Billy the Boa

Busily chopping vegetables for the soup I was brewing, I turned my head at the sound of my name being called and came face to face with a huge Boa constrictor, six inches from my face. It was a bizarre moment staring into the eyes of that snake who’s head was twice the size of my fist. He possessed little black eyeballs that, if it were possible to interpret, seemed to be gazing at me with a mild form of curiosity, but which

could also be a security inducing prelude to a vicious and sudden attack. Those things can wrap their jaws around your entire head in a flash.

The only thing holding him back from a strike was a crack head, coke-fiend Brazilian, Cesar, whose mind I had long since given up on trying to figure out. He had one hand around the snake’s neck clamping his jaws shut with thumb and fore knuckle. The other hand was visibly struggling to control the tail end of the beast that he had running along his shoulders and around his neck. We’d had a few run-ins, Cesar and I, and this was his quite spectacular jest, aiming to scare the daylights out of me. And, for sure, he succeeded.

To my credit, however, I remained stock still and raised my kitchen knife to the Boa’s head, muttering, in a growl, “get… that… thing… out… of… my… face”. It’s hard to judge a drug addict’s smile, but the grin that Cesar came up with was, decipherably, one of victory and he backed away. It was disturbing to see how much effort this madman was putting into controlling the boa as, each time the snake tried to coil itself around cesar’s neck and torso, he would have to flex every muscle in his upper body to keep the snake elongated.

At this point, Kurt turns up with a glint in his eye, saying, “right, let’s do this”. “Do what, exactly?” I ask. “What are you doing with this big fucking snake?” Kurt looks at me, beaming, and says, “rats! Sick of them. This should sort them out…”

It was true. The old wooden hotel was infested with them. They were living between the floorboards and had gnawed their way into each and every room. Having a big fat hairy rodent scrabble across your face while you slept was not an uncommon occurrence. As a consequence, complaints had been flooding the receptionist’s desk. They held sway on all floors of this old three

story construct that I’d call little more than a shack. A cool and groovy surfer’s hangout of a hostel but still a battered old building nonetheless. It was directly because of the rats that I’d moved into one of the bungalows in the back garden.

Kurt’s answer to this mounting problem? Ask the same mountain-dwelling indigenous indians that periodically dropped down into town with high-grade marijuana for sale to bring him a live Boa constrictor and let it loose. Some weird kind of chaos this, and so I leant back against the kitchen table, where I’d been methodically working, and watched the drama unfold.

photo courtesy of H + E Stoeckl, http://www.boa-constrictors.com

James, a long term surfer resident, pulled up a table, climbed onto it and, using both a knife and a hacksaw, cut a large circle out of the plywood that made up the ceiling of the kitchen. There was about a foot in space between that and the solid wooden floorboards of the bedroom above. Hilariously, I began to watch Cesar become impatient with the process as he was losing strength rapidly and no-one else wanted to take this monster off his hands. On top of which, It was quickly dawning on me that quite a serious problem was looming up ahead and I could tell that the self same issue was raising some concern in Cesar’s mind. How was he going to let go of what would be a quite rightly pissed off deadly predator?

Impressively, as it goes. James took hold of the tail and Cesar used his other hand to hold the snake a little further back from the neck. He pushed the Boa’s head and half of his arm into the hole, while at the same time readying a second drive of constrictor upwards. In a flash, he yanked his arm back out of the hole and pushed more of the snake in, with his other arm. He was so scared that he jumped down off the table shaking like a leaf. This from a hardened big wave psycho of a fearless surfer. What made us all laugh was that James was left still holding the tail, having not expected Cesar’s desertion from the scene.

If he’d have let go, then the snake’s body weight would have dragged him back out of the hole and down onto the kitchen’s floor, via the table, with a cartoonish double bang. How angry would the Boa be? And what carnage would have ensued as 20 people or so scarpered in all directions, leaving, in all probability, one poor soul directly in the vicinity and strike range of that snake. Stranded, alone on the table top, James kept feeding more and more body weight into the ceiling. Finally, he felt it safe enough to let go and jumped down off the table to join the rest of us standing in awe, watching this scary creature continue to writhe it’s way into it’s new found territory.

Ahhhh, but reality couldn’t let this go by without a hitch. I mean, how often do you slide a deadly creature in between the walls of your own house? Halfway through, the snake got stuck. It’s girth was just too vast for the hole cut for it, testament to the creature’s enormity, just in case you thought I was kidding or exaggerating. Unbelievable stuff, right? I’ve now got half a Latin American Constrictor hanging from the ceiling of my kitchen. The crowd’s standing around not quite sure what to do about it until Cesar, ever the brave lunatic, climbs up with the same big knife and begins to cut away at the hole to make it bigger. Finally, the Boa slides up and out of sight leaving all of us just a little freaked out. Thank God I sleep out in the garden and not upstairs.

That night, over a beer, I have a chat with Kurt, who’s more than happy with the arrangements. “Sure, he’ll live off the rats.” “And then?” I ask. “Oh, he’ll make his way back to jungle, no worries”. Ok.

The next morning Kurt comes downstairs all excited and says, “did you hear them? All the rats?” I said I didn’t because I sleep in the garden and kurt goes, “oh man, like leaving a sinking ship. They were scuttling away over the roof, loads of them. Ha ha…” The roofing in that spot is corrugated steel so their little scrambling claws would have made the scratching, thudding noise Kurt was describing so energetically. But what then was there left for the Boa to live off if all the rats have bolted?

Two days later, a couple with a daughter and a baby in a pram turned up at reception. While the Dad and daughter went in to have a chat, the mother stayed outside with the pram and sat down to have a rest. What she thought of us having a post surf spliff on the patio of her potential hotel had me wondering. So I thought I’d quickly nip this one in the bud, because everyone who stays at Kurt’s is of the young, traveling, surfing variety. A family really wouldn’t have appreciated the kind of drunken, chaotic scenes regularly found here in the evenings.

“I’d get a bungalow in the back garden if I were you”, I said between tokes on my joint. “In the back garden? Why’s that?” she innocently asked. “10 foot Boa loose in the hotel. Might have your baby…” While everyone broke out in stoned hysterics, her eyes widened and never lost contact with mine, to see if I was kidding. “I’m not joking”, I said, keeping as straight a face as I could manage. “Billy the Boa….”

She got up and ran into the hotel’s reception. Without a word, or even a thank you (damn it!), the family were history. As the dust settled, kurt comes out and says, “what was that all about?” We told him and, although he was mad with me for about ten seconds, he finally smiled and said, “they wouldn’t have fit in anyway…”

In my sick, twisted and overtly vivid imagination, I had a very real picture of Billy the Boa unable to retract himself through the hole in which he’d come due to the baby he’d just swallowed. Like a bone in the throat swallowed sideways. The parents would wake in the morning to find the pram empty and a satiated serpent lying halfway into the room, wedged, by an insurmountable object, in a hole. The baby just won’t squeeze through the gap. Like the Aesop fable of the greedy crow who can’t get his hand out of the jar, Billy the Boa would, accidentally, give himself away through no real fault of his own.

Trust me, while the snake would not even be able to get his vast head through the small holes that the rats created for themselves, the rooms were so old and beaten up that loose floorboards, cracks and holes were all over the place. The place was falling apart. I even theorized that the rat holes were probably a decade old anyway.

You can just imagine the screams, can’t you? We put bets down on what the most likely cry might be with, “BOA’S GOT MY BABY!!!” winning hands down. It came to be some kind of warped battle cheer when we went surfing, either just as you were about to paddle for a particularly evil looking wave, or after one had just smashed you.

And, as far as I know, Billy the Boa is still there…

Mr. I

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Responses

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