Good Neighbors

You got to be careful what your kids read these days.

You also got to be careful what your mother-in-law reads. 

Awhile back, me and Ms. Larda went to a coffee shop. They got one of them take-one-leave-one bookshelves there, and while I am waiting for the coffee, she slips a Danielle Steele paperback out of her purse and onto the shelf.

She loves romance novels, but she don’t want me to know about THAT. They are her guilty pleasure, and she repents of them every time she goes to confession. 

Anyway, she grabs another book, “Squeeze Me,” and sticks it in her purse. 

It turns out this ain’t no romance novel. 

It’s about pythons. 

She sat up late reading it. 

In the book, a python eats a nasty little old lady who is inebriated. Now, Ms. Larda is not nasty or little, and she can’t imagine getting so inebriated she could get et by a snake.

But this book cost her some sleep – not that she was worried about herself, but she thinks about her chihuahua Chopsley, who is so bad-tempered he would keep yapping the whole time he was being swallowed.

A few weeks later, some people moved in next door – into that nice house with the swimming pool. She stops by to say hello and they seem real friendly – Larry and LaVerne.

They chitchat awhile, and then Larry strolls over to what looks like a enormous aquarium. But there’s no fish in it. What is in it is a huge snake. Larry says, “Here’s Lovey – our pet python. If you catch any rats, bring ‘em over,” and he chuckles. “He prefers his dinner live.”

Ms. Larda smiles with her teeth clenched, and scuttles home, snatching up Chopsley as she crosses the yard.

Immediately she calls up her grandson Comus, her daughter Gloriosa’s little boy, and asks him to look up pythons on his computer. He don’t need to look; he knows all about them. He wants one for Christmas. (He ain’t getting one.) “If it ain’t a Burmese Python, you’re ok, Grandma Larda,” he says. 

Ms. Larda don’t know whether this python is from Burma or not, but she starts checking on these neighbors, in case they take Lovey out for a walk or something. 

Now, she is an expert at neighbor-checking. She never lifts a Venetian blind slat or twitches a curtain. That’s for amateurs. She squats all the way down to the window ledge and adjusts the window shade so just her eyes peer out from underneath. (Lately she’s had to use a little footstool instead of squatting). 

But it’s Christmas time and she gets busy with other things. She always has Gloriosa’s family and in-laws (Ms. Sarcophaga and Mr. Proteus) over for Sunday afternoon dinner in December. This because Ms. Sarcophaga (who actually is skinny and mean) refuses to eat with the rest of us Gunches ever since that Thanksgiving she ate the potpourri by mistake and had to go off in a ambulance. (Like that was OUR fault.) 

Anyway, that Sunday, Ms. Sarcophaga announces she is stepping out on the porch for “a breath of fresh air” (code for “Mr. Proteus cut one.) But then Chopsley shoots outside behind her. He heads for the yard next door, yapping. Ms. Sarcophaga scolds “Bad dog!” and marches after him. Ms. Larda looks out to see what the fuss is about and OH MY GOD, there’s a SNAKE bobbing up and down in the pool.

And its appetizer and main course just arrived. 

She screams for an ax and actually starts over there, but Comus catches up with her. “Grandma Larda! It’s a pool hose,” he yells. 

And it was. It was one of those hoses that automatically clean the pool, and the sweeper end must have come loose. So the hose is bobbing around, and it does look like a giant snake, if you’re hysterical.

So Comus saved the day and the pool hose. He’s still not going to get a python for Christmas. But he will get some expensive computer games from his grandma. 

And Ms. Larda will get a Danielle Steele book from me.