If Not For the Snake









I wrote this a few years back, and then a mate referred to it last week and I used it one of my brekky spots on 98five.com this morning. It tries to reflect some of the challenges of living in suburbia. I thought it was worth a re-run.

If Not For the Snake 

Yeah we like to keep to ourselves
And that was the end of that…

One lazy afternoon
As the winter sun warms the couch
And the buzz of the builder’s saw penetrates the silence
There is a new noise
A car horn blasts
And again
Almost enough to cause me to move
And see what’s happening in our sleepy street
But the couch is comfortable and the sun is warm
Its’ none of my business anyway

Unfamiliar and unexpected footsteps clink up the wooden steps
A woman I am guessing (or a bloke in stilettos…)
The shadow at the door becomes a knock
As I open
I am rifling through the mental filing cabinet
To place who this is
In my mind’s eye
I see a dog and it clicks
She is the ‘dalmatian lady’
Because when you don’t know your neighbour’s names
It’s easier to name them by association
The bloke in the old green Landrover
The lady from the purple house
I have seen her walking the dog
She is the dalmatian lady

I’m your neighbour…
From across the street…
I think there’s a snake on my driveway…
I have been beeping my horn…
But it won’t move…
She needs my help
The dalmatian lady
Who likes to keep to herself
So I go and poke the sleepy snake
With a length of pipe
Like an angry drunk
He rears his head and tries to look threatening
Before sliding off into the bush










Thank you.
We’re moving house
Back to Queensland
This piece of information
Hangs clumsily in the air
I feel like I should care
But I don’t
The snake is gone
The crisis is averted
I can return to my side of the street
The dalmatian lady can move house
And keep to herself again


Today the house appears empty
The cars have not come and gone
The lights have not flickered
A shipping container has been to visit
A handyman’s van spent a day there
Fixing things
As you do before inspection
The grass is mowed
The yard is tidy
The carport is empty
I’m guessing the dalmatian lady (and the dalmatian man) have gone
But we won’t know
Until some new faces appear

There has been no goodbye
Because there was no hello
And it would seem odd to farewell
The ‘snake poker man’
Who has lived opposite for two years
If not for the snake
We may never have met
We would have lived close but separate
Together but distant
Dante’s hell
Proximity without intimacy

And so I pray for more snakes
Or maybe just for people
Who don’t like to keep to themselves

And the flip side of this is that the people who live there now don’t ‘keep to themselves’ and we have loved getting to know them!

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