Morris continues his conversation with the smooth-talking radio personality, Hadley Codfaldt, about new rules for the pro football league. Hadley wonders if they shouldn’t change the name from Pro Football League to PROfitable Football League. The Five-Points Highway Diner erupts when the dashing Vick Banzler, Graphite County DA, bursts into the room. Decked out in a black Western-cut suit and black cowboy hat with that mesmerizing Errol Flynn smile, he grips an undulating burlap sack in his gloved hand. Amid whistles and cheers, he introduces the star attraction, a four-plus-foot sidewinder. The room quickly grows hushed and anxious as the suave man pretends to have a problem containing the snake. He calls the unruly reptile a rising star, then quickly amends it to a “writhing” star. It is agreed that this one has been chosen for a very special and high-profile position. The only question is, can Morris Crimpanfortis make it through an entire taping without putting the hospital on alert?

A Very Debonair Rattlesnake

Rewriting the Playbook for Daring Roster Moves

Hadley Codfaldt and I discuss the pros and cons of providing roster spots for wild animals in the pro football league, including various positions where they could possibly start. It sounds a little sketchy to me. “If it’s a league rule, I’ll be curious to see how those franchises that notoriously bend the rules handle it,” I observe.

“Of course, we all know who you’re talking about,” Hadley chuckles. “And don’t forget about their lawyers.”

Out of the Burlap and into the Fluorescents

“Did someone say lawyers?” Vick Banzler, the district attorney for Graphite County, strides into the room to adoring applause. The debonair barrister tussles with a burlap sack, clenched in a black-gloved hand. “I’ll show you a lawyer,” he chortles. He jerks a hand inside the sack and cleanly pulls out a four-foot sidewinder, all hissing and squirming, rattling its tail to beat the band. “Well, what do you think? Not bad, right?”

“Whoa, Banzie!” Breathless, Hadley Codfaldt pushes from the table.

I stare transfixed at the writhing creature. “Is this the one we’re gonna go with?”

“Well, he’s got a couple brothers and sisters back at the pump station. I like this one best because his pattern is so well defined, you can really see the diamonds.” He holds the snake up to the glare of the fluorescent lights, pointing to its body like a game show model pointing to the features of a washing machine. “As you can see, the dorsal scales are quite pronounced.”

“That’s great Vick. You think you could put it back in the bag now,” says Hadley, settling back in his seat. “Maybe stow him outside…way, way outside?”

Make Way for the Director of Talent

Vick Banzler laughs to himself, talking gibberish to the snake as he stuffs it into the bag, guffawing when the head pops back out. Vick supplements his income as DA by milking poisonous snakes for their venom. His family has a menagerie of over five hundred lethal reptiles at their marble estate in the neighboring town of Blasting Cap.

He then pretends to drop the bag atop the table, which he really didn’t have to do. Hadley Codfaldt is about to have a cow, and I’m laughing up a storm.

“You’d better get used to handling this rising star,” says Vick to me. “Or maybe I should say “writhing” star, If you want him on the set with you at all times, you’re taking a big chance. You’re going to have to be on top of your game. This bad boy will strike numerous times without provocation if it feels in the least way cornered.”

“Yeah right,” I say, losing a bit of my luster. “I suppose it’s never too early to rehearse.”

“I don’t get it,” says Hadley Codfaldt. “What’s with the snake?”

“I can explain,” I say. “This is the reason Vick Banzler is my Director of Talent.”