We found a rough earth snake in the yard last week. His kind was new to me: skinny and brown with pale bellies, they burrow under mulch and soil and feed on worms and bugs. He was trying to burrow when we found him, but he’d gotten himself on the wrong side of the sidewalk, where the rain and sun had alternately soaked and baked the red clay into a pottery slope held fast by a scraggle of grass, and in his haste to escape our approach he struggled furiously in place, diving at the impossible earth, rather than risk exposure on concrete . Likely he’d come from the old flower bed that runs along the house, but there he’d been bounded by hard surface, his options limited to a narrow strip of granny planting, so I slid a finger through his coil to move him to the garden a few feet away where the soil was more welcoming and, I thought, he’d do more good than harm. There are worms to spare; he can help himself.
He did his best to threaten me the whole ride, rearing back and waggling his head at me — I’ve never seen such pluck, or such awareness, from a worm snake, which this so much resembled; worm snakes, when I’ve helped them out of reach of a hoe or mattock, seem to regard my finger as an odd sort of moving stick and coil round it for safety until it stops. The earth snake, when I set him down, paused long enough to fix me with his tiny eye, stretch himself as near my height as he could — which is to say, four inches to my six-one, with jaws too narrow to nip even the end of my pinkie, but I let him have his moment. Then, satisfied that I wouldn’t be doing that again, he made his way under the wheat-straw mulch behind the tomatoes, and disappeared.