The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.
- G. K. Chesterton
So I met the father of Ava Devillis’s child today. Yep. That happened.
Have you ever met someone you had no business meeting? I mean touching base with someone in someone else’s life that has no meaning to you and yet being forced to interact with that person? It is like when you were a child and you met some distant cousin and were forced to play with them, but worse because in the real world you should be able to walk away from these freaky distant people.
Here’s how it happened:
I am opening the library when a knock comes at the door. This is a normal occurrence. Somebody often knocks on the library door before we open for a variety of reasons. Some times they have some really important things to donate and do not want to leave them by the book drop. Other times they have important news to bestow, like there is someone dropping DVDs in the book drop marked “Audio/Video” rather than the one marked “Books.” Then there are just people who do not understand the simple concept of hours and locks.
I go to the door and peek out, fully ready to tell the person we open at eight. What I see is Ava and a gentleman. He looks like a cross between Jack from
and Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols. His hair is up in spikes and his clothes are tattered and worn through in several places. I open the door.
“Ava?” I said.
“Hi, Evan, I’m sorry I didn’t use the back door and I know I’m not supposed to be here ‘til later to close up tonight, but Seth wanted to talk to you,” Ava said.
I let the two of them in and closed the door. The guy held his hand out to me.
“I hear you got a bit of a snake problem,” Seth said.
I shook his hand and looked at Ava. She shrugged.
“Yeah, I said. Animal control’s been looking-”
“Shit,” Seth said, “Those peckerwood’s couldn’t find the ground barefoot. Why don’t you let me help you out?”
I studied the guy. He did not seem the most resourceful guy by the state of him. I felt desperation leaking from him but at the same time it did not seem for drugs or money. I used to run with folks around New Orleans dressed like him, the punk crowd that you could smell a mile away either by the booze or simple body odor. This guy seemed to be playing dress-up.
“Well, I’ve got to get back to Forrest so I’ll leave you boys to it,” Ava said.
“Can I see the little guy tomorrow? Me and you and him could go to the park or something?” Seth said.
“We’ll see. Just help out Mr. Banned here.”
And with that Ava left. I was stunned. What the hell was going on here? How often do I have to ask that question?
Seth must have seen a confused look on my face.
“We made a deal,” he said, “I help you out with the snake and I get to see my son. I’m Forrest’s daddy. Don’t tell anybody, though, it’s kinda behind the lawyer’s backs. My momma’s spent a fortune trying to get me visitation and it wouldn’t be right to let the cat out of the bag.”
“Right,” I said, imagining Ava and Seth spawning. From the few times I had seen Forrest, the child did not seem to favor the guy standing in front of me, but what did I know?
“Right,” I repeated, “So are you an exterminator or...”
“Naw,” he said, “I just used to play with snakes a lot when I was little. Cottonmouths ain’t all that bad as long as you leave them alone. I can probably find him.”
“Okay, I just ask because I don’t really have much money in the budget-”
He held up a hand, “Mr. Banned... if doing this means I can see my boy and Ava then I’ll find your snake. Alive and safe and sound.”
I nodded, “I don’t mean to pry but you two seem friendly enough.”
He looked back to the door. His shoulder’s slumped a little and his mouth became a straight line.
“Like I said, Mr. Banned, I used to play with snakes when I was younger,” he said, “I know how to handle them.”
When he turned back to me he looked older and deflated. I could see him age before me, the devotion to his child and the sadness breaking over his face. Something deep inside my chest burned for a second.
I showed him around the library, where the snake had escaped from and the possible exit routes. I took him downstairs and introduced him to Dave. Then I gave him free reign throughout the library to hunt Victor the Viper. As I went to unlock the door to start the day, I was still not sure about snake-whisperer Seth.
One thing I could be certain of is Ava Devillis dropping one more thing in my lap.
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