An uninvited guest showed up at the Fitzgerald home in South Baltimore looking for a free Thanksgiving meal, but it wasn't anyone the Fitzgeralds knew -- or wanted to know.
It was a 6-foot boa constrictor. And he was hungry.
"I went to pick up the iron, and he [the snake] was eating out of the dog's bowl between the stove and the hot water heater," said Barbara Fitzgerald, 24, who had been preparing the family turkey dinner in the basement kitchen about noon when she discovered the snake. "I ran. I wasn't screaming -- I couldn't get anything out."
The snake, which does not belong to the Fitzgeralds, has apparently been living under the family's Fort Avenue home, investigators decided, and burrowed up through the wooden floor into the kitchen. The snake had popped its head through the flooring and was feasting on the family dog's food when discovered. Ms. Fitzgerald dialed 911.
"I have a snake in my kitchen," she told a police dispatcher. "No, it's not our snake."
A half-dozen or so police officers went to the house, in the 700 block of E. Fort Avenue, and one officer attempted to remove the snake, which was extended about half-way out of the floor.
Joyce Fitzgerald Agresott, 34, who lives up the street from her mother, Lucille Fitzgerald, 62, came running to see what was going on. She saw the police officer wrestling with the snake.
"The cop had him," she said. "He was pulling on him. Then the snake just threw himself, and he dropped him. The cop got scared. . . . Then the snake started backing up in the floor." By the time Animal Control Warden Wade Johnson arrived, the boa constrictor, a non-venomous snake that squeezes its prey to death, was on the retreat, slithering back under the basement's wooden floor.
"It was quite large," said Mr. Johnson, whose efforts to extract the snake were unsuccessful. The snake possibly could be removed if the floor were torn up, but Mr. Johnson said he couldn't do that. He suggested the Fitzgeralds call him back when the snake reappears.
Mr. Johnson said it's likely that the snake is someone's pet that has been living underground for some time, eating mice. He said the snake could move around the neighborhood underground quite easily and would be likely to appear on the surface when hungry.
As their turkey cooled on the kitchen table, members of the Fitzgerald family were in no hurry to eat in a house with a snake just a few feet away.
"Maybe we should set an extra plate for the snake," joked David Fitzgerald.
Lucille Fitzgerald has lived in the same house for 42 years and raised seven children there. She was laughing like everyone else, but she was not really happy about the thought of a snake being in her basement.
"I don't want to move," she said. "I like the neighborhood, but something has to be done."
After waiting a couple hours for the snake to return, the Fitzgeralds went down the street to Joyce's house to have their turkey dinner.