2004 Anne Horton Writing Award
"Stuck Right Here"
I know that snake wasn't there when I walked down here to the bridge. I positively hate snakes, and there is no way in the world that I would have missed a five-foot-long specimen sunning itself in the middle of the road. Thank God it isn't moving! As much as I don't want it to be there, I really don't want to see it move either, 'cuz snakes move in the creepiest way. His body-yeah, all snakes are male in my mind-will wiggle in this extended S-shape that will slide from his head back to his tail. So he'll look like he's going sideways, but he'll be going forward. Well, mostly forward; he may also angle off or swing back toward you. Snakes are completely unpredictable, and they're fast, too.
But here he is, right smack in the middle of this country road, and I do mean smack in the middle. He didn't leave a heck of a lot of space in front of him or behind him so I could get back home. Sure, it looks like there's space, but if he decides to move, he'll cover the distance pretty quickly and I'll have to head for that deep ditch.
Not too long ago the county put in a new bridge, raising it up higher above the crick than the old one. They also widened and raised the road leading to it, so the ditch is pretty deep. It really isn't a natural type of ditch anymore, growing wildflowers and tall weeds all helter-skelter, but the county didn't spend any money prettying up the sides of the road, either, like they do along the highways. Basically, it's construction leftovers: dirt, big rocks, and steep sides that would be hard to climb back up. There are some weeds growing down there, but they're pretty much hit-or-miss with a tall patch here and a lone plant there. My dad said it'll be hell to mow next summer. Since we're only about twenty yards from the crick, I figure there are probably some critters down there, too. Good chance for a frog or two, definitely bugs and spiders, and since I'm a country girl, I do know that where there's one snake, there's probably another.
So I don't want to have to head for the ditch. I can go behind him, but if he decides to come for me or just gets confused and comes my way, I'll have to hit the other ditch which is pretty much identical to the first, except it has an old rusty barbed-wire fence at the bottom of it with cows on the other side. Big cows.
I can wait him out, I guess. I can go back and sit on the wide rail of the new bridge. That's what I've been doing for the past half hour or so, just watching the cows and looking up at the hills around me. I love being on that new bridge. The concrete rails are about a foot and a half wide; wide enough to make a girl feel pretty secure. I sit and watch the crick, looking for fish close to the surface, or maybe a frog jumping in. I like frogs from up high like that, just like I do cows. I look at all the corn and beans. Today I can just about see my dad working way over on the hill up by the pond. I like to daydream down here, but I don't tell anyone that. I like to imagine that one of the farmers' sons will come by and decide he just can't live without talking to me. I think about how fun it would be to go riding in his pickup, flying down the road, sending walls of dust up behind the tires. Nope, I wouldn't mind sitting for a while longer, but I'm supposed to be home in about seven minutes and that means I need to get going.
Gosh, I can see my house, the roof and chimney of it anyway, right at the top of the hill. But the damn snake's blocking my way! Why doesn't he just move? Why can't some farmer drive by on his tractor? Now would be a good time for that hotrod kid to come by in his daddy's truck. That would move the snake, might even kill him. I don't want to see that, but I wouldn't mind it happening 'cuz now every time I come down to the bridge, I'm gonna know that snake is somewhere nearby.
Well, time's passing and I guess I'd rather take my chances going behind the snake than with my mom. She might understand about being afraid of it, but first she'll have to stop yelling about me being late and about how worried she was. Even after that, she'll probably just tell me that we all have to do things we don't like. Oh yeah, and that he was probably more scared of me than I was of him. Fat chance! Well, here I go.