A Secret Grave 23: Snakebite


My gardener, Rene, is a calm and stolid man with a heart of gold and a tremendous experience with plants. When I see his truck pull up Monday afternoons I’m invariably filled with relief because there are always tricky little issues around the house and yards that need tending and that I wouldn’t trust with anyone else. One Monday this past July he was in my studio yard and reached to pull a vine from the pecan tree just beyond my deck when the “vine” came to life, gave a loud rattle and sank its teeth into Rene’s arm.


PS Snake on chair


Mercer, who’d been in the studio mixing paint, saw the incident and ran out to help. (I was there, too, and froze in panic.) Mercer grabbed Rene, brought him into the studio, sat him on the couch and put his fingers on the swelling area where the snake had struck. His fingers moved in a gentle back-and-forth caressing motion all around the two tiny fang marks. As he did this he made a low, almost inaudible humming sound in his throat. I was, of course, immediately brought back to the Christmas party years before when my friend Pamela Jane lay on the floor copiously bleeding from a head wound and Victor kneeled beside her, his fingers moving in the same gentle way as Mercer’s all around the cut. As I watched now, the swelling seemed to decrease. “He’s gonna be okay,” Mercer said, shaking out his hands. “But the sooner EMS gets here, the better.” I’d already called 911 and a moment later we heard sirens wailing in the distance. When the paramedics clomped into the studio and examined Rene, they were amazed at how contracted the area around the bite had become. If it weren’t for the two tiny fang marks they might not have even believed he’d been bitten. But they strapped him onto the gurney and took him to the hospital. Later we learned that he only needed one ampule of antivenin and that that single dose had been administered merely as a precaution.





Over the summer, just with the touch of his hand, Mercer cured my Newfoundland, Lucille, who’d pulled a muscle jumping off the deck, and he stopped the onset of a migraine in its tracks for my daughter, Jofka, by caressing her neck and shoulders. (This was unheard of; Jofka has never escaped the awful clutch of a migraine once the first dazzling lights of the aura begin to affect her vision.)



Lucille in studio

Jofka & me with Lucille


After these things happened, I asked Mercer if he’d ever heard of Dr. Victor Goodlove. “No, why?” he said.

“He could heal plants and animals just like you.”

Again he turned a bright crimson. “It’s just something that happens,” he mumbled. “I don’t really know what you’re talking about.”

I let it go. By then I’d begun to wonder if Mercer’s mother, Caroline, had had a secret connection to Victor. Not long before Victor’s disappearance I’d witnessed a bizarre scene at an event where both were present, ostensibly strangers.


To be continued…




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