The encounter had made him feel rather weary, so he said a polite good-bye to the elephant and sat down for a quiet rest. He opened his notebook again, put a large cross next to the elephant’s name, and munched on a couple of eucalyptus leaves. After staring into space for a while, he fell asleep.
When he woke, it was the afternoon. Refreshed, he made his way to the Reptile House, and to a large sandy enclosure, full of rocks and dark crevices. Coiled up in a corner was a large snake.
Tim studied the notice on the side of the cage for a moment, and carefully copied the word ‘snake’ into his notebook.
He politely tapped the glass of the cage with his pen.
“I’m terribly sorry to disturb you…” he began.
The snake did not move, but a single eye opened in the side of one of the coils.
“Yes…you are disturbing me. What do you want?” said the snake.
Tim mustered his courage.
“Do you like to do things slowly?” he asked.
The snake opened his other eye, turned his head, and looked at him. Tim was not sure whether the gaze was friendly, but he held his pen and pad in a confident manner, hoping for an answer. He waited. He waited some more. Still there came no answer. He began to feel optimistic, but then his hopes were crushed by the snake’s reply.
“No,” said the snake.
Tim was puzzled.
“I do spend a great deal of time asleep. But when I do move, I can be fearsomely fast. You may be familiar with the expression ‘the speed of a striking snake’.”
“Oh I see,” said Tim, struggling to hide his disappointment. “Thank you for your time.”