Years ago, on a Sunday morning in Santa Cruz, before the drought,
I cut the grass.
But before I could begin; the dog doo had to be cleared.
It’s ghastly to run over dog poop with a mower. I hate it.
Especially if it’s fresh.
My mind drifts as I get to the task at hand and guide the mower past the bed of strawberries,
The sound and the smell of the machinery is mesmerizing.
The left wheels rub against the redwood edging.
Suddenly, and without warning an obsidian serpent rears her head in front of my machine
Her mouth is open, hissing. The fear of death is in her eyes as she watches the mower approach.
I stop my machine and study her
Her mouth is tinged scarlet; like the painted lips on a lady of the night.
Have I interrupted a tryst, or worse, a satanic ritual?
Is this lipstick? Is this blood?
Does she pose an imminent danger?
No danger, a harmless garden snake easily recognized.
But how to explain the blood around her mouth?
For surely – it is not lipstick.
Then I spy the strawberry – riddled with bite marks.
She’s a brazen thief. An outlaw. Caught red-handed, so to speak.
She knows it’s a fair cop. She has surrendered.
Punishment for the theft of a sun warmed crimson berry should not be death.
I relocate her behind the house, deep in the trees.
She keeps her prize.