Today is Cooper’s first birthday. For those who don’t know, Cooper is a young corn snake, and he joined our family on July 4 last year. His story is below, though it’s told from another snake’s point of view. This is all true, so enjoy!
Corny was a corn snake. He was about four feet long, and very proud of his beautiful orange and gold and brown skin. He lived in Mr. H’s classroom at Old Donation Center, where he got to meet all kinds of children, who loved him and took care of him. But sometimes, the children would all go away. Most of the time it was only for a day or two, but at other times, it would be for a week or more. At those times, Corny would get very lonely and sad.One year, Corny met a class of children that he loved. They were always excited to see him, to pick him up and hold him, and to feed him mice. One little girl took him home during a time she called “Spring Break,” and he got to see a different place. Her house was exciting and new, but her mother was afraid of him. Corny didn’t know why anyone would be afraid of him, except for maybe a mouse. Even mice didn’t seem very afraid of him, though. Sometimes Mr. H, or his friend Ms. M, would put a mouse in Corny’s house when he wasn’t very hungry. The mouse would scamper about his house, and sometimes even run up and down Corny’s back. That tickled! Corny would eat the mouse when he was ready, but sometimes they would play together for a few days first. But why would people be afraid of Corny? He would never eat a human – they’re far too big!
Then the girl brought Corny back to the classroom, and he got to see all his friends again. Corny enjoyed watching the children listen to Mr. H and then work on projects. It was especially fun when one child would stand up in front just like Mr. H and teach the other students about something. They would always make such interesting things, like costumes and pictures and posters and models. Corny thought it would be fun to wrap himself around these things and see what they felt like.
A few months later, the children got very excited. They started cleaning up the classroom, putting away all their books, taking the pencils and notebooks out of their desks, and playing and cheering all the time. It made Corny happy to see the children so excited, even though he didn’t know why. One morning, the children all came into the classroom wearing very beautiful clothes. The boys wore nice shirts and pants and these funny things hanging down from their necks, just like Mr. H would wear. The girls wore pretty dresses with lots of ribbons and ruffles and lace. Corny thought those looked like fun to explore. He liked the way smooth ribbons and scratchy lace felt on his skin, and he thought that his colors would look very beautiful with some of those dresses. But as soon as all the children arrived, they all dashed out to go somewhere else, leaving Corny alone in the classroom. Of course, Corny was never completely alone in the classroom. There were other animals living in Mr. H’s room – a rabbit, some guinea pigs, and another snake named Cookies & Cream. But Corny was all alone in his house, and he couldn’t see or talk to the other animals.
It was very quiet in the classroom that morning. Corny could hear cheering and clapping coming from somewhere outside the classroom, and he was happy to hear such cheerful sounds. He hoped the cheerful people would come see him, and maybe hold him and let him play on their hands and arms. Soon enough, Corny’s wish came true! One little girl named Becca came, with her father and mother and her brother Robert. They took Cookie’s house off of the top of Corny’s house, and then, much to his great surprise, they picked up Corny’s house and put it into their car! Corny was leaving Mr. H’s classroom again. He remembered the fun time he had during “Spring Break,” but he knew he would miss all the children.
After a short while, Becca’s dad picked up Corny’s home and took it into a new building. This building was yellow on the outside, kind of like the color of Corny’s soft belly. Corny thought that was a good sign. The family rushed around for a little while, but soon they came in and looked at him. Becca’s dad, Mr. Hedwyg, opened up Corny’s house and picked him up. Becca and Robert took everything out of Corny’s house and cleaned it; then they put some fresh newspaper in the bottom, plus his green carpet and a bowl of water. After they all took turns holding Corny – except for Mrs. Hedwyg, who seemed afraid of him – Becca gently put him back in his house and put the top back on. Corny ducked under his carpet to listen. He heard them talking about a mouse. Corny wasn’t very hungry yet. He wanted to check out his new surroundings before he ate. But he wouldn’t mind having a mouse to keep him company. Corny did hear a dog or two, but they never came into the room with him.
Soon enough, the room was quiet, so Corny peeked out from under his carpet. He didn’t see anyone. He looked up, and could see the ceiling. Cookie’s house wasn’t on top of his any more. Corny went all the way around his house, taking a good look at the room around him. He saw some flowers in a basket, some books and papers, and some chairs that looked like they would be fun places to wrap himself around and to climb up and down. He stretched up and bumped his head against the top of his house. It moved! Corny had never felt that before, so he bumped his head on the top again. It moved again. He went all the way around his house again, bumping his head on the top. It moved a lot at the back corner. Corny thought he would be able to squeeze through if he bumped it there. Then he could play with the flowers and the chair. That would be fun! So Corny went back to that corner and pushed at the top of his house until he squeezed his head through. His body was a little thicker, and the top was hard, but Corny managed to slide all the way through. He slithered over to the flowers in the basket. They were very colorful, but they didn’t smell like real flowers. Then he went back over to his house. Uh oh! He could stretch back up, but he couldn’t get back into the house again. Corny couldn’t push up the top from the outside. He started to feel a little bit afraid, so he decided to find someplace warm and dark, so that he could think.
In a while, Becca and her family came home. They were talking about a mouse, but Corny knew a mouse wouldn’t stay and play with him if he wasn’t in his house. He watched and listened to them as they came into the room. Mr. Hedwyg opened up Corny’s house, picked up the green carpet, and gasped. Corny saw Mr. Hedwyg look under the newspaper. What was he looking for? Then Mr. Hedwyg turned around to Becca and Robert and Mrs. Hedwyg and said, “Corny has escaped.” Mrs. Hedwyg gasped, too, and put her hand in front of her mouth. Becca looked very sad. Then they all got very busy. The Hedwygs started pulling out books and boxes, opening every drawer and looking under every cushion. They spent hours searching through all of the rooms in the downstairs of their house. Corny thought this looked very funny. Eventually, they stopped, and everything got quiet again. Mrs. Hedwyg brought in a brown box, and Corny saw her put his water bowl in it. She set it under a chair, in a quiet corner of the room. After a quick look around, she left the room again.
The next couple of weeks were kind of fun. The Hedwygs’ house got nice and warm, even warmer than Corny’s house had been. Corny heard them talking from another room, and they kept talking about something called “air conditioning.” Corny didn’t know what air conditioning was, but the Hedwygs sure seemed upset about it. For the first few days, one of the Hedwygs would come in and look all around the room every few hours. After that, they came in to peek inside the brown box, and to put clean water in it, but they didn’t spend much time in the room. Then, Corny heard a lot of noise and several people two days in a row. Halfway through the second day, it started to get cooler in the house. By the time it was dark, Corny was shivering. Why on earth would anybody want to be so cold? Corny missed his warm house, with his green carpet and his water bowl. He was hungry, too, and missed Mr. H and all the children.
One day, Becca and Robert came in and were very excited. Corny loved to listen to excited children. They were holding a red tub and talking about somebody named Cooper. Mr. Hedwyg came in and started straightening up Corny’s house, and then he took the red tub and dumped it out into Corny’s house. Out came a teeny tiny snake. Oh no! The Hedwygs had put a different snake into Corny’s house! Didn’t they know where he was? Corny was upset. That was his house. He didn’t want a little baby messing up his house! But Becca and Robert kept talking to the baby snake and calling it Cooper. They even put Corny’s water bowl into the house with Cooper, and put a smaller bowl into the brown box. This was not fair. Corny decided he would have to do something about it… but what?
After another couple of days hiding in his warm, quiet spot – which wasn’t very warm at all any more – Corny had a plan. Mrs. Hedwyg had a big black backpack that she picked up every morning when she left the house, and brought back every afternoon when she came home. It had funny-smelling black boxes in it, that she would open up and play with sometimes, and it had books and pens and other strange things inside. It looked like a fun place to play, but Corny hadn’t checked it out yet. That evening, Mrs. Hedwyg took out her funny black box to play with. After everything was dark and quiet, Corny slithered into the backpack. It was warmer than his hiding place, and it did turn out to be a fun place to play. He liked the metal rings on one book. He stuck his head inside them, but the rest of his body wouldn’t fit. When it started to grow light again outside the backpack, Corny heard Mrs. Hedwyg come downstairs. She talked to the dogs and gave them food and water. Then she came in with her black box, and she slid it into the backpack – right on top of Corny! It was heavy! Corny was uncomfortable under the black box, so he tried to move up some in the backpack. He felt a round thing on the side of the black box, and it had the letters “DELL.” Then Mrs. Hedwyg picked up the backpack and left the house.
She put the backpack down after just a moment, and he heard some strange sounds. Then a deep rumbling started, just like when Mr. Hedwyg had put Corny into his car. Aha! Corny was inside Mrs. Hedwyg’s car! They drove for a little while, and then Corny felt the backpack being picked up again. He wondered where they were. Mrs. Hedwyg said hello to somebody, and then put the backpack down. Corny heard her talking to another lady for a couple minutes. Then suddenly, there was bright light, and he heard a loud scream. Where did that come from? Corny poked up his head and squinted into the light. He stuck out his tongue to sniff the air. It smelled very different from the Hedwygs’ house and from Mr. H’s classroom. Where was he? Then Corny saw Mrs. Hedwyg’s face and heard another scream. It came from Mrs. Hedwyg. Why was she screaming at him? Then Mrs. Hedwyg reached down toward the backpack and zipped it shut, and Corny couldn’t see anything any more. He heard voices, Mrs. Hedwyg, the other lady, and now a man, too. The other voices told Mrs. Hedwyg to go home, because they didn’t want to have a snake in the office. Corny was confused. Why wouldn’t people want him around? He knew he was a nice snake and a beautiful snake, and he would never eat people. Corny felt her pick up the backpack again, and then put it down in the car and drive home.
While they were in the car, Corny could hear Mrs. Hedwyg’s voice talking to somebody, but he couldn’t hear any other voices. First she talked to somebody named “Jerry.” She sounded very nervous. Corny heard Mrs. Hedwyg tell the story about what had just happened. She sounded very surprised that he was in her backpack. But Corny thought it was a comfortable place. He was sorry he hadn’t gone in there earlier. Then Corny heard her call Rob, and he knew this was what she called Mr. Hedwyg. She told Mr. Hedwyg to wake up Becca and Robert, because she was coming home with Corny. Soon enough, Corny heard the car stop and felt Mrs. Hedwyg pick up the backpack again.
This time, when the backpack opened and Corny saw the light, it wasn’t so bright. And there looking at him were Becca and Robert and Mr. Hedwyg. Corny looked up at them and stuck out his tongue to sniff the air. He was definitely back at the Hedwygs’ house! They carefully lifted Corny out of the backpack and put him back into his own house again. Corny looked around, but the baby snake Cooper wasn’t there. Good! He didn’t want to share his house. Corny liked playing with people, but he wanted to have his own place, too. Becca cleaned his water bowl, and Mr. Hedwyg put it into Corny’s house. Corny took a big, long drink. That water was so good! Corny hadn’t realized how thirsty he was until he started drinking. He thought he would never stop. After he satisfied his thirst, Corny ducked under his green carpet. He was happy to be back in his own house. He saw Mr. Hedwyg put two big black rocks on top of his house, and Corny knew he was home to stay.
A couple hours later, the Hedwygs came back into the room. They moved Corny’s house to a different spot, right below a beautiful bouquet that was hanging on the wall. It smelled like eucalyptus, and had other flowers tucked into it. Corny thought it looked like an awesome playground. Then the Hedwygs put another house right next to his, and then put the baby snake Cooper into it. Now that Corny got a good look, he saw that Cooper was a very beautiful snake, too. But Cooper was very shy, and spent most of his time hiding in his little cave or underneath his newspaper. Cooper would only come out when it was dark in the room and very quiet, after the Hedwygs had all gone upstairs. Then the Hedwygs took away Corny’s green carpet, and put a big black cave into Corny’s house. He darted right into it. How cool! Now Corny had a great place to sit in the dark and think. He loved it! They also put Corny’s water bowl into Cooper’s house, and put an even bigger one into Corny’s house. Corny was glad about that. His skin was feeling itchy, so Corny knew he would be shedding soon. He liked to take long baths in his water bowl when he was getting ready to shed. This water bowl would be much more comfortable for baths. The Hedwygs put a mouse into Corny’s house, too. It tickled Corny by scampering up and down his back, and then snuggled up with Corny and took a nap. Corny thought it was a nice mouse. It would be sad when he got hungry enough to eat it.
Two nights later, he did. Corny was finally ready to shed. Shedding was never very comfortable, and this time was no exception. Even after all his drinking and baths since the Hedwygs had put him back into his house, Corny knew that his skin was still too dry. Instead of coming off in one smooth piece, Corny’s skin flaked off in many pieces. He moved all over his house, trying to get the pieces off. The mouse didn’t understand what he was doing, and huddled in the corner. After the skin came off, Corny realized that he was starving. He darted right over to the corner and grabbed the mouse. The mouse didn’t know what was happening, which was okay with Corny, because he didn’t want to scare it after it had been a nice companion for two days. But the mouse did make a fine meal. Corny found the entrance to his cave, and curled up back inside again, feeling very content with his fresh, new skin and his full belly.
The next few weeks were fun and happy. The Hedwygs gave Corny mice, and he ate them up. They would take him out of his house and let him play. He explored the bouquet that was hanging on the wall – it was eucalyptus, very fragrant and very fun – and the interesting chairs that had looked so appealing before. Sometimes Mr. Hedwyg would take Corny into another room, where he would sit down and let Corny play. Mr. Hedwyg would play with his black box that said “DELL,” but he would also use a little gray-and-black thing with it. Mr. Hedwyg called it a mouse, but Corny didn’t think it smelled like a mouse or felt like a mouse. Corny wanted to play, too. His favorite thing was to wrap himself around the strange “mouse” and pick it up with his body. This always made Mr. Hedwyg laugh, and Corny loved happy sounds like laughter. If Mr. Hedwyg had other small things, like his blue phone or an empty can, Corny would pick those up with his body, too. Becca and Robert loved to watch him do this. One day, Becca brought in a strange brown tube and showed it to Corny. He was instantly curious. Where did the tube go? What was on the other side? He stuck his head in and darted through. On the other end was Becca, and she was smiling and laughing at him. Corny smiled back, and then he turned around and went the other way through the tube. There he could see Robert and Mr. Hedwyg. They smiled and laughed, too. What great fun! So Corny turned around and went back into the tube, but then he got stuck. Uh oh! This wasn’t very comfortable! Corny tried to push his way through the tube, but it didn’t work. Soon enough, the Hedwygs realized he was stuck, and they gently pulled him out. Whew! But that was fun! After that, just about every time the Hedwygs took Corny out to play, they let him play in the tube.
One day, Corny heard a bunch of children’s voices. Was he back in the classroom again? He peeked out of his cave. There were Becca and Robert and Mr. Hedwyg, and a bunch of children that Corny didn’t recognize. Becca pointed to one little girl and said, “Corny, this is Hannah. She will be in Mr. H’s class with you next year.” Corny thought Hannah looked like a nice girl. All the children looked very excited to see him. Mr. Hedwyg took Corny out, and they each touched him with one finger and exclaimed at how soft Corny’s skin was. Corny thought this was funny – didn’t everybody know that his skin was soft? What did they think, that he was slimy and nasty? Then the children left, and Mr. Hedwyg put Corny back into his house. That was fun, Corny thought. He missed being in the classroom with all the children, but he liked living with the Hedwygs, too.
But still, Mrs. Hedwyg kept screaming at him. Corny didn’t understand this at all. Did she think he was going to hurt her? When Mr. Hedwyg or Becca or Robert urged her to touch Corny, she would come up and pet him gently with her finger. But if she was surprised, she would scream. Mr. Hedwyg encouraged her to hold Corny, and one time she was holding his tail, but then she screamed and gave him back to Mr. Hedwyg. She ran out of the room and hid somewhere for a while. Robert and Becca laughed, but Corny was sad that Mrs. Hedwyg couldn’t bring herself to play with him the way the other Hedwygs did. He thought she seemed like a perfectly nice person to play with. Why else would he have hidden in her backpack?
Soon enough, the summer was over. Corny had shed a second time, and had eaten lots of mice. Mr. Hedwyg gave him a mouse, and all the Hedwygs watched Corny as he ate it. Corny had always hated to have people watch him eat before, but he didn’t mind any more. The Hedwygs would watch intently, and say things like “Wow” and “That’s amazing.” Corny didn’t know why eating would be so amazing, but if they were going to say nice things like that, then he didn’t mind. Plus, they would take out the black cave to give him extra room while he ate, and then they would tuck him back into it when he had finished. Two days later, Mr. Hedwyg put Corny’s house into his car, and all the Hedwygs went with him back to the classroom. They carried Corny back into his old, familiar home. There was Mr. H, and he smiled when he saw Corny and the Hedwygs. They settled Corny’s house back into its regular place, and he peeked out of his black cave to check out the classroom. Mr. H and the Hedwygs talked for a little while, and then the Hedwygs left. Becca and Robert said good-bye, and Corny thought he saw a couple of tears in Becca’s eyes. But he knew that Becca would never admit this, so he decided never to tell anyone. Then Mr. H stood in front of Corny’s house, looked in at him, and said, “Well, Corny, it sounds like you’ve had quite an adventure this summer. But the children will be back soon, and everything will be back to normal. Welcome home!”