After our walk in Riva, we went into a reptile house. Yes, the town is deserted, but Reptiland was open for business. Everyday from 11 am to 8 pm (closed January when they pack up the whole brood for holiday in South America). I guess you might have to live in Italy to appreciate hours like these. A woman opened the door for us when she noticed us loitering outside. Punks 8 and under were free, so it was just 6 euros to get in. She called out to someone and took off around some partitions. The man that she had apparently been calling for appeared from the other direction and they circled each other for about half a minute. This couple finally took our admission fee and then swiftly disappeared, leaving us to ourselves and three rooms of venomous snakes and spiders.
We took it slow. Snake by snake, we identify it's name, where it's from (by identify I mean reading the card taped to the tank) and what it prefers to eat. It's all written on the side of the tank in three languages with a colored world map, so that was fun. Some of the snakes move. Most don't. But it's all terribly exciting for the kids. I'm milking the situation.
After about 20 minutes, we're roughly half way through the house when the the male proprietor comes in the room and drops a tension bomb. He's sweating slightly and short of breath. And starts pacing between the backroom and one of the tanks. He looks agitated. He's carrying a pole with rubber hooks on the end. You know, one of those things crazy people pick up snakes with.
It looks exactly like he's lost a snake.
Punkette, bless her soul, continues her oohing and aahing over the creepy crawlers. Punkone and I are looking at this guy with restrained panic. Keep in mind that we've just spent 20 minutes massaging the creep centers of our temporal lobes.
Assessing the situation, I quickly chill about the white walls and the ceiling, but the damn floors were covered with persian rugs. What the hell? Who lines the floors of a snake house with persian rugs? A tiger could hide in that room.
So, I'm stepping lightly, and, logically, we head over to check out the tank that the guy seems to be so nervous about. It's a venomous something or other. It's occupied (whew) and it's got a mouse in it's mouth.
Ok. This is cool! Education. We've just been discussing what and how snakes eat and now the kids can see this snake swallow a mouse. We watch and watch and watch, but it doesn't seem like the mouse is getting swallowed. It seems the mouse is doing a good job of gagging the snake. It's sideways in the snake's mouth with the head sticking out one side and the butt out the other. While I think, survival of the fittest, having known other devoted snake owners, I wonder if this is what the guy's so upset about.
Who knows. The guy continued pacing and mumbling and sweating like a maniac and we didn't stay much longer to find out what the problem was. We quickly finished the circuit and got out of there. Dude was creeping me out.