time).
“Should I just go home then?” I asked, nervous and a little afraid.
Jackie looked me dead in the eye, “Oh, no. You’re coming with.”
The clinic wasn’t that far away, but the drive seemed to take forever. Along the way, We were, once again, peppered with more questions. We felt it best to answer her truthfully to avoid any worse punishments. So, we told her how were headed to the park to play night games and how Erich had simply tripped over a garden fence and fallen upon something—and we didn’t know what it was—that obviously was sharp and sliced his knee open. And while unhappy, Jackie was pleased with our honesty.
Dr. Armstrong, and a nurse, arrived at about the same time we did, opened the doors and directed the five of us wandered into a back room. Erich was directed to a bed and instructed to lay down, even though he knew the routine. I was terrified of what we were about to find under the dishtowel that was keeping the crimson inside my buddy’s body. The stress in the room was building (it was Jackie—she was concerned, a lot). Fortunately for us (Erich and I), Dr. Armstrong was/is a hoot. He was calm and funny (still is). Asking questions, talking, joking, distracting us from the certain death that awaited us (mothers can be brutal). Then came the big reveal, “Let’s take a look, shall we?”
With Erich’s green corduroy already ripped open (more than enough to provide adequate visibility for the Doc), the cloth given to him earlier just needed to be removed. And that’s just what Dr. Armstrong did. Given the amount of blood already spilled, and given the size of the tear in those green corduroy pants, I can tell you we did not expect to see what we saw. All of us—and I mean all of us, Jackie, Erich, myself, the nurse, even the doctor, was shocked, nay flabbergasted, at what we were not seeing. What we did not see was a bite mark, or a giant gaping rend in the right knee of the only patient in the room. What was there was an unproportionate opening in my best friend’s right knee.
I say unproportionate only because with all the blood and everything there should have been something that deserved that carnage. But no. Nope, there was only a small, downward 45° angle cut, about an inch long, located near the top and just off to the inner side of his right knee cap.
I will never forget what I saw that day. In my memories mind, the cut was six inches long and four feet deep, but it wasn’t like that for reals. For reals, it was only a cut that would have rivaled the surgical precision of the world’s leading medical specialists. It was clean, no ripped flesh. It was deep, about ¼ to ½ inch deep. And it was quickly prepared and ready for stitches in moments.
As the minor surgery went forward, Dr. Armstrong took the time to discuss with those who were interested, the potential seriousness of this particular injury. Throughout this educational discourse, Erich would sit up to look, I would lean in to see, and Jackie would move me aside and push her son flat onto the bed and say, “Don’t look, you’re going to pass out.” We weren’t, she was, and she was trying to cope. Anyway, the lecture went something like this…
Dr. Armstrong, after cleaning out the wound (which didn’t seem to bleed that much even though it was still open, showed us all just how close to death Erich came that night. “See this?” and he reached into the cut with a small hook/probe-like device and hooked a small white string-thing that ran along the bottom of the cut (it is important to note that the cut went straight down as if Erich was stabbed with a chisel and not a gradual groove like a slash from a knife or fang). “This, right here…” as Dr. Armstrong plucked at the little white cord like a guitar string “…this is [a major] (I can’t remember the name) artery. And if it had been cut, you’d have bled-out and died. You should be dead.” And he kept plucking. “I can’t figure out why it wasn’t cut. The tissue around it and under it is cut. And yet…” And he just kept plucking away.
Eventually, the cut was sewn-up and we all went back to Erich’s home. His family went to bed and I went home. I was certain this friendship was over and we would never be able to solve the mystery of what happened that night.
If you’ve read White Water Rafting, then you know what happened later the next day. But, what I did not include that story was the conclusion to this tale. Here it is now…
Before wave riding down The Crick, Erich and I knew we had to collect the body of the python that had almost killed him—if for no other reason than to have it as a trophy. So, the two of us casually strolled (Erich hobbled) back to the early morning shadows of the pine tree. As we casually poked about the needles and small branches the one thing that we needed to find, wasn’t there. No snake. No body. Nothing we could use. Nothing to return to the Carny’s. Someone must have already found it and taken it. We had lost everything.
As we sulked back to Erich’s place to figure out how to best enjoy this beautiful Water Day, the owner of the house—whose property the tree was on—came storming out. We paused, waiting to see if he was coming for us for rummaging about in his yard. We were wrong. The owner climbed into his truck and started the engine. His wife then stepped out onto the porch, “Wait, where did you say you were going?”
Erich and I watched this brief exchange. The husband responded with, “I told you. To the hardware store. I gotta buy a new hose and sprinkler.”
“Because ours is broken. It looks like somebody beat it with a rock.”
Yeah, that had been us. We had, the night before, been attacked by, and defeated, a garden hose (no snake, a stupid garden hose!) with sprinkler attachment. Erich’s knee had been sliced open by the metal flap that alters the water-arch height. Not a snake fang. Just a small 1 inch square piece of metal.
One of our greatest (and most pathetic) victories over death.