The keys jangled in the ignition as the old Jeep rumbled down the road. It was a beautiful summer morning, already steamy as the sun rose slowly in the Western sky.
“There, Henry, did you hear that?” Mildred asked.
“Hear what?” asked Henry.
“That rattle. I distinctly heard a rattle somewhere,” said Mildred.
“What kind of rattle was it?” Henry asked.
“I don’t know,” Mildred flustered. “What does it matter? I know what I heard. Maybe it’s the brakes.”
“No, brakes squeal,” said Henry. “Besides, I changed the rotors and pads a few months ago.”
“Well, then, maybe it’s the transmission,” Mildred said.
“Nah, the transmission gives more of a clunk,” Henry said. “And maybe a whine too; in any case, you’d feel some jerking as well." Henry eyed her with suspicion. “I think you’re imagining things. Is there a jerk in the truck?”
Mildred shot Henry a look.
“Very funny,” said Henry. “Listen, it’s a gorgeous day. Let’s just enjoy the drive. We’ll be at your mother’s before you know it.” Even as he said it, Henry could feel his nerves rattle. He loved his mother-in-law, but whenever they visited, he always felt that he had to prove himself.
“There it is again. It sounds like it’s coming from the tire,” Mildred said. “Have you checked the tires lately, Henry?”
“The tires are fine, Mildred,” Henry said, slightly annoyed. “Besides, that would be a vibration.”
“Well, what about the radiator then?” Mildred asked.
“That would be a hiss,” said Henry dryly. “The temperature gauge is reading normal.”
“Well, something's wrong, Henry. Could there be a problem with the engine?” Mildred asked, panic beginning to creep into her voice.
“No, Mildred; that would be a knock.” Henry straightened in the driver’s seat and composed himself. “Listen, Mildred, the truck is fine. The battery is good. The tires have plenty of tread. The oil, power steering and brake fluids are all filled.” He looked her in the eyes and spoke slowly. “I love you, and I’m not going to leave you stranded on the side of the road. I need you to trust me.”
Mildred sat in silence, looking crushed.
Henry sighed deeply. “I believe you, Mildred. Let’s just pull over and I’ll take a look under the hood, ok?”
“Thank you,” Mildred said softly.
Henry pulled the jeep onto the shoulder. A cloud of dust rose as he stepped out onto the hot, desert road. The crimson tinged mountains loomed in the background. Opening the hood, he walked around to Mildred’s side and peered into the engine.
“Henry!” Mildred shouted, as she watched him stumble back and fall to the ground. She shot out of the jeep and grabbed his arm, helping him up. “What happened?”
Henry pointed to the engine. Coiled up just above the passenger side wheel well was a diamondback. Henry remembered his pre-dawn errand to the grocery store and guessed the snake must have crawled up into the engine, sensing the heat.
The snake hissed and rattled as they stood perplexed. “Did he bite you?” Mildred asked, alarmed.
“No, just startled me,” Henry said, as he brushed himself off.
“What are we going to do?” Mildred asked.
“I’ve got this,” Henry said firmly. Mildred shot him another look. “Hey, trust me, remember?” Henry said.
Henry opened the back and began to rummage around. He found some tools, a small shop vac with attachments, a ratcheting tie down and some duct tape. He stared at the items until an idea popped into his head. After a few minutes, he headed toward the hood with a nifty little snake lasso.
From the passenger seat, Mildred watched Henry appear with his contraption. In a moment, she saw him carefully walking out into the desert with the rattler dangling from the strap. Several moments later she watched him running toward the jeep, arms and legs flailing wildly.
“What happened?” Mildred asked as Henry plopped down, winded, in the driver’s seat.
“I dropped the snake,” he panted. He was dripping with perspiration.
“What about your contraption?” she asked.
“Dropped it right after that. I guess I’ll get it on the way back,” he laughed.
“That was pretty scary, huh?” asked Mildred.
“Not really.” Henry cranked the engine confidently. “The Bible says that we have power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy.”
“Well,” Mildred laughed, “you must have had some kind of power because you haven’t ‘treaded’ that fast since high school!”
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