The Python of Lionel Groulx

Derek Paul

I was on the point of entering the subway station “Lionel Groulx” in Montreal, but the Sun was shining and I had not enjoyed enough of its warmth that spring. Even the trees were late in opening their leaves to the full. There were two park benches near the subway entrance, one in disrepair so I chose the other. A man sitting near the centre of the bench moved to the far end as I sat down at the furthest point from him. He had a large python curled around his neck and, at first, I couldn’t tell whether it was restricting his breathing.

        Not being entirely sure it was a python (having seen rather few of them), I enquired of him the species of his companion.

        “It’s a python.”

        He thereupon made a great effort to remove it from around his neck.

        But the python was quite comfortable in the sunshine, which he also had enjoyed too little that spring, and his master’s shoulder suited him nicely as a perch. It was not pinching his neck but didn’t want to be displaced.

        A conversation then began between the two men, during which the python’s master made several further attempts to detach him from around his neck. At length he said to me, “Is that his tail?” pointing to one of the extremities he couldn’t see of this formidable creature.

        “I rather think it’s his head.”

        He then made a yet stronger effort to detach his companion, which it finally allowed him to do, and he offered it to me, to hold on my lap.

        “He’s gentle provided you treat him gently.”

        The beast was thicker around its middle than my arm at the biceps and could have broken my neck in a second if it so wished. The muscles of this species are known for their strength.

        But its skin was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw, and I accepted this stranger’s kind offer just so as to be able to touch this miraculously shiny skin, in its magnificent colours.

        “What is the frequency of its meals?” I asked just to reassure myself it was not especially hungry.

        “Once a month.”

        “A rat, or mice?”

        “Just one rat; I gave him one yesterday. I bought it frozen.”

        “And he ate it, already dead?”


        I continued to caress this marvellous creature for a while, but eventually had to leave, handing the python back to its master who, in turn, placed it gently on his lap.