Opal bid her employer good-bye. Shaking her head, she looked over the barren horizon. Tears filled her eyes. Alex showed her the outbuildings – the barn, the chicken coop, the pigs’ pen, all primitive structures. Her heart sank. What did she expect? her mind roared. But indeed, she had anticipated a better house for a banker of means. Oh well. She told herself she made her bed and she had to deal with it. But, it sure would make things more palatable if she were surrounded by trees. She sighed and strolled through the tall grass, vowing to tend to that flower garden the first time she got a chance. Something scampered among the damp vegetation. Its slick body slithered over her boots. She shrieked and backed away.
Theodore came running. He stood beside her. “What’s wrong, Miss Preston?”
“I-I, well, something is in the grass.”
The little boy combed the area. He smiled, holding up a snake. It wiggled its long body. He presented it to her. “It’s just a garner snake by golly. You ain’t afraid of it, are you?”
“You ain’t cotton to our ways. Out here we’ve got a lot of them.” He stuck the snake in his pocket.
Her brow furled. “What you going to do with it?” pointing to the reptile.
“Why me and sis like to play with them.”
It took a minute for his answer to resonate. “Play with them?”
“Yelp, we’ll hunt for another one and then they can fight.”
“Sure Miss. We pretend like they’re in a boxing match.”
“Oh.” A thought crossed her mind. She cleared her throat. “You don’t. Um. Bring them in the house?”
He pulled out the snake and rubbed its back. “Why Miss Preston there’s no harm in that.”
“But your father.”
“Oh, Papa don’t care.”
“Nope. We bring in lots of animals. Last week I even brought in a stray cat, but Papa didn’t like that.”
She shuffled her feet. “A cat. I don’t understand.”
“Pa said they’re needed to be outside to eat as many mice as possible.”
Her mind whirled. “Mice. You don’t bring those into the house do you?” she asked in a whimper voice.
He shook his head in the negative. “No, but they have a way of coming in on their own
anyway. Miss Preston you looking kind of white.”
Her eyes closed.
“Miss Preston,” his shrill voice penetrating her consciousness.