“BUT A PYTHON, Mom?” Hannah bellowed. Emma held the phone away from her ear and grimaced.
“I have to admit; that’s pretty far out,” she said, with a shiver.
“How big is this thing?”
“He’s only a baby but he’ll grow and I’m absolutely, unequivocally, not having him in this house!”
“Where is he at the moment?” her mother asked.
“In Emma Rose’s bedroom—along with the guinea pig, the lop, the newt, and Magoo, of course. By the sounds of the squawking, I’d say Magoo isn’t any happier about this than I am.
Her mother sighed. “What does Warren say? Or does he know yet?”
“Oh, he knows all right. And when he gets home from work, he’ll be dealing with it. This is one time when dear ol’ dad is going to have to put his over-indulgent foot down—hard! It’s either me, or the snake. One of us will be exiting, and fast.”
Hannah and Warren Johnston were the parents of headstrong seventeen-year-old Emma Rose, alias ER, and fifteen-year-old Jared, together the main focal point of their lives. Beyond that, they were both corporate lawyers in Toronto, and commuted daily to work from their recently purchased home in suburbia.
“One of the incentives for buying a house,” Hannah continued, “was to accommodate ER’s critter passion, but this time she’s gone too far. She begged for the rabbit and the guinea pig and I guess she sneaked the newt in on the sly. When she started pining for a parrot, I nixed it at first, so of course, she started working on her father. You know he’s an absolute wuss when it comes to the kids—I’m the heavy around here. When I finally buckled and we bought Magoo, along with all the paraphernalia—which wasn’t cheap—we told her that her menagerie was complete.
“Now, what does she do but bring home, in her words, ‘a poor abused Python’ which belonged to a friend of a friend.”
“Well,” Emma Rose’s grandmother, Emma Harrington, who’s name ER had inherited, said weakly, “It could be boys you’re dealing with.”
“I think boys would be easier,” Hannah grumbled. “At least that’s more normal. You know, Mom, ER could be just about anything she wanted. Let me tell you what her biology teacher said to me the other day. He thinks she’s the brightest student he’s ever had—brilliant, was his word. He predicts she’ll be a famous scientist someday. How many kids finish high school at seventeen and get accepted at McMaster University on full scholarship?
“On top of that, she’s gorgeous, if I do say so myself. She takes after her grandmother. One boy or another is forever calling here. But does she care about any of that?” Hannah was shouting again. Her mother winced. “Not on your life! While most of her friends are guy-crazy and into smearing make-up on their faces, all our ER cares about are birds, bunnies—and now reptiles.”
“She has kept up with her dance classes,” Emma interjected in her defence.
“That’s true,” Hannah conceded, dropping her voice a notch. “And she does take excellent care of the animals.”
“And she’s a straight A student in advanced studies, not to mention, bilingual,” Emma added. She paused for a minute, wondering what she could do to ease the apparent mother/daughter friction playing out in the Johnston household. She knew that everything was basically okay, even though they were going through a bumpy stretch. Hannah loved ER to the moon and back, Emma had no doubt.
“I have a suggestion you might want to discuss with Warren,” she said, tentatively, wondering if what she was about to propose was biting off more than she could chew. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d done that in the name of goodwill. “What would you think of Emma Rose coming to Nova Scotia for an extended visit this summer? I know Richard would be ecstatic and so would I. Maybe it would take her mind off her obsession for a while and give you a bit of a break.”
“Do you know what you’re proposing?” Hannah’s laugh held a touch of sarcasm. “How are you with parrots? Magoo goes where ER goes and he can be quite a challenge. He requires a lot of care and no one else in the household is prepared to take over his routine while she’s away. On top of that, you know he has a whole vocabulary of off-colour words thanks to his former owner. We’ve never been able to break him of that.”