“Girls are so dumb.” Muttered Joey.
“Leave me alone,” Abby glared at her brother. Being twelve made him think he knew everything.
From his well-guarded reading corner on the porch he had probably watched the entire scene. Abby shuddered as she replayed it in her mind.
She'd been moving barefoot at her normal ten-year-old pace. She’d run across the back porch of the big country home she and Joey and their parents shared with Grandpa and Gran. When she came to the steps, she took them two at a time. As her left foot touched the last one, she gasped and stood there, right foot frozen precariously in midair. Coiled on the ground below lay a huge diamond-backed rattlesnake.
For some reason she never understood, Abby cried out and leapt high in the air, over and to the left of the reptile. Hitting the ground, she ran a half circle around the house, burst into the front door, and slammed it shut. Then she fell weeping onto the sofa.
“What on earth, Abigail?” Mamma’s voice demanded.
After Mamma understood her stammering, they went to the back window in time to see the big snake. Slithering side to side with a slight lift now and then to pull itself along, the terrifying creature disappeared, leaving its imprint in the sand.
“I only wish you had come back, Abby, to tell us, and we could have killed it.”
“I know, I know,” Abby sobbed, “but I was so scared. And, Mamma, now I just remembered my Bible memory verse this week about ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.’ ” *
“Shush now, child. The Lord understands,” Mamma had to smile. “You’ll learn. It’ll just take a little more time.”
Two years later...
“Kids are such a bother,” Gran grumbled, half teasing.
“I’ll be finished soon, Gran, I promise,” Abby called .
“ That old snake is long gone,” Gran went on. “You know they are just a part of country life, especially down here in the South.”
Abby had begged her Grandmother to scan the aged wooden outhouse with a flashlight, then stand outside waiting ‘til she finished her nighttime nature call. For the millionth time, she wished they could have an indoor bathroom like the Johnsons down the road. Then they wouldn't have had that dreadful week-end fright.
On Saturday, Abby’s favorite cousin Frannie had come to visit, and they'd gone out to the old privy together. Suddenly Frannie started hollering and pointed to a rafter above where a long sleek snake was stretched and still. Abby didn’t recall which way the horrid creature went, nor how she and Frannie had finished their privacy details, only their scrambling out the door, tumbling over each other and running, screaming, into the house.
Inside, telling their story, Abby caught the knowing look in Mamma’s merry eyes.
“When I am afraid, I will....” Abby mumbled sheepishly.
“You’ll learn. Maybe just a little more time...” Mamma soothed her.
Two years later...
“Teenagers are really surprising, sometimes.”
This time it was Grandpa coming to check on her. She had been doing her chores inside one building of the family’s farm of laying hens.
“I got him, Grandpa. I killed him.” Abby announced.
“Maybe over-killed is a better word, Abigail.”
They stared down at the mangled remains of a Southern “chicken snake.” It’s head was unrecognizable, and several inches were missing from the tail. Grandpa was trying not to laugh.
But Abby didn’t care. She had spotted the monstrous thing slithering between the caged sections of chickens.
“When I am afraid....”
She had drawn a deep breath, stifling the cry rising in her throat, and willed her legs not to bolt and run. Quietly she found the hoe, and walked back to her fierce enemy. She raised her weapon, striking again and again, not stopping until her arms ached. She finally dragged the lifeless snake outside, where Grandpa had found her.
Abby stood tall. She was fourteen, and a conqueror. It was only a snake, after all, and she had taken care of it.
Looking up at Grandpa, she giggled at his expression, then suddenly felt her knees buckle and promptly fainted.
Coming to herself a few minutes later, Abby was on the sofa, covered with a soft quilt. She didn’t remember when Grandpa gently carried her to the house, but slowly awoke to see the proud tears in Mamma’s twinkling eyes.
* “When I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalms 56:3 KJV
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