So what is the plan, Chief?

The back room of the house is a cavernous addition with a complicated history.

Just as she can peruse the lawn and pinpoint where the old washing shed and canning shed used to be, she can also recount the history of this room with its high ceilings and slow-moving fans.

Her grandfather used to repair boats here.

Back then the room was not a room per se, but an open structured workshop. Local fishermen would back their boats into it and Papaw would work on whatever ailed them.

It was not until his health began to falter in his late 70s that Uncle Weaver and Aunt Rhonda talked their parents into making it into a room.

They saw rows of long tables and a barbecue pit in the back. Weaver and his brother-in-law oversaw the construction and the walls and windows took shape. Everything went smoothly until they realized they had made no provision for a flue. The pit they had half finished had no outlet. There would be no way to vent the smoke.

They were resourceful men, and would have concocted a reasonable solution if Mamaw’s illness had not intervened.

Suddenly the collective vision of family reunions was derailed by a protracted battle with terminal cancer, with all the pain and indignity eclipsing any thoughts of normal life.

She stood in the room–cavernous, a room with chipped and peeling cement floors, stacks of old magazines, and the collected detritus of decades of living.

She sigh, this is going to take forever.

Chris was examining a small suitcase with a petrified gas mask and a motley collection of toy trucks.

He used his sleeve to wipe off the gas mask and then proceeded to strap it across his face. How could someone look so comical and sinister at the same time?

So what is the plan, Chief? he asked, his voice echoey and remote inside the mask.

Then several things happened simultaneously, with the stop-motion precision of adrenaline saturating her recollection of it later.

Betsy, who had opted for the relative cool of Papaw’s old leather recliner went from curled and somnolent to full-throated whoof!

Chris, in one continuous motion grabbed the metal suitcase he has fished the gas mask from, and charged at her, slamming it with lightning force and precision at a 45 degree angle to where she was standing.

She had no time to process the dog’s sudden alarm or the man’s violent swing. What had just happened here?

Before Betsy’s barking had subsided, he peeled the mask from his face and said, snake.

She turned to look at the suitcase and saw that the still writhing body of the dying snake lay trapped by the weight of the suitcase. Chris had somehow managed to throw the suitcase with such speed and precision that the snake had not had time to move or strike. It’s crushed head and upper body pinned between the weight of the case.

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