I think I remember hearing many years ago that my grade school friend and neighbor, Edwin, was bitten by a rattlesnake in the foothills east of our little hometown in California. But I have no idea who might have told me, and I haven’t seen Edwin since before then. The last time was in 1975, in the bowling alley at the student union at the university in Fresno. He was working there, or on duty in some capacity perhaps related to his major, or to his membership in a sinister underground bowling society, which isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem, since the alley was located in the basement.
I also think I remember writing about the rattlesnake incident once before. Or maybe it just feels like I’ve written about it, which, when you’ve been at it as long as I have, pretty much amounts to the same thing. Writing, thinking, having written — it’s all an agreeable blur. And all of this without Edwin even knowing. And yet one of our fellow classmates could stumble on this one day and say to himself that he thinks he remembers hearing the same thing — Wasn’t it on D Hill? Why was he poking around those heaps of granite anyway?
Now the image of collecting butterflies in that very same area springs to mind. Was that what Edwin was doing? Or was I collecting butterflies with my friend Scott, whom I also haven’t seen for ages? Have I ever collected butterflies? That doesn’t really sound like something I would do. On the other hand, I have done many things I wouldn’t have done, some of them dangerous, some embarrassing, and one or two that were downright shameful if I were to allow them to rise all the way to the surface. But I’ll save that pleasure for another time, a few hundred thousand words further into this essay.
When looking for something and finally finding it right under her nose, my mother liked to say, If it had been a snake, it would have bitten me. Maybe that’s what happened to Edwin. Maybe he was looking for gold, or water, or acorns. Maybe he was looking for himself — which brings me to the logical question, Am I looking for Edwin? I should mention the fact that Edwin was, and probably still is, only five days older than me. Our mothers met in the hospital. Now, imagine their surprise if they were there looking for butterflies. And imagine mine.