Snakes With Legs

Turning 5 is my ultimate life goal. No need to bother looking further into the future than big, huge, important number 5. It is such a sturdy, official sounding number. I will be significantly bigger and know so much more when I’m 5. I’ll be more important, a big kid. When people ask how old I am and I proudly say “FIVE”, people will know – I am really going places.
A plethora of extremely valuable wisdom will be downloaded from the universe directly into my brain right when I turn 5. It will be like a whole new world because I’ll be able to do all the things I can’t do now. Yep, when I’m 5. It’s going to be amazing. Probably the best thing ever.
 praying hippy kids
Behind the little household garden, behind the clothesline, behind Dogwood Blossom – our household down the path from our bus, is a graveyard. A pet graveyard. The other, more used side of the house has tiny, bumpy Dogwood Lane and a little yard and isn’t scary. This is the wild, scary side with rocks and tall weeds. Maybe every rock is a gravestone. Eeks! The bigger boys who live in the house tell me ghost stories and creepy things about it to make me scared. I don’t know what pets Dogwood Blossom has ever had besides the feral cats that make hideous noises, crawling on the roof, coming and going as they please. But I imagine there’s all kinds of animals buried there and it’s spooky so I don’t go back there by myself. When I’m 5 it won’t be a problem, I won’t be afraid of anything, but for now I’m still cautious.
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One day, playing alone, I summoned up the courage to tip toe past the pet graveyard to play in the woods. And I made it! I was in the woods all by myself! I am an explorer!  Poking around through the trees, I am careful not to go too far down the hill into the valley, but there is plenty to discover on the crest of the hill with the house still in sight. It’s so exciting searching around. I’m definitely going to find something marvelous. I lift up a big rock at the base of a tree and, oh my god! I knew it! I just knew I was going to make a fantastic, historical new discovery of epic proportions today that would change everything we thought we knew!
By bravely slinking through the graveyard and exploring the mysterious forest, looking for new discoveries and lifting up this rock, I did it – I discovered a miracle nestled into the dark damp dirt under this rock. I found snakes – with legs! A whole family of them! The mom was several inches long, shiny black with white spots. The babies looked exactly like her, except much smaller. And they all had legs! Incredible! I made the discovery of the century – snakes with legs! The mom snake looked at me with her babies huddling close. What should I do? This easily could be the greatest discovery ever made!
I carefully put the rock back over the snakes with legs and bursting with the most excitement I’d ever had, bolted for the house to let everyone know that snakes with legs had just been discovered. We would all celebrate from this day forth, the most amazing discovery ever made in the whole world, right behind our house! I can feel a blissful hysteria emanating from deep inside my stomach throughout my whole body, even my body cannot contain the thrill of being the first person to discover snakes with legs, the thrill is beaming out of every pore.
Finding my mother in the kitchen doing grownup things with other grownups, I squealed “Snakes with legs! I found snakes with legs!“. They look slightly amused but didn’t drop everything and come running? They didn’t understand. “SNAKES! WITH LEGS!” I screamed some more tugging at my moms skirt. She is way above my head, I come only part way up her leg so they don’t take me seriously but they will after they see these snakes with legs. They are really there! I really found real snakes with legs!
Snakes with legs! Snakes with legs!” I keep shrieking fervently until they acknowledge my need for someones attention to this most urgent, pressing matter.
A bigger person comes with me. On cloud nine, flipping up the rock by the tree, I show them my monumental discovery, the family of slimy little snakes with legs. For some illogical reason, they are not shocked beyond belief and dancing for joy around the woods ready to crown me as the Queen of Best New Discovery in all the land. They chuckle and tell me the creatures are salamanders.
Salamanders?
What? Clearly, these so called salamanders are funny little snakes with legs.
No, the big person assures me, they are not snakes at all, they are salamanders. As we leave the snakes with legs -salamanders- under their rock, making our way back up towards the house, my walk is a limp shuffle, my ecstatic excitement is replaced with lackluster disappointment that my great discovery isn’t so great after all.
But I can’t stop thinking about the snakes with legs, or salamanders, whatever they are called. The only thing on my mind as I fall asleep is the extraordinary slimy salamander family with their shiny deep dark black color and white spots. The mom and all her cute tiny babies cuddling in the dark wet dirt, etched into my memory forever. The snakes with legs.
I run to check on my new family the next day, I don’t even care about the pet graveyard.
Sadly, they are all gone. But I saw them. I saw them good. I’ll be able to confirm their curious existence for the rest of my life.
Photo from: NPS

Photo from: NPS

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The Makeup Inquisition

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Playing on the ground by myself outside our old green bus, some older girls from the house and a posse of friends stomped up the smooth, well used dirt path that connects to 1st Road. I hum to myself, continuing to play knowing they will just pass me by as usual on their way to do important, cool, older girl things. But to my total surprise they stop and surround me. Oh wow, what do they want? With their arms folded, hands on their hips, in stances that only older girls can pull off with their above-it-all attitudes, they demanded to know if I’m wearing “makeup”. They want to know how I got it and where it is.
What were they talking about? I had no clue. My brain scrambles to pieces, what in the world is “makeup”? It must be something special from the mythical outside, fairy tale world that they somehow know about because they are so big and smart and awesome. Dumbfounded, I don’t know what to say. Stammering out nothing, I want to answer but I have no answer. Oh, how embarrassing, I don’t want them to know how clueless I am that I don’t even know what “makeup” is. I really don’t think I have any but they don’t believe me.
One of the girls steps up out of the group, holds my head and intently rubs my eyes. It hurts but I’m stupefied and scared so I don’t protest, I let her rub my eyes and face. After the forceful face rubbing, they are not satisfied but still determined to discover that I am indeed wearing makeup. As their frustration and anger builds because of their strange notion that I’m wearing this makeup they speak of, they think I am lying and hiding it from them and want me to just give it to them. I would give it to them but I honestly have no idea what they are talking about. Of course I’d love and would give anything to help them any way I can – to impress these older girls would be a dream come true, but I just play with rocks and sticks and dirt and live in this bus and if anyone had anything special, it would be them, not me.
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They will tell on me if I don’t give it to them, they will tell the grownups, they will tell my mom. Well that’s a pretty stupid idle threat, my mom already knows everything about me and everything I have. I’m just a little kid.
It’s not over, they really think I have makeup hidden somewhere and they want it.
I look up at them baffled as they debate loudly among themselves what to do. Soon they come up with a plan.
They force me to come with them to the outhouse sink to wash my face. I am their prisoner as they march me down the path, over the skinny, rocky road to the outhouse in the trees where we reach the little white sink attached to the outside of the wooden outhouse wall. Splashing myself with the cold water over and over as commanded, all the girls stand around, closely watching and inspecting my face until they’re finally convinced that I really do not have any makeup to confess of.
With my face dripping wet, still stunned, I watch the group of chattering, older girls walk away leaving me at the outhouse. The mysterious makeup inquisition is over. They are so big and cool. I wish I did have this thing called makeup to share with them.
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