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Memoir: Hungry Hungry Snake

Kylie Nasworthy

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Guts are used for digestion, not for thinking.

I was six years old when we went to Taco Bell after school. We sat in the squishy blue booth. Mom got a Mexican pizza, and I had two supreme tacos with verde and hot sauce.

Normal. Then the screaming started in the drive-through.

All the customers, I and my medical assistant mother included, rushed outside to see the ground littered with shattered glass from the driver’s side window. A woman, 20s or 30s, dunno, sat crying and bleeding on the sidewalk.  

“There’s a snake! I’m telling you!”

She was hysterical, pointing toward her Ford.

Sure enough, it was a striped coral snake on the floor under the passenger seat.

She discovered the snake when she placed her order at the cashier.  In fear, she threw her whole body through the window to escape the reptilian intruder.

With all due credit to hardwired human behavior, evolutionary psychology, Darwin, and the Homo sapien mind, humans, and their instincts, are irrational.

“Listen to your gut” is a common phrase in our world.

When the gut is full of Taco Bell, it may not be a good choice. And I mean Taco Bell as well as “Taco Bell.”

A human brain has more than 100 trillion synapses that can travel at speeds up 268 miles per hour along an alpha motor neuron in the spinal cord, in which stimuli is received and transmitted. In those racing milliseconds, any action may prove to be extremely helpful or quite the opposite and will force you to absorb and respond to cascades of information.  

Process and then respond.  Don’t react.

Meanwhile, the gut is a mess, a morass, a mixed-up muddle of fear, junk, non-existent saber-toothed tigers, and “Taco Bell.”

If you put your hand on a burning stove, the reaction is to yank it away. There is no thought, no decision making, just “do.”  But “do” instincts are not helpful, especially in the Taco Bell drive through.

Twenties/30s lady cried on the sidewalk, face in hands, knees pulled in. Angry, bloody slashes covered her body. As Medical Assistant Mom cleaned her wounds, random people were trying to comfort 20s/30s.

The paramedics arrived and pushed us all back.  Still shocked and shaken, she needed space to breathe.  

In the book The Kite Runner, a little boy named Amir writes a story about a man who discovers a magical cup that can turn tears into pearls. This man was poor and wanted to be rich, so he stabs his wife to produce these tears.

Another boy, Hassan, is perplexed by Amir’s story. Why didn’t the man just sniff an onion?

What he said was very wise and so blatantly obvious. But, the messy gut, the morass, the mixed-up muddle of fear, junk, non-existent saber-toothed tigers, and “Taco Bell,” overruled the brain.

The man had pearls but no wife.  Twenties/30s didn’t even get Taco Bell.

I rose from the sidewalk, approached the passenger side of the sedan, my feet crackling the broken glass, and I pulled on the handle.  The door was unlocked. The snake assessed the situation, saw I was no threat (as I saw him), and the narrow fellow slithered out of the car, into the grass, and behind the dumpster.

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Memoir: Hungry Hungry Snake