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We, The Albino Two-Headed Black Rat Snake, Gets Pimped

''We'' — The Albino Two-Headed Black Rat Snake My daughter, The Kiddo, e-mailed me a hypertext link to an article on the CNN website. The only comment she provided with the link was "Whoa!"

When I clicked to the article what I first noticed was a picture of a two-headed snake. Whoa, indeed!

The CNN article said the snake was to be auctioned off with a minimum opening bid of $150,000 on eBay. When I surfed to eBay and tried to search for the snake, however, I discovered that only a few crappy items — junk that either incorporated an image of the two-headed snake in their designs or else included a separate paper-print photo of the snake as a "free" bonus — were being offered there. (I was only seeking information to satisfy my curiosity; I had no intention whatsoever of bidding on the snake. Jeez!) Googling other articles on the subject turned up several replications of the same erroneous report of an eBay auction. But then I finally found the actual auction page for the two-headed snake at reptileauction.com. Hotcha! An excerpt from that sales listing follows:

*****

Starting bid: US $ 150,000.00

Rare Albino 2-Headed Black Rat Snake – As seen on TV

The World Aquarium, known for its enchanting displays and creative approach to education, will now be auctioning one of its famous inhabitants, a rare 2-headed albino Black Rat Snake named “We.”

“We is a very special member of The World Aquarium family. He [sic?] has lived in our aquarium and has fascinated millions of children all over the world. We believe that his [sic?] sale will help continue to build awareness for wildlife education, research and conservation,” explained Leonard Sonnenschein, President of The World Aquarium. “We is at her prime stage in life for breeding and also for display to a new public.”

Proceeds from the auction will support the continued development of educational, research, and conservation programs at The World Aquarium. Additionally, The World Aquarium will introduce a display about 2-headed snakes as part of its Curiosity Classroom, one of 10 themed display areas in the 15,000 sq. ft. not-for-profit institution nestled in the 125,000 sq. ft. City Museum located in downtown St. Louis.

                                           “We” Statistics:
                                             • Albino Black Rat Snake
                                             • 2 Heads
                                             • 4 Feet in Length
                                             • 6½ Years Old
                                             • 1 Inch in Diameter
                                             • Prime Breeding Age

Serious Bidders Only.

Source (Note: This link is no longer valid due to bidding process having since closed for this item.):
http://www.reptileauction.com/cgi-bin/auction/auction.pl?category=b_snake_rats&item=1136929200

*****

Hey, it's me again, yer ol' buddy Brother Dave. Don't you just love that the auction house listing uses the phrase "As seen on TV" in its title? Why, it makes me wonder what we might one day expect to see advertised when some Popeil-like huckster starts hawking living genetically-engineered life form products on TV. Perhaps instead of needing, at minimum, $150,000 to buy a freak of Nature, we'll each be able to purchase our own mass-produced infomercial monsters for only $19.95 (plus $4.95 for shipping and handling).

How 'bout the second and third bullet-points in the "We" Statistics? Did you find it jolting, even if only for a micromoment or two, to read that the snake has "• 2 Heads" and "• 4 Feet"? Sure, the next two words, "in Length," resolve the issue, letting us know that, oh, the two-headed snake is four-feet long and not a quadruped. Although a minor point, the potential for confusion here could have been diminished, or avoided entirely, by making "Length" the fourth bullet-point — after the snake's age stat, and before (and more logically associated with) the snake's "Diameter" spec. Hey, I'm just sayin'.

And how 'bout that last bullet-point in the stats? "• Prime Breeding Age" — Doesn't that sound like a form of pimping to you? And did you also notice that The World Aquarium president seemed confused about We's gender? The prez was quoted as referring to We as "he" at one point and, then, "she" at another. Why, you'd think the prez, who's acting as the pimp in this scenario, would want to be very clear about We's sexual orientation. (One might expect that We herself, by virtue of having two separate brains, could at times be especially confused about things in her environment and her place in the Universe. But no other article that I read suggested that We's body is anything more or less than female, or that her sexual behavior is anything other than that of a straight female snake. I mean, if, say, one or both of We's brains were suspected of being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered, the seller would wanna hype that fact when pimpin' the poor creature 'cause that would surely jack the asking price even higher — no, not for her value as breeding stock, per se, but for her value as a truly singularly-unique biological specimen.) Among those bullet-point stats, the auction house should have specifically (and unambiguously) listed We's gender. If it is important to know that an animal is of "Prime Breeding Age," it is equally important to know the sex of that potential breeder. This common-sense directive holds for, say, $5 hamster breeding stock, and it should fer-damn-sure hold for $150,000+ Albino Two-Headed Black Rat Snakes.
Right?

In the auction house listing excerpt above, the president of The World Aquarium is attributed only four short quote-mark-enclosed sentences. Unless he was misquoted, the aforementioned gender confusion in his statements is his own fault. But another kind of confusion arises due to the name that was chosen for the two-headed serpent. The first quoted sentence begins with "We is" and, while technically correct because "We" is a proper noun in this usage and "is" is the appropriate present-tense third-person-singular-case application of the verb "to be," it initially sounds jarring to the ear, kinda like pidgin English. (And it's not so much Tarzan- or Tonto-speak, but more like a demeaning line scripted for Stepin Fetchit.) Then the third quoted sentence begins with "We believe" wherein "We" is a personal pronoun referring, one assumes, to Aquarium management and staff (or some faction thereof). You, however, may be excused, Dear Reader, if, during your first read-through of that "We believe" statement, you wondered whether one or both of the snake's brains were being alleged to have formed a conscientious and considered belief regarding some perceived positive potential in her being pimped by her handlers. We the snake, or We the people? Whew! Oui? Then finally, the fourth sentence begins with another "We is" in which "We" switches back from personal pronoun to proper noun. Whew, again! If there had been a fifth quoted sentence in this paragraph, I'd have not been the least bit surprised if it declared something similar to "Who's on first." Jeez.

                      BUD ABBOTT
               (to Costello)
          Okay, We is on the auction block first.
     STEPIN FETCHIT, the butler who stands behind 
     the small round table positioned between the
     two leather wing chairs in which Abbott and
     Costello sit, is serving tea. Suddenly shocked
     by this bit of conversation he's just overheard,
     Fetchit's arms flail out, accidentally pouring
     hot tea onto Costello from the pot in one hand.
     As Fetchit turns his head to speak to Abbott, he
     is still unaware that his teapot is draining
     onto Costello's lap. Costello burns and mugs.
                      STEPIN FETCHIT
               (interjecting, startled)
          We is!?
                      LOU COSTELLO
               (to Fetchit, agitated)
          Hey, buddy,...!
                      BUD ABBOTT
               (interrupting)
          Hey, what?
                      LOU COSTELLO
               (to Abbott)
          Not, "Hey, Bud." I said, "Hey, buddy."
               (turning to Fetchit)
          As in: Hey, buddy, you're boilin' the
          bejeebers outta my britches here!
                      STEPIN FETCHIT
          I is!?
                      LOU COSTELLO
          Yes, you is... am... are! And, "Hey,
          buddy." And as in: Hey, buddy, I'm
          the fall guy in this act!
                      STEPIN FETCHIT
          You is!?
                      LOU COSTELLO
          Yeah, I is... are... am! So, beat it,
          already! Okay?
     Stepin Fetchit defiantly proceeds to peel 
     off just one of his white cotton butler gloves 
     and then begins to dance a dance of unfettered
     freedom to the rhythm of Michael Jackson's pop
     mega-hit "Beat It." Bud and Lou stare on in
     wide-eyed disbelief. And under cover of all the
     hubbub, Bub, WE the albino two-headed black rat
     snake makes her great escape.
                      WE THE TWO-HEADED SNAKE
               (both heads in unison, sotto voce)
          Ssso long, sssuckersss!
                                           FADE TO BLACK

*****

While searching the Web for the correct online auction listing and more information, a few of the articles I read mentioned, in a nearly-offhanded manner, that We had been stolen once by a disgruntled City Museum worker back in 2004. The cops found the two-headed snake stashed in the thief's garage, rescued her, and returned her safely to the Aquarium. Regarding the inept thief, the president of The World Aquarium said, "He thought he was going to sell it. The thing is, it's the only one in the world." Well, that part of the story set my mind on a momentary flight of fancy, imagining the following conversation between a double-dealin', double-headed-snake sneak-thief and his fence:

           TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
                          or
          GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS
                 or... (TBD ASAP, WIP)
     FADE IN:
1    INT. - ABANDONED WAREHOUSE - NIGHT                  1
     In a dimly-lit corner of a cavernous abandoned 
     warehouse somewhere in the old industrial area 
     of town, THE FENCE and THE THIEF are having a
     clandestine meeting.
                      THE FENCE
          Okay, so whadaya got t' show me?
     The Thief removes a cloth-covered, box-shaped
     object from underneath his arm at his side and
     deposits it on the middle of a tabletop between
     himself and The Fence. Then, with a flourish,
     The Thief removes the stained and dirty cloth
     to reveal a five-gallon aquarium tank that
     contains a four-foot-long SNAKE.
                      THE THIEF
          Lookit. See, it's a one-of-a-kind snake.
                      THE FENCE
               (instantly recoiling)
          Snake! Oh, man, I hate snakes! Jeez!
               (beat, then edging back in, curious)
          But what's so "one-of-a-kind" about it?
          I mean, except for that deformed bumpy
          place on its side there near its head,
          it doesn't look exceptional to me.
                      THE THIEF
          Well, I'll tell ya: This here is "We,"
          the world-famous albino two-headed black
          rat snake that, up until I pinched it,
          resided at The World Aquarium in Saint
          Louie, Mo.
                      THE FENCE
          Dude, don't ever call me Moe.
                      THE THIEF
          Oh no, I meant M-O-period, Mo., as in
          the abbreviation for Missouri.
                      THE FENCE
          Oh,... Cool. Otherwise I'd have t' 
          kick yer A-S-S, ass, "ass in" the
          abbreviation for "misery."
               (a chuckle to himself, a beat,
               then continuing with business)
          Two-headed, huh? Dude, I'm only
          seeing one head here.
                      THE THIEF
          Well, duh. After I took the snake, it
          occurred to me that I wouldn't be able
          to fence a one-of-a-kind item that would
          be instantly identified even on the black
          market and too easily traced back to me...
                      THE FENCE
               (uncertain where this story is going)
          Um. Okay?
                      THE THIEF
          So I thought about how if a jewel thief
          boosted a big honkin' diamond, he would
          have it cut down into multiple, smaller,
          untraceable gems, and then fence those.
               (half-beat)
          So's what I did was look up this guy I
          know who used to be a vet years ago —
          not a veteran, a veterinarian — back
          before he lost his license for being
          bestial with some of his clientele. And
          I gave him 5-Gs to remove one of the
          heads and graft it onto another body,
          a rattlesnake body.
                      THE FENCE
          Well, you're not gonna recoup your 5-Gs
          on this sucker here. I mean, it just
          looks like a regular snake. And with
          that ugly deformity on its neck there
          where it used to have another head, why,
          you couldn't even sell it to a pet shop
          for five bucks, I'd reckon.
               (half-beat)
          Still, I imagine you might at least
          break even, maybe getting 5-Gs tops for
          a living creature that has an albino
          black rat snake head and a rattlesnake
          body.  So where's that snake?
                      THE THIEF
               (embarrassed, opening slowly)
          Er, well,... it's, uh,... it's here too.
               (now fessing up)
          This damn snake ate the other damn snake,
          head first. I'd left 'em in the same
          tank. And when I came back from buying
          some live mice to feed 'em, all's I saw
          was the rattler's rattle shakin' like a
          single sad Mexican maraca just as it
          disappeared into this snake's mouth.
                       THE FENCE
               (sympathetically)
          Bummer. You'd've been better off if that
          snake had eaten this one, dude. Then,
          even if that other rat snake head had
          tried to eat its own rattlesnake body —
          tail first, of course — he woulda choked
          to death, sure, but you coulda had an
          authentic "Ouroboros."
                        THE THIEF
          Euro burros? What, donkeys from Spain?
                        THE FENCE
          Ouroboros, a snake that forms a circle by
          eating its own tail.
               (half-beat)
          The image is common among the mythologies
          of several cultures and dates back to
          pre-history. It symbolizes the cyclic
          nature of the Universe. You know: creation
          out of destruction, life out of death.
               (half-beat)
          Hey, just 'cause I don’t like snakes
          doesn't mean I'm completely ignorant
          'bout 'em. I got layers, ya know.
               (half-beat)
          But for an honest-to-God Ouroboros, you
          mighta been able to get a couple hundred
          Gs for something like that from having a
          buncha rich New Age whackos bidding
          against each other on eBay.
               (beat)
          But no, at most, what you got here is
          the makings of a 20-dollar belt. And
          that's it, I'm afraid. Sorry.
                        THE THIEF
          Damn.
                                           FADE TO BLACK

*****

Just a day or two after having e-mailed a draft of the above dialogue to The Kiddo, I, quite by coincidence, returned to reading the last few pages of a small book she had given me a couple of months earlier. The book is "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" by Newt Scamander (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling). Why, a label on the front cover reveals the book to have once been the personal property of none other than young Hogwarts wizarding student Harry Potter himself. Wowzers! The book is an alphabetized compendium of names and descriptions of various mystical creatures and, as such, does not provide much in the way of narrative flow. So I'd read only a few entries at a time, over an extended span of time. But don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book immensely, always marveling at the imaginative creativity, attention to detail, and wonderful sense of humor with which Scamander/Rowling wrote this reference text. It's just that I would have read a 500-, 700-, 900-page novel about Harry Potter within a much smaller span of days than it took me to finish the 42-page "Fantastic Beasts" he used to own.

''Runespoor'' — A species of mystical three-headed serpent, as cited in ''Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'' by Newt Scamander (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling) Why am I telling you all of this? Well, one entry in "Fantastic Beasts" (pp. 36-38) names and describes the "Runespoor," a mystical three-headed snake. "Parselmouths," specially-gifted wizards who can converse with snakes using the language called "Parseltongue," have determined that a Runespoor's left-side head (as facing the viewer) specializes in planning, its middle head specializes in dreaming, and its right-side head specializes in criticism. It is not uncommon for the left-side and middle heads of a Runespoor to be driven to the extreme action of joining together to kill and eat the right-side head merely to rid themselves of its constant mind-numbing and soul-sucking negativity, derision, and hissing.

Makes me wonder 'bout "We." Albino Two-Headed Black Rat Snake? Or, Two-Headed Runespoor After Having Cannibalized Its Own Over-Critical Third Head?

''Ouroboros'' — a snake that forms a circle by eating its own tail. The image is common among the mythologies of several cultures and dates back to pre-history. It symbolizes the cyclic nature of the Universe: Creation out of destruction, life out of death. The Ouroboros is another symbol for ''Infinity.'' It is also a cautionary example of what it's like to have to give oneself a good ''ass chewing.'' *****

PS: I'm uncertain of the current whereabouts and disposition of We, the two-headed snake. The online auction closed after a week without a single bid being tendered for the reptile. No bids, a big fat ZERO — which, ironically, is the exact same shape as an Ouroboros. Coincidence? Or, cosmic intervention against callous pimp Karma? I wonder. —BD

PPS: Now, some eight months after being put upon and then taken off the auction block, word of We, the albino ophidian with two noggins, once again appears among the offbeat national news stories. Since The World Aquarium couldn't sell her off online and she's still in St. Louis, Aquarium staff are arranging a special exhibit featuring We with a collection of other live two-headed creatures — enough such animals, staffers hope, as to merit a listing of the exhibit in the Guinness Book of World Records.
(Me? I'm fantasizing a music video in which all the anomalous little double-headed critters have come together to sing "We Are The World, We Are The Mutant Children" — to help create greater awareness, understanding, and acceptance, both for themselves and for others of their kind, and to establish a charitable fund in support of not just the two-headed and reptilian, but for the polycephalic everywhere. Now that would make some record!) So, at least I know now that We is still alive and well and being exploited at her same ol' place of residence at The World Aquarium. And knowing this gives me some sense of closure regarding my lingering curiosity about her post-auction whereabouts and post-failed-pimping disposition, I guess. Slated to appear as part of the mutant menagerie are some other two-headed snakes and seven double-header red-eared slider turtles. According to one article I read, heretofore-mentioned World Aquarium president Sonnenschein expressed interest in mating We (an alleged female, as you may recall) with another bicephalic (or dicephalic, either is correct) snake named, get this, "Golden Girls." To what result? Four-headed offspring from a heterosexual mating of two poorly-named two-headed reptiles? Or, as would seem to be more likely the case, some non-reproductive, kinky, slinky, quiverin', slitherin' Lesbian snake love followed by the simultaneous smoking of four post-coital cigarettes while eight beady little eyes cast a warmly contented and languorous gaze toward the bedroom ceiling? Jeez. (As for the seven two-headed red-eared slider turtles, well, they just might be the kind of reptiles that would make a fine group of mutant minions for Lucky, the single-headed-but-allegedly-Satanic red-eared slider turtle here in Indiana! 'Cause surely, Shirley, the Apocalypse must be damn-near nigh by now.) —BD

''We'' — The Albino Two-Headed Black Rat Snake PPPS: Yeah, yeah, perhaps I am grousing a bit too much about the gender confusion surrounding the two-headed albino black rat snake named We. But as I said, if the potential for being breeding stock is one of the sales points attributed to an animal with a $150,000-pricetag, then gender certainly matters. Well, I've finally stumbled onto an article that, while not settling the matter once and for all, helps clarify the issue a tad. Male, female, or hermaphrodite? Although still not absolutely conclusive, a surgical procedure performed a few months ago would seem to indicate that We is most likely female. And because "Golden Girls," another albino two-headed black rat snake, has a thicker body than We, it could be that GG is actually a misnomered male. So now, I would recommend that, if allegedly-female We and possibly-male GG are put together, every detail of their interactions should be documented on videotape. If they do mate, then, I suppose, the one who wants to cuddle afterward and linger in the afterglow is the female, while the one who wants to roll over and go to sleep is the male. And if the snakes should happen to mate more than once, each coupling should likewise be documented on video. If and when one of the snakes becomes preggers, well, that, then, is the female. And the other is, presumably, male. (Unless, of course, one or both snakes are, indeed, hermaphroditic. And, even if they do mate with one another, perhaps they'll have a spat. And, in the heat of the moment, one might scream to the other [in stereo, no less], "Oh, go f--- yourself!" And the other may scream back [also in stereo], "Why, thank you, you two-headed two-faced freak, I think I will!" And then he/she does and conceives and, in due time, delivers. [Do black rat snakes, albino or otherwise, lay eggs or "live birth" their young? I wonder.] Well, you can see now why it is extremely important to document everything.) Not only would the videotapes be invaluable in finally establishing the gender(s) of We and GG, but The World Aquarium might be able to auction off the uncut master tapes as triple-X snake porn. Between two normal snakes, hey, it's just a mating. But between two snakes with four heads total, it's always an orgy! Yep, World Aquarium could sell exclusive rights to this uniquely-kinky kinda porn — online, for a starting bid of, say, $150,000. —BD

PPPPS: Even if We is a heterosexual female and Golden Girls is a heterosexual, albeit misnamed, male, I think that their chances of successfully mating and reproducing will still be problematic. I mean, the likely usage of the phrase "Not tonight, I have a headache!" will be, at minimum, 200% higher than would be average for otherwise-normal mated snake pairs. Hey, I'm just sayin'.... —BD

PPPPPS: Extreme Maximum Closure — Now, nearly a year-and-a-half after the bulk of this page was originally written, eight-year-old two-headed We is reported to have died of natural causes sometime on or around Tuesday, June 19th, 2007. Bummer. But instead of receiving last rites and then being buried or cremated and left with at least a modicum of post-mortem dignity, the poor creature's corpse, with its two dead heads and four beady little lifeless eyes, was packed off to a taxidermist. Apparently, for "We, The Albino Two-Headed Black Rat Snake," the afterlife will be pretty much the same as life as We knew it, consisting of continued residence at The World Aquarium — still on public display, but now without the need of care and feeding (and, hopefully, without any further threat of being pimped off as a sex slave and potential breeding stock). Jeez. Whether this is the definitive answer to some of the questions posed above, or not, one obit stated that We was a true hermaphrodite, having both male and female genitalia. (I guess that for some snakes, just as for some humans, such intimate personal information is only allowed to be fully disclosed after one's passing, if ever.) Another fact that most obits cited was that We was a native-born Hoosier. Yep, the snake was born in Indiana in 1999, but it was sold for $15,000 just a few weeks after its birth and then quickly spirited off to St. Louis. (Born in Indiana, huh? Well, I guess that for some snakes, just as for some humans, such intimate personal information is only allowed to be fully disclosed after one's passing, if ever.) —BD

PPPPPPS: Because We was a native-born two-headed Hoosier and because one of its heads was smaller than the other, I'm reminded of the lyrics of "Little Head" — a song from the 1997 album of the same name by another native-born Hoosier, singer-songwriter and eleven-time-Grammy-nominee John Hiatt (who, by his own description below, could be termed as being bicephalic or dicephalic himself, but only in a euphemistic naughty normal human male way and not in a literal mutant ophidian way). Following is an excerpt from Hiatt's "Little Head":

Baby, in my heart I'm faithful
This two-headed monster is so distasteful
Forgive me when my instincts start stinkin'
I'm just so easily led when the little head does the thinkin'
I'm just so easily led when the little head does the thinkin'
Think about it...

Ssso long, We, we hardly knew ye. —BD

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