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Battling creatures great and small

Gather 'round, children, and huddle close together. Hold tightly to each other or clutch your lucky talismen, for it's a tale of terror I intend to weave.

This story is not for the faint of heart. It's likely to take you places you don't want to go where you'll see things you don't want to see. But it's an exciting tale, and I'm obliged to tell it.

Now that you've been fairly warned, let's begin.

Tales of the macabre bring visions of the dark and stormy, the damp, dank and musty, of places in the shadows where you can't always be sure of what you're seeing.

But our tale is made all the more scary because it happened in bright daylight, on a sunny day, a time when you might think that the evil and the dastardly are in hiding.

It was a Monday afternoon, a beautiful fall day with a crispness in the air outside.

The air in the newsroom, where I was, was sort of funky because the air conditioning was off.

I was hard at work when the call of distress came.

At the other end of the building, a hero was needed.

My heart swelled with pride as at least five brave knights and one fair lady rose to the challenge, all ready to do battle with whatever scourge occupied our facility. We marched purposefully to the other end of the building, a phalanx of nobility, armed with nothing but curiosity.

And it was there on the tile, out in the open in all its hideous visciousness and evil, that we saw it - the serpent.

The beast was coiled, ready to strike. Its black, forked tongue flittered in and out, in and out, and it eyed us with its beady black eyes, daring us to approach.

"Don't get too close," I said. "What kind is it?" someone asked. Woodsman that I am, I surveyed its markings and replied, "I think it's a rattlesnake."

No, it's a king snake, said one. A rat snake, said another. I was already starting to doubt my first observation, but I wasn't really sure, so I said again that I thought it was a rattlesnake. No one really agreed with me. Everyone did agree that getting too close was a bad idea.

Then one brave soul threw caution to the wind and attempted to capture the beast, the rest of our knight's patrol stopping her with precious seconds to spare.

Then there was much discussion and picture-taking.

Another attempt was made to capture it, but this attempt was turned away.

Then I moved in.

What happened next, friends, will chill you to your very bones.

The serpent struck! Like lightning it lashed out, a hideous mouth carrying certain death.

I parried its blow with a newspaper. I grabbed a second newspaper and attempted to corral it. Quickly realizing the folly of that plan, I called for a cardboard box. One was brought, posthaste.

With box and paper in hand, I herded the great hissing monster. It resisted, but I persisted, deftly using my weapons to trap the beast.

The serpent hissed and slithered, desperately seeking a way out of its cell.

I made for the door. Another brave knight, Sir David Friedlander, held it open, and I fled with my captured quarry toward the bushes. Only when I was safely away did I allow the serpent a route of escape.

I returned to the building, a triumphant knight, having dispatched with the beast. And fear reigned no more on our little piece of land.

When I got home from work that evening, my daughter had made me a Certificate of Excellence - which is now proudly displayed on the side of my desk - that said I was "being recognized for outstanding service for picking up a snake."

And no prouder knight was there in all the land.

I didn't bother to tell her that it was just a baby rat snake.

Or that maybe - maybe - it might have measured a foot long, if two people each grabbed an end and stretched it out.

Or that it was most likely more scared of us than we were of it.

Oh, and speaking of facts I left out, did I mention that it was the second baby snake that's been seen around here in a week? And you know where there are baby snakes, there's a mama.

But no one has seen her.

Yet.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.