I step out into the yard and peer through the angled slats on the gate
They’re still hard at work. The crew down the street has been loading wheelbarrows and shovelling sand for the better part of the day. Their voices carry, jubilant, unified.
Vietnamese do not shy from work.
I head back towards the house when I spot movement through the grass
This lizard is bigger than I’m used to. Maybe a meter long.
And it doesn’t have legs.
Visual cortex catches up to language processing and the name of this creature reaches my brain
For some reason she strikes me as female (I don’t know how to determine the gender of snakes and am pretty sure I won’t be getting close enough to find out). But even from a few meters away, she’s beautiful. Bright green scales cascade into orange-red tones nuzzled near those unblinking, deep-pool, all-seeing eyes.
She nuzzles her way into the narrow bed, sneaking behind the cover of leaf. Edges to the left, then to the right, tongue extended, scoping out this novel territory. She attempts, unsuccessfully, to slide up the smooth facade of the cement wall. Then, finally, comes to a stop.
Hidden. Invisible, honestly, to all except me, and only because I happened to be paying attention.
There’s a snake down here
I call up to Rhino
Down here. In the garden.
Looks like it’s trying to find its way out of the yard.
For whatever reason, I’ve never feared snakes. They’ve always been more of a curiosity to me. I read a book when I was younger emphasizing that they really want nothing to do with us, and I was satisfied, all good.
But here, it pays to be cautious.
Our scaly interloper remains secluded behind the bright purple and green leaves of the ground cover, unmoving.
And so very, very silent.
As if in solidarity,
I keep still
And the world around us seems to stop
I spend the better part of a minute waiting for her to move, to slide out, to head for the hills.
But apparently her first instinct is to hide. Be still. Wait for dark.
My first instinct, conversely, is to call down the street. Locals will definitely know whether this slither is a venomous one.
I use the moment of standoff to search for venomous snakes Vietnam on my phone. Thankfully, the first four hits look nothing like our new friend.
A Non La pokes its way above the fence. The lady in charge of trash removal is busy on the other side.
I call to her – after a quick translate –
Có một con rắn trong sân, bạn có thể giúp đỡ?
There is a snake in the yard
Can you help?
She wanders around the pillared gate and peers at the bushes. I’m confident she has some sort of local wisdom or charm to keep us all safe
She gently nudges her trash bag into the flower bed.
She mutters a few words
And eases backward out of the gate, crossing her arms in the universal body language for
You’re on your own, mister.
To which I reply, in my head
I’ve got someone to keep me company