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The Dreaded Boy

I heard about the kid long before we met. He had terrorized numerous Vacation Bible Schools every summer from the time he was old enough to attend. Being four years old he would likely be entering preschool. I prayed it would not be the one where I taught. With summer nearly over, I received my class roster. The terrible prospect was real. The dreaded boy would be mine.

A colleague advised me to speak with the principal to ward off the coming doom. Perhaps he could inform the parents that the class was full. But it was not.

Or maybe he could have a frank discussion with the parents ahead of time to place the kid on some sort of probationary agreement. The first time he crossed the line, bam! He’d be out. Surely they’d understand that we can’t have one boy ruining the school year for the rest of the children. Maybe they’d get mad and enroll him somewhere else.

I spoke to the principal who listened well. In fact he agreed that the boy would definitely be a handful. “Let’s give him a chance. You never know. Maybe you are just what his family needs.”

I seriously doubted it.

The school year began as usual. Care Bears greeted my new students from bright bulletin boards. Clear contact paper secured new nametags to each desk. Grumpy Bear shed a tear over the time-out chair in one corner which I was sure would be occupied by the dreaded boy.

At orientation I greeted each parent and child, handing out supply lists with smiles and dreams of a great new year. Each parent received a request for an optional home visit. I prayed that one certain family would opt out.

But they didn’t.

I scheduled their visit last hoping something would come up and we’d have to cancel. In the meantime I waited for the other shoe to fall. The boy could not stay in his seat. His blonde hair was always a mess and in need of a trim. His fingernails stayed black with some sort of crud and his shirttail was generally snotty from wiping his nose.

Then it happened. Busy at my desk while the students worked on a coloring page, I noticed that once again his chair was empty. Suddenly two grimy little boy hands covered my eyes from behind.

“Miz Clark! Guess who?” came his raspy voice. Suddenly he twirled around my neck and hugged me with all his might. He buried his little head in my hair and whispered, “I love you.”

Home visits went particularly well that fall. Parents gushed over the folders I brought with examples of their children’s school work. Still looming however, was the visit to the parents of the dreaded boy. Directions to his home included phrases like “way out in the country,” and “lots of dogs but don’t be afraid; they’ll be chained up.” As I drove I rehearsed how the boy was still tipping his chair over numerous times per day, but at least he had not been in a fight in a while. I prayed not to get lost or bitten or murdered.

Down the long gravel road through dark woods I drove, having not a clue if I was on the right path. There was no street name or sign since apparently this was family land. A small clearing opened up to the front steps of a trailer. I hoped that the barking dogs chained toward the back of the lot confirmed I was at the right home. Either way, I sure hoped those chains held. Suddenly a little blond head appeared as the metal door flung open. “Miz Clark is here! She’s here mama, she’s here!”

“Show her what you made for her!” his mother beamed as she invited me in. On the table was a little pan of brownies her son had stirred together and microwaved “all by himself.” With it he served Kool-aide he had mixed and poured into a tall glass just for me. His purple mustache assured that he’d sampled it properly before my arrival.

Somehow the fact that he still had a problem keeping his chair on all four legs never came up. His mother’s warmth and care for both me and her son were so beautiful. The scales fell off my self-righteous eyes that night and my heart was changed forever.

The prediction the principal made was somewhat true. That family turned out to be just what I needed. Nearly thirty years later, I still think of the dreaded boy… the one who forever stole my heart.

Blue Meadow Farm

I thought it might be fun for those who haven’t read Book One of the series to see the first couple chapters. Let me know what you think in the comments. To order your copy click here. Blue Meadow Farm Book One

Prologue

The weather was a little warmer than usual for the middle of March. According to the Almanac a scorching hot summer was on tap for Piedmont North Carolina. Rain would be sparse but somehow God willing, she’d survive another year in the landscaping business. As she turned over the soil in her vegetable garden she noticed dogwood trees scattered throughout the woods doing their best to bloom by Easter. They seemed to offer hope. Perhaps this would be a better year.

Her neighbor Jesse told her the legend of the dogwood shortly after her husband died. With its cross shaped blossoms surrounding a crown of thorns, the most intriguing part was the dark bloodstains on the tips of each petal. Every year when they bloomed she could hear the deep voice of her friend.

“God is an Artist and He loves a good illustration darlin’. That’s why He made dogwoods. You’re an artist too. He made you special that way. Let Him use your brokenness to give others hope. The things you’ve been through are for a purpose girl.”

She didn’t feel much like an artist. And she sure didn’t feel special. But for some reason she thought about digging up another dogwood to transplant near the house. Or even better, she could plant one at Jesse’s. She knew without him she’d be a whole lot worse off or probably even dead. Gently he’d helped her through so many dark days that she’d finally begun to hope again. For some reason it scared her a little.

As she climbed off the tractor she noticed a small dogwood with a particularly nice shape. Its limbs stretched upward as if surrendering. Walking through the woods the ground crunched beneath her boots announcing her arrival. Squirrels scurried away and birds grew silent. Pulling a faded red bandana from her pocket she decided it would do. Easily she tore the threadbare cloth into strips then tied them around branches of the chosen tree. If she survived another year she’d come back when the tree was dormant. Though she’d not had much success with transplanting dogwoods she would try again. If for no other reason, Jesse loved them as much as she did. Maybe in her own way she could offer hope to him as well.

Chapter 1

Early June

The reflection staring back at her was hopeless. She tried tipping her chin upward in feign confidence. A little hair gel to tame the light copper curls into a twist might help disguise the fear which caused her stomach to flutter. A successful interview could be the game changer she’d needed for so long. She glanced at her shaking hands. Too bad she couldn’t afford a manicure. But perhaps they’d understand. After all she was a Landscape Artist. The title made her laugh relaxing her nerves. It was quite a fancy label for a woman who dug in the dirt for a living. But Jesse had given her the title so she would keep it.

She stood gazing into her closet wondering if she should wear a dress. The blue cotton one still fit though it was a little faded. But it was soft and comfortable. Perhaps comfort would promote confidence. Lydia had heard that somewhere. Plus a friend had passed down some casual heels which would work nicely. But what if she tripped as she approached the meeting? An image of her lanky frame sprawled face down on the ground started her stomach to fluttering again. She reprimanded herself.

You are such a bumpkin! What made you think you could be considered for such a high profile project?

In her blue cotton dress she practiced walking in the chunky heels outdoors as she knew the interview tent would be set up on site. Finally she kicked them off and stepped into the old cowboy boots which stood guard at her back door. Retrieving a towel from the clothesline she wiped the dust from them and decided to just get it over with.

As she headed toward her truck she realized she was looking down as though searching for lost change.

Good grief girl. Hold your head up and act like you’ve got some sense. And don’t forget to smile… but not too much. Those boys from up North will think you’re a goober if you go in grinning like a possum. Not too many teeth, just a pleasant, confident, I know stuff, smile.

She had never used a portfolio before. Hopefully the pictures on her phone would suffice. All her clients had been secured by word of mouth. Just the other day some lady in the grocery store had said loud enough for God and everybody to hear, “Ride by Norma’s house and look at what that Miller girl did to her yard. It looks like a park!”

Lydia wasn’t sure if the lady knew she was on the next aisle and had said it for her benefit or if she had actually overheard a true compliment. Either way it spurred her on to pursue the interview. She tossed her phone into the truck and straightened the old beach towel over the cracked and worn seat. She smoothed her dress as best she could. The humidity would surely steam the wrinkles out of the fabric anyway. Glancing in the mirror she sighed that it was already wreaking havoc with her hair. Plus she’d have to ride with the windows down since the heat of a North Carolina June was already bearing down. Maybe she would roll the passenger side up to shield some of the wind. But then she might sweat through her dress and have armpit circles.

She sighed aloud and thought again,

Good Lord woman. Just get it over with.

Her old truck started the first time. But it should’ve since she’d just had to buy a new motor. She’d joked with the mechanic that she was getting a new truck, one part at a time. The truth was that her daddy had taught her to drive on that truck; a three speed on the column. She couldn’t afford to part with it even if she wanted to.

Roaring up to the job sight she was amazed at the crowd. The interview tent was surrounded by neatly dressed men she had never seen around town. She should’ve realized the competition would come for miles. As she reached for her phone which held her makeshift portfolio she noticed her hands were still shaking. They looked even rougher in the sunlight. The one redeeming quality was the wedding band from her beloved high school sweetheart. Though she had been a widow for seven long hard years, she couldn’t bear to remove it. Like her daddy’s truck, she couldn’t let go of it even if she wanted to, which of course she didn’t.

The whole area was filled with trucks; big shiny new pick-ups with fancy company emblems on the sides. She made her way to the end of the road where she squeezed her truck into a small opening. The old beach towel followed as she exited. Retrieving it from the road she shook it out and tossed it back through the open window. Smoothing her dress again she began the walk to her future. Nervously she reminded herself.

‘Esse quam videri’ honey. That’s Southern Latin for ‘To be rather than to seem.’

Her sweetheart had many such wise sayings that came to her during difficult times. She could almost hear him reminding from the grave.

Oh if only.

If only she could be herself and still walk without tripping, smile without grinning and talk without redneckin’ it up.

When the line dwindled and she stepped up to the interview table, she was surprised to see that the two brothers in charge of the project were not much older than her. She guessed early thirties maybe. The poor guys apparently had been at it a while as their shirts clung to their bodies with sweat. She glanced at them and sighed as she thought,

Good grief. Why do they have to be so dang handsome?

They stood to their feet and each shook her hand. Neither of them recoiled at the calluses but smiled warmly as she spoke the name of her company.

“We’ve heard of you Mrs. Miller and Blue Meadow Farm. You certainly do beautiful work!” spoke the youngest of the pair. Both men had black hair and deep hazel eyes, but something about the eyes of the older brother caused her to look away. Perhaps if she concentrated on the younger she could keep from stammering like the bumpkin she knew herself to be.

Lydia tried to speak. “Really? How in the world did you hear of me?”

The older brother continued to smile warmly at her with eyes that seemed to search her soul. The younger continued. “We stopped by the local market and a nice elderly lady gave us directions to the home of… I think her name is Norma? We were hoping you’d come by today. Now let’s take a look at your portfolio.”

She swallowed hard as she glanced up trying to relax.

Hold your head up girl. You’ve always been more comfortable with men than women anyway. They’re just not usually quite this fetching.

She felt her face flush with embarrassment as if she were in middle school.

What are you girl, thirteen? Hold your fuzzy head up and act like you’ve got some sense!

Chapter 2

The company name Stephens and Sons had become synonymous with charity. Their father had instilled in them the desire to help those who were hurting and the successful family construction business paved the way for the projects he chose.

“We do our best to take care of orphans and widows. That is God’s heart!” he often reminded. It seemed the more he did for others the more his business boomed. Finally in his sixties he turned the physical aspect of the charity over to his sons. When he first started building and remodeling homes for those in tragic situations he set the goal to complete at least one project per state. Later he realized he didn’t like traveling as much as he thought. The older he became the more he relished being at home with his wife in New York. Their daughter lived nearby and he loved seeing her when she popped in for visits.

His sons however enjoyed the work away from home. The latest adventure had taken them to North Carolina. People had questioned the wisdom of starting a job there in the heat of summer. But the homeowner they had chosen to assist was still recovering from a horrible car accident two years prior. Her neighbors had sent in an application for consideration and Jack Stephens Sr. had known immediately that Denise Parker would be granted a complete home and garden makeover.

Jack Senior’s youngest son Johnny was quite outgoing and thrived when meeting new people. Small talk came easy for him and he never met a stranger. With an eye for design and a winsome personality he was the life of every party. His older brother Jack Jr. was larger in stature and much quieter. He brought sound wisdom into the mix and did his best to keep his brother focused. Having been through several personal tragedies of his own Jack poured his heart into the work. He would much rather be on the road than back in his New York apartment where the memories still haunted him.

However the humidity in the small southern town was unbearable. Jack could hardly catch his breath as he and his brother conducted one interview after another. A fan oscillated furiously in the corner of the tent to no avail. He wondered whose idea it had been to do outdoor meetings in that God forsaken place during the heat of June. Looking up from his notes he was surprised to see that last in line was a woman in a cornflower blue dress. Her eyes seemed to be cut from the same cloth. Perhaps the heat would be worth it after all. His brother stood and reached for her hand which prompted him as well. She smiled a beautiful smile then actually blushed when they spoke of her company. As she pulled up the pictures on her phone he couldn’t help but notice her trembling hands. The pictures were impressive but he wondered if she were strong enough to handle the job.

Jack could hardly focus on the interview and was thankful that Johnny apparently was not quite as captivated by the quiet woman before them. As they scrolled through pictures of her work his heart took a nosedive when he subconsciously checked her ring finger. On her left hand was a wedding band. How could he be so foolish?! Of course she was married. And he knew better than to pursue a married woman. Had he not been down that destructive path before?

She stood, shook their hands, smiled shyly and thanked them both for their time.

“Did you get her number Johnny?” Jack heard himself say. They both looked at him as he too felt embarrassed for the first time since middle school. He’d always heard how hot the summers were in the South. Now he knew it to be true firsthand.

 

 

PS:

For those of you who do not have a Kindle, download the free app under the order button on Amazon so you can read it on your computer or phone. Hope you enjoy!

Blue Meadow Farm Book One

 

Currently I’m in week two of my second round of chemo. In case you’ve never walked with someone on the cancer treatment journey, this particular regimen means a day of infusion every three weeks. Right about the time the patient begins to recover from the chemo it’s time to take another. And Lord have mercy, I’ve been sick. We’ve learned a couple interesting things along the way that are helping us maintain a small measure of sanity. One of those is to have Cheerios on hand at all times. Emergency consumption may be needed to ward off nausea which hits all willy-nilly for no apparent reason. Wiser folks warned me to keep lemon drops and ginger candy and other citrusy yumminess available for such occasions. So far they have not been the ‘godsend’ that I was promised. Ginger ale has helped a little, though it like everything else tastes like metallic dishwater. Thanks to several Father’s Day gifts I can now consume the bubbly treat from a Yeti cup so at least it’s cold any hour day or night. God bless the father of our home who graciously shares his bounty.

Back to the Cheerios:  I’ve found that as long as I eat a bowlful the second I wake up in the morning they help stave off impending barfage. Throw in a half a banana and the yumminess is enhanced twofold.photo (1)

Another simple thing which helps is Townhouse Crackers. A couple of those placed strategically by the bed not only settle the tummy but also invoke happy memories of a country song of yesteryear.

“You can eat crackers in my bed any time… you can kick off all the covers in the middle of the niiiight…”

I’m sure the cute little blonde singing the song on the Lawrence Welk Show never had a clue. Maybe she did. Perhaps verse two included the trashcan and the icepack and the two fans blowing at gale force speeds. But I doubt it.

Another simple thing I’ve learned to keep handy is a handkerchief. My daddy always carries one and now I do too. I remember learning to iron on his and was proud of how nice I made them. One day he informed me with all the love a man with a house full of girls could muster.

“DO NOT KEEP STARCHING MY HANDERCHIEFS! THE SNOT WON’T EVEN STICK ANY MORE!”

He gave me a hanky the other day at my request. Though I had some at home, now I know that at least one of them was his. It brings comfort having him near even if it is for wiping my nose. In case you didn’t know, after chemo the nose hair is scorched right off and clear snot just runs free without warning. Now I carry a hanky like daddy and tuck it stealthily like mama up my sleeve or in my waistband for quick and simple extraction.

Another simple thing came from Scripture this morning. I declare I’ve read all around this verse but had never marked it. Basically it says,

“You don’t know everything.”

I’ll take that.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one.”

I also love that it is followed by verses I’ve heard and clung to for years. They are just as true. While I don’t know everything, this I know.

Deuteronomy 31:6- “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you!”

So take that CANCER!

You can have my nose hair, my taste buds and my sleep and my strength. You might even steal a lot of my courage. But you cannot take the things God has planned for me. Because like me, YOU DON’T KNOW IT ALL!

But the Lord does.

Not Real Brave

About a month ago I announced to the world that I have breast cancer. Just like that I put the news out there before God and everybody. I get accused often of being a ‘private person’ which is kind of hilarious considering the stuff I share with complete strangers. However the accusation of being private is fitting. I really hate having people all up in my business. David and I tend to keep to ourselves and just play the cards we’re dealt. Our way of coping is less about sharing and more about making light of things in order to deflect the attention. But lately it seems that he and I both have been impressed that the Lord would rather we allow others into this place we lovingly call Clarkville.

Our family creed has always been the same as the state motto for North Carolina. “To be rather than to seem.” Well… that and “If a little cheese is good, a lot of cheese is better.” Sometimes I wonder if our family mantra is more akin to Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong.”

Poor Murphy. We feel your pain. Though we truly want to honor the Lord our lives are not always real pretty. I hope you are surrounded with as many good people as we are. For it seems the Lord does not expect us to bear our burdens alone. We’re learning that it’s important to allow people in. It’s not up to us to manage our image or to come off looking like we have it all together. Lord knows we need help.

But how do you say that and not come across like a whiny butt? Or needy? Or even ungodly? Aren’t we trusting God to get us through this? Do we not have the precious truth of Scripture emblazoned upon our very souls?

David said something very valuable to me one day. I love him even more for it. He said that Christian women have it hard. Because we know the Lord, it’s almost as if we’re expected to lose our hair and Flopsy and Mopsy and still go hopping down the bunny trail as if we can happily do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

Those were not his exact words. My version is a very loose paraphrase. The man has loved me for forty some years and would never say Flopsy or Mopsy. But you get the point.

Sometimes it seems that if we call ourselves Christians it’s supposed to be okay to lose our hair then go out in public feeling hideous.

I’ve got news for you.

It’s not.

It hurts like Gehenna and I’m not good with it at all. I’m sad and crying like a fool even as I type the words. Apparently I am not real brave.

But you know what?

I’m pretty sure God knew that about me already. Step by step, day by day He’s turning my weakness into strength. This morning He took my hand and led me to a crazy verse about Moses of all people. It says that he “Kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.” –Heb.11:27

Isn’t that odd? God commended Moses because he continued to put one foot in front of the other by trusting the God he could not see. What a picture of faith.

By His grace I will do the same.

At some point I’m going to have to leave the house without hair. It’s one thing to shave your head and look like Kelly Pickler. It’s a whole nother crapstorm to be sick as a dog and sixty-stinkin’-one with your head in a ball cap.

No, I didn’t find a wig. All the ones I tried on made me feel like a Muppet. That was a different cry-fest. So while I still have eyelashes and eyebrows I took the first selfie of my life so I could change my profile picture.

So here I am, in front of God and everybody trying to “be rather than to seem.” The smile is fake but it’s all I’ve got. And right on cue sweet David brought me homemade cheese grits to settle my tummy.

Because if a little cheese is good…

You know the rest.photo cap

PS:

Special thanks to my beautiful friend Jennifer Naves who made a house call when my hair began falling out. With the skill of a gentle surgeon she cut away the curls and exposed the fact that life is still a wonderful joy to be held tightly.

Sweet Jennifer, you make me want to be brave. Much love from Clarkville!

The Best!

I saw the quote somewhere, maybe in the back of a magazine. It was under a picture of an older couple walking down a sandy shore. It said, “Hold my hand, grow old with me. The best is yet to be.”

Or something similar. My memory cannot be trusted.

I love the saying, but I love the truth of it even more. My sweetheart has held my hand since we first met as juniors in high school. We were certain that the best was yet to be.

And it was.

Together we brought three funky chicks into the world. Each one is quite unique and opposite of the other. Yet each has a part of our personalities.

They crack me up. Their humor is much like their dad’s: subtle, dry, off-kilter, with notes of sarcasm and mischief… kind of like a fine wine. However, it is always tempered with kindness. The balance is delicate.

Through forty-two years our home has never lacked laughter. I was reminded by a dear friend that it is indeed the best medicine.

Praise God.

Hopefully it works even better than chemo.

Did I tell you that I have cancer?

Yep. Just diagnosed.

That got my attention too.

It seems there’s breast cancer with a little side of suspicious lymph node activity.

The laughter at our house came to a screeching halt. It was replaced by something akin to gut wrenching fear. Information overload drop kicked us into the reality of upcoming decisions which seem almost trivial in the midst of The Big C.

Shall I try to find a wig that looks like my hair? Or sport a bald head that may or may not be lumpy? So far I haven’t been able to find a wig even similar to my lovely mane.

Imagine that.

It seems no one wants curly hair that used to be red.

David says it’s the opposite. Everyone wants to have hair like me so all the wigs that look like mine have been snatched up.

And just like that the humor returns… with gentle notes of kindness.

He takes my hand and leads me to yet another appointment. I have no idea where we are because I am so directionally challenged. Across the parking lot he guides me like a little child into the unknown. I comment on the pretty fountain as it splashes water around the happy flowers planted there. He smiles and hurries me inside to meet another kind technician. She explains yet another procedure. I try to make a joke when someone says “Have a nice day!”

“It’s been a great day! Well… except for the possibility of killing off Flopsy and Mopsy. But other than that it’s been awesome.”

He shakes his head and laughs. Again he takes my hand and leads me back through the maze of cars to an unfamiliar place. That’s our truck so apparently I have been there before. Yep the truck is definitely ours because it has all the stickers of places we’ve been.

He opens my door and I can’t help but notice.

There’s room for more stickers on the back. Apparently we still have places to go. Maybe the best IS yet to be.

Gown in the front, gown in the back, paper pants and MRI loveliness because apparently one gown couldn't quite cover it.

Gown in the front, gown in the back, paper pants and MRI loveliness because apparently one gown couldn’t quite cover it.

Or maybe… the BEST is just having someone to hold my hand and laugh when I laugh…

And cry when I cry.

And love me so much that it matters not if I have hair.

Happy Anniversary beloved David!

Thank you for holding my hand through thick and thin, sickness and health, riches and… no wait: through everything EXCEPT for the riches. Apparently there was a strike at the dock when our ship came in. So instead let’s go get another biopsy plus a port for the chemo and determine to live as long as God sees fit!

Hold my hand. Grow old with me my love. The best really is yet to be!

I’m certain of it!

About two years after we were married David and I discovered that a young lady we knew was homeless. At the time she was sleeping on the porch of a relative who lived a pretty rough lifestyle. We worried about her safety and prayed about inviting her to live with us. The conditions would not be perfect by any means. We had just moved back to N.C. after college, had a new baby girl and were living in a trailer which was not delightful. However, it seemed like the right thing to do. She accepted our invitation and was so dear. Bless her heart. Apparently she had never had anyone to care for her growing up. But somehow she managed to be one of those rare souls that made the world a better place.

That was about forty years ago. Last summer we stepped out on a limb and invited another young lady into our home. She was NOT as easy to live with.

Night after night she’d wake me around three in the morning. She’d wear my ears slap out with one situation after another. She made me laugh, she made me cry, she doubted God, and she shared things that hit too close to my heart. Eventually she began bringing her friends into our home. My own daddy suggested I start killing some of them off. There were times I seriously considered it and I’m sure David reached that point as well. For when she wasn’t waking me up worrying me half to death, I was continually talking to him about her.

Finally I realized it was time.

Our guest had to go.

So we kicked her to the land of Amazon. Now she resides in a lovely place called Blue Meadow Farm. She is a bumpkin and her life is upside down. But she is learning to rely on the Lord as she lives in what she calls an eternal crapstorm. Her life is much like my own except for the young and beautiful part. That’s why we call it fiction.

Now that we’ve sent her packing, I’m sleeping better at night. Often I pray for her and those who will read her story. Maybe they too will find rest in the care of the Lord.

In fact, I hope she’ll be like the non-fictional character that lived with us so long ago. Perhaps she will turn into one of those rare souls that makes this world a better place.

Oh how I hope so!IMG_9726.JPG

PS:

David warned me not to be too vague in my story about our pesky guest. So this explanation is for those of you who do NOT appreciate all the creativity that is me. Lydia Miller is the main character of my very first book and she really did keep me up at night. Blue Meadow Farm is now available on Amazon Kindle for pre-order. It will be released on May 30th and hopefully will be a fun summer read. Special thanks to all of you who kept saying, “You should write a book!” Now hop on over there and buy a copy.

I hope it makes you smile.

blue david2

Homemade Snake Away

A little pot of pansies waits by my back door greeting all who enter. I love their happy faces. With the recent warm weather they’ve gotten a little leggy so I stopped to remove a few of the spent blossoms. As I stood to go in I noticed on the other side of the doorway another greeter. He was not delightful.pansies

At first glance it appeared that someone had tossed a plastic snake there probably in hopes that my husband would find it. The poor man really hates snakes and everyone who knows him well knows that bit of trivia. I had already chalked it up to a prank by one of our Groupies, aka Bible study peeps since we are close like that. They’re an encouraging bunch.

As I mentally accused one particularly mischievous friend whose dirty Santa gift we all try to avoid, I reached through the railing to retrieve the snake.

It raised its ugly head.

At that point I may or may not have dribbled a little.

Backing slowly away I wondered what to do. Upon further examination I realized it stretched at least seven feet… give or take a yard or two. A sizable lump in its midsection suggested it had recently dined sumptuously. Thinking of the numerous nests and the baby birds I’ve been anticipating caused the contempt in my soul to grow even stronger for the nasty critter. Something must be done.

For all those asking what kind of snake it was so that you can advise me to let it live because certain snakes are ‘good’, I must apologize. There shall be no mercy. We made that mistake two years ago and let a big ol’ black snake live. That stupid thing tormented us all summer. It would retreat under the ramp to the main door or sun its sorry self on the steep back steps. No exit or entrance could be made without stopping to check for Mr. Slithers.

Poor David went to walk out the back door one morning and nearly stepped on him. Just as he went to put his flip flop clad foot down he saw him and ended up rolling into the backyard head first. When I noticed the grass stains on his t-shirt he explained.

“I had all that momentum going out and down and couldn’t get it stopped when I saw the snake.”

It’s hard to stop a train.

A different happy day we watched as that same snake made its way under the truck and up into it never to be seen again. It did not come out the other side though we did all manner of craziness to try to get rid of it.

As I reflected upon those good times and wondered what to do about our current Mr. Slithers, I recalled buying Snake Away at the Tractor Supply. Though we used the rest of it last year I remembered that the main ingredient is cinnamon…  like in a honeybun.

Carefully I stepped outside again armed and dangerous. Frantically I sprinkled cinnamon and watched it float away on a little breeze. Mr. Slithers chuckled.

C’mon woman! Get a grip. You’re not making toast. Try taking the lid off.

With ninja-like skills I dumped cinnamon onto the head of Mr. Slithers. He no longer chuckled. Instead he reared his brown powdered self and stood on his non-hind leg and glared at me with beady eyes.

I may or may not have dribbled a bit more.

Back inside with two empty cinnamon bottles and a change of underwear I decided to call it a day. An hour or so later David came home.

“Mmmm… smells like apple pie in here!” he exclaimed hopefully.

Cinnamon laden footprints gave away my position. He tipped his head sideways and looked at me wondering.

In my cheeriest voice I informed the unsuspecting man.

“I’ve got a surprise for you…”

Bless his heart.

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