My brother Ricky and Uncle Donnie, both 13, were impressed that Daddy had let me drive the station wagon to Atwood Barker’s store in the rain. Except for me, age 15, there was no adult in the car. And to prove just how grown up I was, I sped up and slammed on the brakes several times to make the car spin and slide. They screamed and begged me to stop, then begged me to do it again.
We were on
Donnie jumped to the Campground side of the ditch, away from the action, and lit up a Winston.
“Watch out!” he yelled.
I looked up in time to see a huge gold sedan sliding across the center line toward me and the snake. It barely missed us, fishtailed to a stop and backed up.
A woman leaned out the window and said, “Watch out, boy! There’s a rattlesnake by your foot!”
“No ma’m. It’s just a corn snake,” I said. “I’m catching him for a pet.”
She looked at me like I was crazy and spun away.
After Ricky used a stick to pin the snake to the pavement, I grabbed it by the head and it wrapped itself around my arm, coil after coil, a brilliant, twisting, pulsing orange armband that I wore home, driving with one hand.
I strode into the kitchen like a hero, placing the bread upon the sink then thrusting my arm and the writhing snake over my mother’s shoulder from behind.
She bleated and, as her knees buckled, threw a handful of raw spaghetti into the air; my grandmother screamed for Jesus; the tea kettle whistled. My father and grandfather and four younger sisters rushed into the room, saw the snake, and fell all over each other reversing direction.
Above the pandemonium I could hear Daddy threatening to do some very creative things to me, so I exited in the opposite direction.
Ricky and Donnie followed me into the yard laughing and punching each other in the arm like Gomer and Goober, imitating Mother’s scream and Daddy’s threats.
I put the corn snake in an army trunk in the shed and fastened the latches securely.
After a meal during which Mother looked at me like I was the spawn of the devil and Daddy alternately berated me and snickered, we three boys hurried back to study our prize. I unlocked the trunk and opened the lid an inch at a time, so as not to give the snake a chance to get out.
“What the…?!!” I threw the lid open wide.
Ricky and Donnie gasped.
The trunk was empty!
The three of us get together now about once every decade, usually at a funeral. If we're outdoors, Donnie will light up a Winston as we talk about the dearly departed. And when the conversation lags, one of us always says, "Remember that snake?"
How it got out of that trunk is one of the enduring mysteries of our lives.
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