By D L Ennis
Word count: 6,174
It had only been a week since they’d buried John’s best friend, David Baker. John and David had been friends since childhood and had always been inseparable. John too, was beginning to feel life slipping away.
He walked outside and it was a remarkably placid day, for the middle of July, in the foot hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. John Jarvis retired last year and now his days were spent working in his gardens or relaxing on his porch, listening to the birds. This day offered a profoundly deep blue sky with temperatures in the seventies, low humidity, and a gentle breeze that inspired the trees to perform a soothing lullaby teasing John in to slumber. The day was such a relief from the ninety-degree, humidity drenched days they had had since the last week of June, that John did not even begin to contest the sleep that he was lulled into.
John and his wife lived in the old home place where he, and his father before him, was born and raised. The old place was as settled in as a comfortable chair that has taken your form offering perfect relaxation, and it defied change.
An hour or so later John woke-up. His eyes opened to reveal a perfect world, with flowers blooming all around him, and doves, juncos and gold finch, and many other varieties of birds, at the feeders. There were butterflies fluttering around in a flurry, seemingly haphazardly, on the breeze from one bloom to the next.
Everything looked and felt so perfect that at first, it frightened him. Was this heaven? Had he passed away while napping? Asking himself these questions, he suddenly realized that he thought about death a lot these days. Things that he never thought twice about just a few short years ago now frightened him.
He was astonished that he awoke to such a serene scene and slipped into such dark thoughts. I guess it’s just part of growing old and realizing how fragile life is, and how quick, and without warning, it could end, he thought.
“Alright, shake out of it Jarvis.” he told himself.
He stood up on sore knees; just another reminder of his aging. He had never had trouble with his knees until two years ago when he slipped on ice and landed on them on a brick walkway covered in a half inch of ice and a couple inches of new snow. He stretched out as many of the little discomforts as he could, while taking in a deep breath which in turn, gave him a head-rush nearly causing him fall off of the porch.
“Wow! It’s been at least twenty years since I’ve had a head-rush like that.” he said aloud to himself.
He’d lived through the sixties and seventies when herb was plentiful and intense, and sometimes required the toker to be seated.
John was no saint and had never been very religious, but now the thought of heaven and hell crossed his mind quite often. This was just another thing that reminded him of his mortality: it never occurred to him that he was not alone in becoming more spiritual in his declining years: nearly everyone knows, has known, or is someone, that you would never have thought, would ever become a frightened, praying mess as they near the end of their lives. Most of us are afraid of dying. As time starts to close in on you, you think, well, just incase there really is a heaven and hell, I’d better straighten-up and pray a lot.
John recovered from his head-rush and shook off his past and fear of his future. He decided that as beautiful and rare a day like this was, he needed to absorb and take pleasure in every morsel of it.
He descended the three steps to the brick patio below; a moss covered brick patio that was older than he was. The arbor above was covered with wisteria, which had finished blooming, trumpet vines, which were blooming profusely now-red blossoms that quivered from the attention they were receiving from countless humming birds, and several varieties of clematis, some which had bloomed in spring, some blooming now and some that would bloom in early autumn.
From the patio he stepped onto what he and his wife, Janet, called ‘The Butterfly Path.’ Butterfly bushes, on each side, towered above and over the path forming a tunnel of intoxicating fragrance that curved gently for some thirty feet to the perennial garden. The butterfly path bloomed most of the summer and into fall and was constantly covered in various varieties of butterflies.
John was so overwhelmed by the fragrance that he nearly stepped on a three foot copperhead snake which lay before him on the path. John backed up slowly to the patio where there was a shovel leaning against the nearest post of the pergola. When he approached the snake again it had coiled and was ready to strike. John lifted the shovel slowly until the, newly sharpened, blade was waste high. Just as he started down on the snake it occurred to him that maybe he wasn’t as fast as he used to be, but it was too late do stop the downward motion. The snake sprang toward John a split-second before the blade cut the snake in two fiercely-wriggling pieces, one with the venomous head and the other of no threat. If the blade of the shovel had taken one-split-second longer, it would have been too late, and John knew it.
Fear and anger, like lightening, exploded through his mind and body as he came down with the blade again, and again, and again…and on the final blow the sharp blade of the shovel hit, where he had wanted it too the first time, just behind the wide part of the arrowhead shaped head.
He picked up the head of the viper with the shovel and walked in to the woods, dug an eighteen inch deep hole and buried it. That was his usual method of disposing of the venomous head: he worried that if he didn’t burry it at least eighteen inches deep that his or someone else’s dogs would dig it up, and he didn’t want to put it in the garbage with the rest of the snake for fear that some dumpster- diver might be hurt by it.
It wasn’t a totally rare event to encounter a copperhead in the gardens or lawn; he usually killed one or two every year. This was the first this year and he hoped the last.
When he finished disposing of the snakes head, and discarding of the multi-segmented body, he went back up on the porch to sit and recover.
He couldn’t believe how frightened he was by the snake. He remembered that when he was in his early teens that he and David Baker, his best friend since he could remember – he died two years ago – used to catch copperheads and timber rattlesnakes and sell them to the University of Virginia for study purposes; after the snakes were milked, the venom collected, the biology department used the body for lab dissections. He and David were fearless back then and now David was dead and John felt that he feared nearly everything; at least it felt like it at the moment.
That night his wife, Janet, comforted him the best she could and asked him to be as careful as possible: Janet was ten years his junior and still worked as an office manager in a doctor’s office. At fifty-six she was still a beautiful woman. John was twenty-nine and Janet nineteen when they met at a dance at the farmers market in Lynchburg. It really was love at first sight, an enduring love, and from that moment on it always felt new and every bit as passionate.
Everyone, accept maybe Janet’s mother, thought that they were harmoniously-inclusive as a couple. Three months after they met they were married and no one said the usual, it will never last, because they new that their union was infinitive. When people would meet them on the street the women would smile, knowing that they had the perfect love, and if the woman that smiled at them was with a man, he would frown because he knew that he would be in the doghouse for a week for not showing the same kind of affection. They always glowed when they were together and now, forty years later, they still glowed.
But, since John’s retirement he spent a lot of time alone and with every passing day it seemed that more things frightened him; everyday life frightened him when he was alone and the weight of his eventual and unavoidable demise frightened him even more and relentlessly.
Janet worried about him every minute she was away from him; she knew he was being tortured by his ever growing fears and she called him nearly every hour to check on him. He would always say, “Woman, you’re going to worry me to death calling me every five minutes; but she knew it was an act and that he looked forward to her calls.
John always said that his biggest fear was Janet coming home and finding him dead and how it would affect her. Though she never came out and said it, John thought that she worried about that too, and, whether or not she could handle it.
More every day John thought that they should sell the old home place, neither of their kids wanted the place; they both had their own successful careers on the west coast, and were married and had children, they didn’t have time for anything else in their lives, they barely had time to call. John couldn’t bring himself to sell the place, he’d grown up here, it was home, and he didn’t think that there was any way that he could get used to living in town: but he still worried about something happening to him and Janet left alone, secluded, six miles from the nearest neighbor and paved road and thirty miles from town. Janet thought about it too, but she knew that if they sold the old place and moved into an apartment in town it would kill John, so she refused; every time John would start to mention selling the place, before he could get it out of his mouth, as if she could read his mind, she would stomp her foot and say, “John, forget it, we are not going to sell this place and move into an apartment in town.” He would look at her without saying a word and turn and walk away. Janet could see in his face and eyes both relief and repentance: a kind of sadness you get when a question of leaving something that you love and is so much a part of who you are, or doing what you know in your heart is right for the only person on earth who knows and understands you and, you can’t even think of fitting words to describe your love for them; the words had never existed, and now forty years later, they still don’t. It is a dilemma faced by few in twenty-first century America, but, to those who know it, it is crushing.
“John, why don’t I take a few days off from work and we’ll do something?”
“Why, so you can baby-sit me? I don’t need a babysitter Janet…at least not yet.”
“I know that you don’t need a babysitter John, I just thought it would be nice to do something together. Go somewhere. Now that I think about it…How would you like to go to Atlantic City for a couple of days?”
“That’s right. Helen, at work, her and her husband-you’ve met him, Frank Williams-they’re taking a bus trip with a bunch of other couples and she that there was still room for more.”
John stood there staring at her with his mouth hanging open with a look of bewilderment. He remembered that he had mentioned maybe going to Las Vegas some day, take in some shows and do a little gambling. He thought that he’d said it in fun, but now he thought that adventure, an excursion, may be fun. He could use a couple of days away from home and the look of Janet’s face was almost pleading.
“Well, what do you think?”
“Let’s do it. When does the bus leave?”
“Friday morning at seven a.m.”
“Great. That’ll give me two days to do a few things around here that need doing.” He said.
“We’ll have a great time John.”
Next morning he got up and had breakfast with Janet and saw her off to work, just like he’d always done since his retirement, except this morning he seemed almost giddy.
The day was forecasted to be a typical July day with highs in the nineties and a good chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon-according to the local television forecaster.
John thought that the local forecaster must have been drunk most of the time when he put together his forecast. He was usually as inaccurate as a politicians promise. Like two winters ago. It was snowing golf ball sized flakes with some baseball size thrown in, and there was already four inches piled up on the porch. Well, the local weatherman said, as this was happening, it looks like the snow is going to miss us this time. Sorry kids. There is a chance of a few sprinkles of rain this morning and it will be partly cloudy this afternoon. Janet looked out the window, then to John and said, “I’m going to call Helen and see how things are in town.
She only lives two blocks from the television station.”
“Oh, we’re getting the same thing here Janet.” Helen said.
There was ten inches of snow on the ground by that evening and another two inches over night.
Next morning on the local news program, when the news anchors turned it over to the weatherman, they looked like they were fighting with all they had not to fall off their stools laughing. When the camera turned to the weather-guy, he was facing the camera but cutting his eyes at his hysterical colleges, as red as a vine ripened tomato and he looked like he didn’t know weather to run or crawl under the desk; he got through it and delivered another forecast just as erroneous as is previous blunder.
John walked out on to the porch, and at 8:00 a.m. it was already seventy-eight degrees and muggy. John said to himself aloud, “Well, I guess that old Bill Cummings, the weatherman, might be right this time. It sure is a change from yesterday’s beautiful weather.”
That made him think about the other events that took place yesterday and his giddy mood slipped away. He would be keeping his eyes open today. He was determined to remain conscious each moment of every awaken minute of the day: he would remind himself tomorrow morning, to remind himself the next morning and so on, until he forgot.
In July the vegetable garden was in full production. It had been an unusual growing season with a good soaking rain about every two days; as a result everything was growing like a boy reaching puberty. Every morning there was a basket of tomatoes, another of yellow squash and zucchini, and the cucumbers were growing so fast, that it seemed as though they were going from flower to pickling size over night.
They had far more than they could use, so friends in town that had no room for gardening were getting their share, and the Lynchburg soup kitchen was feeding those in need healthy, organically grown vegetables.
In the past few years, their joy of gardening had come from knowing that they were helping out in the community; helping to feed folks less fortunate than themselves. Too, John had always taken pride in his bountiful gardens; the fact that not once had he ever used chemical pesticides or unnatural fertilizers; hard work and composting, is what he told people when they asked what his secret was.
John was almost to the garden when he heard someone pulling in to the driveway. He walked the stone path around, instead of going through the house, so he wouldn’t have to take off his work boots; it would save him from getting the-You’re as bad as a kid; look at this mess-routine from Janet.
“Hey there John,” it was Frank Williams. John’s first thought when he saw him was,
“Damn. So she got me a babysitter after all, and Frank Williams, hell, he’s looser in the brain than I am.
“What do you say, Frank?”
“Helen called me as soon as Janet told her the good news.”
“Yep. Said ya’ll were going on the bus trip with us to Atlantic City.”
“Oh that good news…yeah, guess we will. I done told her we’d go.”
“It ain’t so bad John. Me and Helen went on a bus trip to Washington D.C. last year…had a good time too. We went to that Smithonian and the zoo, and, you know all the other things that tourist do when they go there.
“That’s a long time to be on a bus, ain’t it Frank? Why, I-magine it ain’t too comfortable.”
“It ain’t so bad; they make rest stops and such.”
“Well I recon I’ll get through it.” John always picked up on people’s accents and way of thinking and adjusted himself accordingly; he found it easier to get along; a device to make the other person comfortable and helped him keep his patience with them. But, he couldn’t help but wonder why Frank, who was raised in town, had such a country way about him, and he, raised back in the mountains, didn’t. The only thing that he could figure was that Frank thought it was cute to act so uneducated, or, he really wasn’t very bright. John would have opted for the later of the explanations, but for Janet’s sake he never voiced it.
“Come on Frank and we’ll get you some fresh vegetables.”
“Oh, that sounds mighty good, John.”
They took a slow walk to the garden: Frank was about to talk John to death. John felt that most of what Frank had to say-most of the time-was not worth the pain and suffering inflected upon his ear. He told Janet on time that, if I only had hearing aids, I would turn them off when Frank was talking and nod and say yeah, and, you’re right every now and then: it would make him a lot more tolerable. Then too, ever once in awhile Frank would actually say something quite profound; as they say, there is something to be learned from everyone-it had to happen.
They walked through the entrance to the vegetable garden and John looked at Frank and his eyes were about to spit out of their sockets, and his tongue was wrestling his oversized top lip-it always reminded John of the front bumper on a 1959 Cadillac. “Oh John, that’s some mighty fine looking veggies you got here.”
“Thank you Frank. I hope that you and Helen will enjoy them.”
“You know we will!”
John began filling a bushel basket with cucumbers, and on top of them he put zucchini and yellow squash and topped the basket off with vine ripened tomatoes the size of softballs. You would have thought that John was giving Frank a bag of gold; he was nearly drooling and was patting John on the back so hard that he was about to knock him down.
They got to the garden gate and John sat the basket down, but not before he did, Frank grabbed a fat tomato and took a big bite out of it: John could feel the juice spraying the back of his neck. John turned to look at Frank just in time to get sprayed in the eyes as Frank took a subsequent bite. The acidic juices began burning his eyes, impairing his vision, and he tripped and fell. Frank reached down with his free hand and took John’s left arm, then let go and backed off. “John, don’t move, there’s a copperhead right in front of you and he don’t look none too happy.”
John’s eyes were watering and he was blinking them trying to clear his vision. When he finally did he could see that the serpent was no more than two feet in front of him, coiled with his head held high, his tongue flashing as if anticipating a feast: they were fixed by an ill-omened gape. Later, John would tell Janet that the serpents’ eyes were huge and unrelenting; he had looked Satan in the eye and lived to talk about it.
John was on his hands and knees. He began backing away as slowly as possible, hoping that the snake would not feel motivated to strike. He was as tense as a mother giving birth for the first time. Frank, the ostensibly undaunted spectator, bit in to the tomato again, misting juice onto John’s back and the snake. John almost jumped at the misting and the squirting-sound, and the snake drew his head back as if he was preparing to strike. Frank started giving him instructions but John turned off his imaginary hearing aid and tried to ignore him. Once the copperhead had somewhat relaxed his aggressive posture, John pushed himself up and back safely away from the snake. He fell backwards onto the basket, crushing most of the tomatoes. He looked up and Frank was standing over him. He rolled off of the basket and Frank looked at the basket and back to John and said, “John, you smashed my mators. They’re ruined.”
He got to his feet and looked to where the snake had been and it was slithering away toward the woods. He turned and looked at Frank, nearly loosing his temper, but then he realized when he looked into Frank’s pathetic expression and shallow eyes that it was pointless; Frank was obviously-to John’s way of thinking- affected by a encephalopathy.
“I’ll get you some more tomatoes, Frank,” he sighed; half relief and half frustration.
After he had walked Frank back to his car and watched him drive away with a wave, he realized that he was exhausted. He went in the house, drank a glass of water and lay down on the couch to take a nap.
The gentle humming of the air-conditioned, and the rhythmic, tic, tic, tic of the antique grandfather clock-like a baby animal laying close to its mother, hearing and feeling her heart’s metrical beat, he was soothingly given over to sleep.
Forty-five minutes later John woke from a dream that he was face to face, eye to eye with a giant copperhead-as big as himself. He jumped with a disquieting confusion-blanketed in sweat- to the sound of the phone ringing on the end table by his head.
He picked up the receiver, “John, are you alright? Frank Williams just called Helen and told her what happened. Are you Okay?”
“That sonofabitch,” he said softly.
“What was that, John?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound like it. I’m coming home…”
“No, Janet! I told you, I’m fine, and I am. Frank just gets on my nerves sometimes. I just woke up from a nap and I feel great, thoroughly rejuvenated, he said, trying to disguise his anger with Frank and shake off the dream.”
“John…please be careful. I love you.”
“I’ll be careful, I promise. I love you too.”
When he hung up the phone ha walked briskly to the bathroom and threw up. He stood up and caught his reflection in the mirror…“Damn. Get it together, John,” he told his expression; an expression of despair.”
The rest of the day went by without affect until that night. He woke up near midnight, jactitating and lashing out, “Let me go you devil. Let go of my leg and go back to hell where you belong.”
Janet sat up in bed and put her hand on his thigh… “John…John wake-up. Come on get up.” He sat straight up, as if propelled by the release of a comprised spring.
“What is it? What’s wrong John?”
“O God…thank God it’s you Janet.”
“What were you dreaming?”
“It was awful…a nightmare!”
“What was it? What were you dreaming?”
“A snake, a copperhead had a hold of my leg with his fangs buried deep and he would not let go: As was as big as me. And there was another one, a slightly smaller one, hanging from the arbor over the entrance to the vegetable garden; staring me in the eyes no more than a foot from my face. He was just staring, as if trying to hypnotize me.”
“That is awful. That would have scared anyone half to death. Come on John, let’s go to the kitchen and I’ll fix us a glass of warm milk, and after you have calmed down, maybe you will tell me what has been bothering you lately.”
“There is more to it than that, John. Something has been eating you since before you saw the first snake this season. Is it David?”
He grumpily got out of bed mumbling softly about being treated like a child.
Janet heated the milk and poured them each a glass and sat down at the kitchen table with John. Not one word had passed between them since they had come in to the kitchen.
“Look, John I…”
“Okay.” he said. “I guess you’re going to hound me until you get it out of me, so, here it is. Since my retirement I have noticed how difficult is becoming for me to do anything. I can’t do anything half as well as I could just two short years ago. I’ve become clumsy and slow, and I can feel myself getting older by the minute. I worry about everything and…yes…I guess a lot of what’s bothering me is David’s death: we were the same age you know. I feel like death is stalking me. Bottom line Janet, I…I am afraid of dying. I haven’t had nearly enough time with you and I worry about what will become of you when I do die.”
By now Johns’ eyes were watering and Janet was discreetly padding the tears from her cheeks with napkins from the holder that sat on the table between them.
“Oh John, I am sorry for pressing you, or as you say hounding you.” They shared a small smile with one another through their tears. “I love you so much! John, you are carrying way to much worry around with you. I know that it’s like trying to move a mountain, but you are going to have to keep busy and try not to think to much about those things. Now, please, please John, don’t take what I am about to say wrong. I am thinking about taking an early retirement. We don’t really need the money, and you are right, we haven’t spent nearly enough time together.
We used to talk about traveling and so many other things that we could do once the kids were on their own; we haven’t done any of it. I really want this, John.”
He sat slack shouldered, his head hanging, looking down at the floor. “Well John, say something.”
He put his hands to his eyes and sat up and turned away from her rubbing them. He drew in a deep breath that seemed to fill his lungs instantly look at Janet: she looked-at this-moment every bit as beautiful as the first time he had seen her, standing with some friends laughing and talking at the Farmers Market dance in Lynchburg: more beautiful, he thought.
“Are you sure this is what you really want to do, Janet?”
“I’m sorry if it seems selfish John but, yes, I want it so much. I had forgotten about all of our dreams and plans until this week, and when it all became clear to me I was praying that when I told you, you would be as excited as I am.”
“It sounds so good sweetheart. I just hope this isn’t a dream and the nightmare I had a reality,” he said with half a smile. Their eyes consumed one another, and each held the other tight throughout the remainder of the night…
The next morning Janet phoned her office to tell them that she would not be back until Monday. She talked to her boss and asked him to make arrangements to hire a replacement because she was retiring; he had expected her to call because she had been talking about for a couple of weeks; he knew the situation. They went out to breakfast at Western Sizzler—they both loved Sizzlers breakfast buffet. Afterwards they went shopping each of them buying new clothes-both casual and dress. They bought new luggage and personal items they would need on their trip to Atlantic City. They felt like newly weds again; they were suddenly happy, as happy as anyone could be. A break from the routine, the rut they had found themselves in, and not only John, but Janet too.
On their way home they stopped at the bank and picked up two-hundred dollars in cash and three-thousand in traveler’s checks. They planned to live it up in Atlantic City.
It was Friday morning and the bus was pulling out of the terminal at precisely 7:00am, as scheduled. The trip was relativity uneventful except for one thing. They stopped at a rest-stop on Interstate 95, just out side of Fredericksburg, Virginia and when the bus driver thought that everyone was on board and started thru the long parking lot toward the entrance to 95 north. Suddenly, Helen started hollering, “Stop the bus. Stop the bus. You forgot my husband.” She must have forgotten too for a minute.
We looked out the back window and Frank was running as fast as his stubby, sixty-five year old legs would carry him, waving with one hand and holding on to his belt with the other so the waist of his pants wouldn’t slide from above his belly, over, and then under it. He looked like a chubby little boy who had been dropped off at school on his first day, and was frightened so he was chasing after his mother. Even though he looked like he was going to cry, everyone who could see him was laughing; even a little girl and boy standing by their parent’s car was pointing and laughing at him. “I would have paid to see that!” John laughed, Janet squeezing his arm and shushing him. Helen finally ran to the front of the bus and demanded that the driver stop and pick him up.
They arrived in Atlantic City around 4:00pm. Their luggage was unloaded and they found their rooms in the luxurious-Flagship All Suites Resort. Included in the trip package was two night at the Flagship.
John and Janet’s suite was on the twenty-seventh floor with a private balcony overlooking the Boardwalk and the ocean. They had a kitchenette and a twenty-five inch television. Once they had had a look at the room and the balcony, John looked at Janet and said, “Why don’t we buy some groceries and just stay in the room all weekend?”
Janet looked him in the eye and replied with a firm, “No.” He was kidding of course but if she would have agreed, he would not have objected.
They settled in, took showers, dressed, and had dinner in the hotel at the Ozone Restaurant. Frank and Helen and another couple joined them for dinner.
After dinner, Frank suggested that they all take the shuttle from their hotel to the Showboat or Taj Mahal casino. John told them that he was tired and that they would have to bow-out.
It was a beautiful evening, not quite as humid as it had been at home. They took a walk on, Atlantic City’s World Famous Boardwalk.
They held hands and listened to the waves kissing the beach as they walked. They would stop for minutes at a time looking out at the ocean and in to one another’s eyes. In a lot of ways, they felt young again; each overflowing, with the warmest, solemnest love for the other. They exchanged a delicate kiss and when they parted lips John looked in to Janet’s eyes, “I had forgotten how your eyes engulf my soul and explode, with all of the honesty of given love that melts my heart, streaming warmth throughout my body lifting me to the heavens. Her eyes were drifting in a placid, reservoir of euphoric tears as his sailed in the depths of hers, they embraced holding on to the moment and their reanimate and eternal love. They felt a restful calm that they had never felt before. Another gentle kiss and they walked, hands and hearts interlaced, on a dreamlike frothiness back to the hotel, entered their room, turned off the light and transformed their fervor within a surreal caress.
The slept in the next morning, then had breakfast in an intimate café on the boardwalk. They slipped away from Frank and Helen so they could do what they wanted to do, and be alone doing it. After they left the café they went to the 1857 Absecon Lighthouse, then the Atlantic City Historical museum, and the Ocean Life Center. They rarely let go of one another’s hand. They smiled all day; more than Janet could remember them smiling over the past ten years combined.
That evening they went back to the hotel to freshen up. Then they found Frank and Helen and the four of them had dinner together and took the shuttle to the Showboat Casino. John and Janet had never gambled in their lives; they didn’t even play the lottery. However, tonight they were going to loosen-up and have a great time.
They decided that they would start out with twenty-five dollars, in chips, each and build their fortune from there.
They went to the Black Jack table first. In half an hour John had tripled his investment while Janet filled the near by slot machines. They moved on to the roulette table and John could not loose. Just two hours after walking in to the casino John had converted his twenty-five dollars in to five hundred. Janet had lost her twenty-five in the slot machines but was having the time of her life watching John having a great time; she hadn’t seen him so carefree in years.
The all took a brake and went in to the adjoining piano bar for drinks; John and Janet had coffee, Helen had a soft drink, and Frank ordered bourbon on the rocks. They sat and frank talked…and talked…and talked until John noticed that it was nearly midnight. “We are going to have to go, I am exhausted, John said.”
Frank tried to shame John in to staying, “You old greedy thing, you’re afraid of loosing your winnings. That’s why you want to go ain’t it?”
“Frank!” Helen said squeezing is arm.
“It’s alright Helen,” John said. We’ll stay another half hour, and that is it. If I am lucky this time, I will loose it all.”
“I know you’re full of it now,” Frank said.”
“I’m sorry he’s acting like this Janet, it’s the liquor.”
Janet smiled and touched Helens’ arm lightly, “It’s okay Helen, we are here to let our hair down a little after all.”
They all followed John over to watch him throw the dice. He placed two-hundred and fifty dollars down and threw, “Seven!” Frank hollered. “Man you can’t loose tonight.”
John left the five hundred down and threw again. Everyone watching collectively sighed. “Snake Eyes,” “Frank hollered and laughed. “You were a fool to bet all of that, John…a fool.”
John’s eyes grew big and he turned pallid and his legs became decrepit. Janet grabbed his arm, “Honey, are you alright?”
Frank started to say something and Janet looked him in the eye. She looked possessed, “Shut-up Frank,” she growled in a low voice. Helen pulled Frank away and made him sit down.
John turned and walked away from the table and without sating a word walked out of the casino with Janet holding his arm.
When they got back to the hotel Janet asked, “What was that all about? What happened to you?”
“Snake eyes.” he said. “For a minute I was on the ground face to face with that copperhead again with Frank running his mouth just like he was that day: You know, now that I think about it, I remember that Frank was getting on my nerves so bad, that I even felt sorry for the snake for having to hear it. Janet was sitting on the bed laughing; she fell back and rolled of the bed. John just smiled and shook his head.