Tuesday morning Ike called me.
"Gone, what do you mean?" I asked calmly. I was thinking back to the last time I saw Spotty, on Saturday, and I know Ike fed him on Sunday. I guiltily remembered seeing the top to the reptile aquarium slightly ajar on Sunday. When I tried to replace it, I had trouble, and worried I would break it. I made a mental note to ask Ike to fix it, one that got lost in the flurry of post-its in my brain.
"I can't find him. He must have escaped."
Ike must have anticipated an angrier reaction from me, because he was armed with internet knowledge.
"I read that corn snakes can live without food, in a house, for six months to a year. And if they escape into the wild, they are home free. I think he will be OK."
I replied, "Well, I really don't think we are going to find him. Why don't you just buy another one? It's not like he's a dog, and we haven't had him that long. The kids will never know the difference."
When I said that, I was thinking of all the little things that already disturbed a good night's sleep, in our household. Nightmares - Sicily has been having more of them lately, especially at the beginning of her sleep. And John has yet to shed his habit of sneaking into our bed between 3:00 and 5:00 in the morning, which sometimes turns my early a.m. run and our getting ready time before the kids wake up into chaos. I imagined their thoughts of a loose snake in the house -- one that Sicily is comfortable with as long as an adult is with her when she holds him, and one that John still doesn't want to hold by himself -- would initiate a new round of nocturnal bedlam I hadn't seen the likes of since John was still up nursing three or four times a night. The thought of it made my stomach turn.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to retract them. I remembered all of the stories I had read as a child, where the parents tried to pass off a replacement for a favorite doll or a pet to their children. In the stories, the parents were the evil villains. The kids always figured it out in the end, and the parents took a big fall off of their pedestal. So when Ike replied,
"I don't think we should lie to the kids. I'll tell them about it tonight," I didn't protest. I told him that was the right thing to do.
After the kids went to bed Tuesday night, I asked Ike, "How did it go? Did you tell them?"
He said, "The more I thought about it, I just couldn't. I decided I'll buy another one tomorrow, like you said, and we can just see what happens."
So Wednesday night when the kids went to see Spotty, they remarked at his transformation. Sicily said, "He is so much darker! His spots are whiter! He looks so different!"
Ike guiltily replied, "He finally shed! I cleaned his skin out of the cage today. Isn't it amazing how different a snake looks when it sheds its skin?"
When Sicily asked to hold him, she noted, "He is so much thinner! He must have lost a whole lotta skin."
Needless to say, we passed it off. I feel shameful, but am glad that there isn't another excuse for not sleeping in the house. Here I sit, the evil villain of my childhood stories. I'm on the other side now, and can finally see it from the parental perspective. Not that that makes it right, but still. Someday I will confess to the ones that matter - the kids. In the meantime, I will suffer my call silently and deservedly, however warped my reasoning for the heavy workload is.