CLEARWATER — This is a story about an old man, a young girl and a rattlesnake.
It all took place Wednesday afternoon on Clearwater Beach outside the home where Ed Marchiselli, has lived for 40 of his 88 years.
For some reason, a 4- to 5-foot rattlesnake decided to drop by. It coiled itself outside, underneath his drippy air-conditioning unit, perilously close to his gas main.
Perilously close, that is, because Marchiselli's inclination was to shoot the snake and be rid of it.
When a neighbor called police, Marchiselli implored the officers to go ahead and blast it.
In an interview the day after, Marchiselli explained there's no point taking chances with something so dangerous.
But the police officers who came out to the house at 917 Mandalay Ave. — four cars worth, according to Marchiselli — did not want to shoot the snake until all other options were explored.
Meanwhile, a crowd of about 25 people gathered.
Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts said the officers called Pinellas County Animal Services, but they would not come to the scene.
The police officers then contacted a trapper to come out and remove the snake, but the trapper was going to charge Marchiselli $100 for the service. (Marchiselli says it was $150.)
"I told them to walk around the corner and there'd be no problem," Marchiselli said, referring to his plans to introduce his .22-caliber rifle to the snake's head. He said he could do it without damaging the gas line.
"I can't afford $150 every time I see a snake," he said.
Police were in a bind.
That's when a girl came along. When she saw the snake in trouble, she and her father decided to pay the $100 removal fee.
Dawn Dockery, the 61-year-old trapper, said she saw the girl only fleetingly, but the whole affair was touching.
Dockery did what she's done since 1978: She scooped up the 15-pound snake in just five minutes, using a pole and a clothesline noose.
The snake — she's not sure if it's male or female — was sent to a biotoxin center, where it will be milked for its venom, she said.
Eventually, she thinks, the snake will be released.
"The police officers said that's a big one," Dockery recalls. "I said that's a small one to me."
Jonathan Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.