Burning the Rubber Snake

Jackie bit her lip as she watched the road. For thirty minutes she had sat on the edge of the porch watching the road for the first sign of a car. Various dolls rested around her in a multitude of positions where they had been placed in frustration. Dolls’ clothes and complements were scattered around them. Between fittings, her eyes focused on the road.

This was the day her cousins would be coming to visit.

It had been over a year since she had seen Adam and James. They lived several states away. Talking to them over the internet just wasn’t the same as having them around to play with. Jackie lived for the three weeks they came to stay with her at her family’s farm. Jackie’s eyes quickly narrowed down at the dog who had suddenly sat up straight. His ears stood up. Seconds before the vehicle appeared around the curve in the trees, he began to bark.

Jackie quickly stood up and shouted, “They’re here!”

A dark van made its way around the bend and up the hill to the farmhouse. The dog’s barking intensified. Jackie rushed to the end of the sidewalk and waved at the car turning into the driveway. The car honked in return.

Following up the gravel road, Jackie ran. Her feet kicked gravel up in the air behind her. The van hadn’t come to a complete stop when the back door flew open and Adam jumped out. Whooping and hollering, he ran to his cousin and threw his arms around her. The parents of both smiled at this rambunctious greeting.

The two kids danced around in one spot as they quickly rattled off everything that had happened to them in the last few days since they had talked. The parents shook their heads at their excitement as they met at the side of the car and embraced.

“How was the trip?” Jackie’s mother asked her cousin as she led the new arrival to the house by the arm.

 “Tiring, but we’re here now. The last few miles were dreadful with Adam asking over and over how much further.” His mother laughed. “But we were all looking forward to getting here.” The voices of the adults faded into the house.

The two children finally caught each other up and ran over to the climbing tree. They scampered up, using the wooden limbs to pull their small bodies up. It wasn’t long before they disappeared into the mass of leaves.

Settling down on a large limb that had split to create a natural seat, the two looked down to the ground far below them. The tree was estimated to be over a hundred years old and had seen a lot over the years. Their own parents had climbed the tree and carved their names into the smooth bark as did their friends. Many discussions had been held in the sanctity of the tree as  many mischievous plots did.

Jackie kicked out her feet and laughed. “I love coming up here. Mom hates heights so she just stands down there and yells for me to come in.”

“I wish I had a tree like this.” Adam patted the gnarly trunk next to him. “There is a funny looking one next to the apartment parking lot. You can’t climb it. I got in trouble the last time I tried. It’s no fun.”

“I don’t get in trouble about the climbing except when I don’t come in when called. I get in more trouble due to Pete.”

“Who’s Pete?”

“My snake?”

Adam paused and looked over at her with eyes wider than a dinner plate. “You have a snake?”

“Sort of.”

“Where?” His eyes darted around.

She patted her shirt. “Right here.”

Adam frowned. “Yeah, right!” He turned away to ignore her as it seemed she had been fooling him the whole time.

“Want to see?”

“If he is really there.” Adam gave her a sidelong look.

Jackie reached down inside her shirt and pulled her arm back up. Adam’s eyes grew wide as a dark green long body emerged. She laid the thing across her lap and smiled with satisfaction.

“See? Told you.”

Adam’s face scrunched up. “That’s fake!”

“I didn’t say he was real.”

“You didn’t say he wasn’t. Let me see him.” Adam reached over and took the rubber snake into his hands and looked him over from head to tail. “Wow! He looks real.”

Jackie smiled. “I know. That’s what gets me in trouble.”

“How?” Adam continued to examine the snake.

“Well, I had heard of how once a real snake got in the house and scared Mom. So I decided to play a trick on her.”

“What did you do?” Adam asked, nearly breathless. His eyes moved to hers.

“I put it in the laundry room. When she went to wash clothes, she saw it and screamed.” Jackie laughed. “Dad laughed so hard when it realized it was a fake snake. Mom hit him with a pillow.”

“What else?”

“Put it in the fork drawer, you know where the forks and spoons are kept; I got a whipping over that one. Then I put it in the car. I haven’t done anything since because Mom got really mad. I was scared for Pete. She threatened to burn him.”

Adam snickered. “I have an idea. Let’s put it under her pillow tonight.”

Jackie’s eyes grew wide. “Boy, she’ll be so mad.”

“Yeah, but she won’t do anything with us here. And when we leave, she’ll forget about it.”

Jackie thought back on other times when that had happened just the way Adam had described. When the family had gotten together for Easter, her mother had been very angry at the snake’s appearance around the ham. But she had only ordered Jackie to remove it and put it in the car. That same evening she had not even mentioned it because she was so tired from the cooking and clean up. Adam was right. The temptation was too great. She quickly agreed.

The rest of the day was spent playing and plotting on how to get the dastardly deed accomplished. It was decided that when the fire was lit after nightfall that they’d watch television. Then they would be alone in the house and slip the creature under the pillow.

When the time came for dinner, Adam’s brother, James, showed up. He had been dropped off at a friend’s house for the first few hours. It was hard for him when he came to family functions. There were no others near the age of fifteen. So it wasn’t uncommon for him to go visit old friends he had made over the years spending the summers with his grandparents nearby.

It was a possible dilemma for the young children who were not sure if he would be more observant than the adults. And if he was, would he help them pull it off?

He joined the adults by the fire once the sun had set. Jackie and Adam took up their positions in the living room with the latest cartoon movie playing. They wanted to watch an action film, but they knew James would want to watch it with them. There had to be nobody in the house.

Sounds of talking and laughter filtered in through the open window. For thirty minutes, the two children watched the movie. Adam stood up during a commercial break and glanced out the window. With a quick wave of his hand, he directed Jackie to sneak out of the room. They met in the hallway, giggling.

Jackie led the way to her parents’ bedroom. Adam followed as he suppressed his laugh. The door was partially open. Jackie pushed on it. Only the light from a nightlight in the bathroom spilled into the room. It was just enough for them to see their way to the bed.

Moving quickly, Adam raised the pillow while Jackie pulled Pete from his hiding place in her shirt and laid him gently on the sheets. Adam lowered the pillow back onto the bed. Running, they left the room and threw themselves onto the couch. Giggles consumed them.

James paused in the door as he stepped inside. “Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?” They only giggled more. Frowning, he shook his head. “Kids,” he muttered before disappearing into the bathroom.

The hours ticked by until the clock on the mantel struck eleven. The four adults and the teen entering the house found two children asleep on the couch. The TV was still going strong. James nudged them awake as the couch was his bed for the weekend. Jackie’s mother brought out the sleeping bags for the children while Adam’s parents took Jackie’s room.

The prank was completely forgotten by the drowsy kids. The lights were shut off. The television was off. All was quiet when the scream tore through the house.

Three sets of eyes in the living room shot open. Horror filled the eyes of the children as their memories of what they had done pushed through their foggy brains. The older one sat up looking for someone breaking into the house

As the screaming continued, Adam and Jackie jumped up from their makeshift beds and started toward the door. They had created a small fort out in the shed where they had agreed to hide if anyone got really mad. James was quicker and made his way to block their escape. With his hands on their shoulders, he pushed them back.

“Where are you two going?”

“Uh, we wanted to check that everyone is okay?” Adam replied.

“Then why are you heading outside?”

“I…I.” He looked to Jackie for help. She bit her lip and shook her head, unable to form any words.

“What did you two do?”

Before either one could answer James’ question, Jackie’s mother burst into the room. In her hand flailing about the air was Pete.

“That’s it!” she screamed. “I’ve had enough.” She went back to her bedroom. The sound of Pete being tossed out of the bed and hitting a wall echoed in the house.

James looked down at the two children and shook his head. A small smile pulled at his lips. “That doesn’t sound good. Go on back to bed. Tomorrow you can face the music.” He marshalled the children to their beds and watched as they settled down. Another hour went by before he saw the last eyelid close and then followed suit with his own.

The next morning had the two children woke up slowly long after their fathers had made their way down to the trout pond. Adam sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. Looking over at Jackie who was rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, he said, “Smells like something burning.”

“Mom’s burning the trash,” Jackie answered in mid-yawn. Not a thought to the night’s incident was given until her own words sunk in. Her eyes shot open as she realized that it was the weekend and not the usual Tuesday for burning trash. “Pete!”, she screamed as she pushed back the sleeping bag and jumped up.

Adam followed her out of the house and to the far back part of the yard that joined with a large field. There, her mother stood over a large barrel with flames shooting out of it. Jackie screamed as she ran up to her mother.

“No! Don’t burn Pete!”

“I don’t want that thing around here any more. You have been warned time and again about that…that…” She waved her hand in the air. The rubber snake flopped in the air.

Jackie watched in horror as her mother threw her rubber snake into the fire. With a satisfied smile, she walked back into the house leaving her daughter on the ground sobbing. Her mother was sick of finding that thing around the house. She was glad it was finally gone and no longer around to terrify her.

Adam approached his cousin and sat next to her on the ground. He was unsure of what to do. As he started to say something to soothe her, another scream, more powerful than the one the previous night, filled the air. They jumped up and ran into the house.

In the kitchen, they found Adam’s mother with her arm around Jackie’s mother. She led her out of the kitchen and into the living room where she continued to sob. Jackie watched her mother in astonishment as she wiped the tears from her own face. Adam turned to his brother who stood over the sink.

“What happened?”

James didn’t answer. Instead he turned to show them another snake hanging from the butcher knife. It’s body glistened in the sunlight as it gave one final twitch before succumbing to death.

Jackie raised her hands in the air and with wide eyes yelled, “I didn’t do it!”

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