Its head is removed cleanly from its body. Third time lucky.
Peter finishes and takes Teddy inside, noticing that he is salivating. But Teddy eats bees, gets stung by them. We once noted four bee stings in his tongue, his obsession defeats our shouts. Some minutes later, having come to see where I was up to, Peter notices Teddy is limping a bit in his back legs. I come in to see, check his legs… he is definitely swaying. Peter and I both know, this is very bad.
Second time, I aim right, and the hoe hits it a few inches below the head, though doesn’t sever it. It is hurt, probably mortally, but not dead.
We go out to check the yard. Under the silver birches, Peter draws back suddenly: a snake, a brown snake, moving but seemingly semi-incapacitated.
Urgency sets in. We get Teddy to the car, Peter takes off to the vet, I press the quad bike hard and in trailing dust follow and open and close gates down the driveway for him. Peter’s instructions: deal with the snake. Maggie is confused.
I lightly throw a rock at the snake, trying to get it to move off, away from the hoe. It panics, slips off the handle, but does not, cannot, move away.
I wait at the computer, near the home phone, with my own phone next to me, a picture of the snake in a box in case identification is needed. But I hear nothing, even though my phone shows me that Peter is at the vets.
I am down close to the ground, dangerously face-level, trying to recover the hoe, its end buried in the ground, the snake striking at it once, body draped over it. A small part of me wants it to strike at me — I am here alone.
The nothingness, not knowing, builds in my chest. I have to do something, and so I go work on the picnic table, distraction, I can finish it off, take its photo, post it on social media: success, look what I have done.
I do not panic. It knows I am here. The hoe’s blade hovers several feet above, guillotine, ready to fall. I bring it down, my heart registering an anticipated if ignoble satisfaction during its fall. It is watching. It will die. I miss by several inches.
Peter calls from the vet. Teddy rallied with the anti-venom, then his heart stopped and he died. Arrangements are made, Peter is coming home.
I grab the long-handled hoe from the garden shed. I steady myself, cautiously approach the snake, seeing if it is able to make an escape, knowing that escape or attack will come fast. But it moves its forward-half around and no further, hurt, paralysed. It must be killed.
The house is quiet. I walk around with one hand over my eye, sound comes through deep water, my heart beats once, the air from a lung whistles through a hole in my chest. Everything is surface-deep. I fear here and now. I wonder how to protect what remains. I crumble to dust.