You just ran over a snake   she cried
The ute tyering heavily across the leaf strewn bitumen on the way home
I pulled up immediately to look into the rear view
And there it was flaying the air
Struggling for the fluid movement it not longer possessed
Such a creature – magnificent light brown – sleek powerful and known to be deadly
A two metre adult King Brown snake

We sat and watched it curl and recurl
Unable to move beyond the road
One third down its back had been crushed – what to do for this writhing being?
I’ll go home to get the shovel and come back    I said
Should you just leave it    she asked  –   my darling Jan concerned for my wellbeing
Yeah I have to – can’t leave it to suffer and die a lingering death

I returned five minutes later to the same spot
The shadows across the road making it hard to see the Brown and it’s broken magnificence
I picked up the long handled shovel and stepped carefully out of the car
I stood for several minutes perplexed – what was the right thing to do?
Kill it or leave it – which was more humane?
A voice in my head reminded me that most people bitten by snakes are trying to do them harm at the time they’re bitten – I checked myself
A cocktail of emotions bubbling inside my gut
sorrow – pity – fear – concern – wonder – guilt – maybe grief
the wounded king who was once magnificent now broken by my wheel

I stood immobilised unable to decide
And then returned home to call my cousin Chris – I needed his counsel – his brotherhood
Chris is a man of the earth – a wiry wiley soul – his hair often spiked with the dried salt licks from his last surf – his eyes full of spark and purpose – a man to trust – a man to turn the soil with

I called him and we spoke for a bit – probably should kill it he said – yeah probably best – I’ll be up the hill in a bit – I’ll bring my gun he said as he hung up

A little later he pulled up – I jumped in beside him and his gun – better bring your shovel he said – so I did

We drove the two kilometres back to the spot – the Brown had not moved beyond the place of its crushing
You can hardly see it in the shade   Chris said    no wonder you ran over it
Can’t use the gun – too close to the houses he mused

Without hesitation Chris drove again over the deadly king – there was no more deliberation – what had to be done had to be done

We left the car – it’s head is still moving     I said
Carefully, carefully in full regard  Chris inched forward and delivered the death blow with the shovel blade behind its head

The snake was dead

On the way back to the house we talked about the snake with great reverence – a creature of the wild that we admire and for the most part fear

Chris shared that a snake of that size would feed a family for a few days – we reflected on how this country’s first people’s – our indigenous brothers and sisters have a deep relationship with all its creatures and would have given thanks for this King’s ultimate surrender

Chris dropped me at the front of our place
Thanks for your help bro – I said – such a shame about the snake
Yeah he said – it happens
It was the choice we had to make

I waved him down the hill

Yes it was – and I will never forget the day we had to make it

The choice to kill the king.

 

Martinos © 2018