Once spotted, I greeted it like an old friend, enthusiastically striding toward its opening before delivering my little lecture to the assembled group. A few students stood back, impressed by the size of the hole and staring into its underground darkness, a seemingly bottomless pit of mystery. The whirring of zoom lenses and digitally rendered shutter sounds behind me told me they were taking plenty of pictures. I was pleased that they found this burrow as interesting as I did.
Suddenly, I was jarred out of my educational reverie when one of students said, “I see teeth in there.”
“Teeth?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said, and others nodded agreement. She was looking into the den, while two others looked anxiously back and forth between their camera view-screens and the den, testing what they either observed or imagined.
“What kind of teeth?” I asked. Like a typical paleontologist, I was thinking of a disembodied skull or jaw, instead of a breathing animal bearing (or baring) those teeth.
“I don’t know. Could it be a snake?”
“Sure, that’s possible.” I had seen alligator dens with snakes in them before. Also, unlike certain fictional archaeologists, I like snakes and relished the thought that one might be in the burrow. “But you probably wouldn’t be seeing its teeth,” I said, as I became more confused about this unexpected shift in the lesson plan for my students. Puzzled, I stepped closer to the entrance, which is when I received an admonition from their “classmate” who had somehow (but understandably) made it past the registrar without paying tuition.
I looked up at Michael. The disbelief probably still registered on my face, but my expression also must have wordlessly asked him, “What do we do now?”
With his GPS unit in one hand, Michael smiled, and with barely suppressed glee at the absurdity of our predicament he said, “Guess we have to mark that one as occupied.”
From: The Evolution Underground by Anthony J. Martin