As teashoesandhair would put it, if you don’t want to hear a story about a snake, some dead cats, and a complete BAMF of a teacher, press J on your keyboard now. Trigger warning for the aforementioned snakes and dead cats.
I took anatomy sophomore year.
I’m going to call the teacher Mrs. Rodriguez because if I told you her real name you’d be able to google her and My God, do Things Come Up in that google search. Not things like things but things that are weird for your sophomore anatomy teacher to be doing. Things like speaking at a panel at a con about POC in sci-fi media. Things like being in a lowkey girl gang and reviewing movies on a YouTube channel with the word “mafia” in the username. Things that you will understand when you’re finished reading this.
Mrs. Rodriguez is a not a big, hulking woman, nor is she mean in any way. She’s actually pretty unassuming (and sleepy, at least when I had her at 8 in the morning). But this woman is a calm fury, always borderline Is-This-a-Joke-Or?, terrifyingly cavalier when it comes to dangerous chemicals/Real and Actual dead things/comparing organs of the body to foods you no longer want to eat again ever, and educated on social topics and not afraid to call out bigoted students. I have witnessed this. She drinks out of an oversized coffee mug with brass knuckles painted on the side and has lots of spooky animals in her room. Living and dead.
And, My God, deadpan doesn’t even begin to cover her. To sum up Mrs. Rodriguez, consider our first interaction with her. It’s the first week of the year and we’re all Smart Kids™ so all we’re trying to do is suck up. Quite a daunting task, as we’re soon to find. Picture this whole conversation in the most tired, bored tone, as if she’s perpetually not quite on her second cup of coffee.
Mrs. Rodriguez: So this is the class snake. His name is Houdini. Poor child who doesn’t know what she’s getting into: Why is he called that? Mrs. Rodriguez: *sips coffee* Mrs Rodriguez: Because he escapes the tank. Mrs. Rodriguez, moving right the fuck along: And these are the class rats. They’re named Milk and Cookies. Mrs. Rodriguez: *sips coffee* Mrs. Rodriguez: Yeah, they’re going to die soon.
This dialogue is not embellished and this is literally what she said.
Anyway, on to the story. So it’s the fourth quarter of the school year, meaning we’re well on the way of our final project: a cat dissection. It’s mega gross, of course. Each be-gloved high schooler is like wrist deep in cat intestine. I’ll stop there and let you picture it.
So Mrs. Rodriguez sets us off on our daily task of whatever it is we were supposed to dissect out and decides this a fine time to clean out the snake’s cage. And by snake, I don’t mean the aforementioned Houdini. Houdini is a little black curious noodle. He’s never harmed anyone and even the kids with a phobia of snakes admit he’s kind of cute. When he gets out, he kind of slithers about and eventually returns home, no harm or foul. No, I’m talking about the other snake, Mr. Kipling.
Mr. Kipling is the class’s recent addition, after the rats (as predicted) shed their mortal coils. Mr. Kipling is not an adorable noodle. Mr. Kipling is an angry, temperamental, grudge-keeping asshole of a snake. He’s never eaten anything in his entire time at the school and spends the whole days looking pissed off and sleeping. Everyone hates Mr. Kipling.
So Mr. Kipling is glaring however snakes glare, Mrs. Rodriguez is calmly attempting to ease him out of the tank and into this bucket, and the whole class is transfixed. The cats lay dead and forgotten.
You must understand, this is pretty much the first time Mr. Kipling has moved, let alone left the tank. Some brave souls reach out to pet him before reconsidering.
Mrs. Rodriguez makes quick work of the snake cage while Mr. Kipling chills in his bucket. However, when time comes to move Kipling back in the tank, he doesn’t budge. Mrs. Rodriguez is literally holding this bucket upside down and the snake, despite all laws of physics that claim otherwise, is holding fast to the bottom (top?) of the bucket. She’s shaking the bucket. We’re transfixed. He refuses to move. What a dick. And then, of course, if it all couldn’t have gone to shit more,
The fire alarm rings.
There was an evacuation drill that we had all forgotten about, being so caught up in both cat and snake. And it’s not like we could stop to pick up after ourselves, since administration takes evacuation drills hella seriously. So we make split-second decisions.
Some kids immediately leave the room and head into the bathroom stalls across from us, their plan being to stake out until administration passes by and they could pop back into the classroom. Others, like myself, figure the period is basically over anyway, shed our gloves and hand-sanitize up to the armpits. Still more decide “fuck it,” leave the class, shove their goopy hands in the air, and shout “DON’T TOUCH ME I’M COVERED IN CAT INTESTINE.”
To each his own I guess. But dear Mrs. Rodriguez also decides “fuck it,” turns the snake-filled bucket back around, puts the lid on it, and TAKES IT WITH HER.
SHE’S JUST CASUALLY WALKING THE HALLS WITH A BUCKET OF SNAKE.
My god we must have been a sight to see. A horde of smart-ass high schoolers, some practically drowning in hand sanitizer, some with wide, concentrating eyes and hands up in the air that hopefully are not dripping ominously, some missing all together. And the leader of the anatomy class gang, Mrs. Rodriguez, calmly holding a bucket that is definitely not hissing and bumping, topped off with a haphazard “DANGER: LIVE SNAKE” sign.
No wonder the whole school talks about us.
And to top it off, we ended up missing the mandatory school assembly (also enforced strictly by the dreaded administration) under the excuse “Well, Ma’am, do you want us to leave out the formaldehyde-laden cat carcasses?” We took an agonizingly long time cleaning up, of course. But someone is still missing. And just as soon as we notice this, someone points dramatically towards the window.
“Look, it’s Mrs. Rodriguez!”
And there she is, walking as casually as ever down the quad, sun shining at her back like some sort of goddamn storybook legend, open bucket bouncing against her side, and a huge fucking asshole snake hanging from her shoulders.