Slowly the door opened. It was dark in the room and a light shuffling of feet was heard. Glen was sound asleep, working double shifts did him in. Heck, a few years back he could work a double shift, party, and get by on three or four hours of sleep. But not anymore, no siree bob. Now he had to have that old man’s sleepy eight hours.
The door opened just six or eight inches then something was placed on the floor, shoved into the room and the door quietly closed until it the latch went click. The key silently pushed the locking bar into the door frame. Then the key was removed and shoved under the door, being pushed hard enough to clear the bottom of the door. Mission accomplished. The culprit went back to their room, closed and locked the door. The Grandfather clock in the hall downstairs chimed two. The house was quiet.
Three O’clock, four, then five, and at twelve minutes to six there was a resounding boom that shook the house, waking everyone. “How in the hell did a rattle snake get in my bedroom?” Glen Saunters screamed after the powder smoke began to settle and his ears slowed their loud ring. “Dang gosh almight, a rattle snake, a rattle snake sleeping on my trousers!” He put the .44 magnum revolver back in the headboard, picked up the dead snake and carried it downstairs, laying it on the kitchen table.
“What is it dad, what was that noise?” Mary Saunters, a 22 year-old first year school teacher came down the hall.
“Dad, Dad, dod you go back on the sauce and shoot a night mare?” Billy Dee Saunters asked as he ditty-bopped down the hall.
“Dad, oh Dad, must you make so much noise? I was studying.” Ellen Saunters, 16, came down the hall in a short tee shirt.
“Gosh Dad, did you shoot that night mare? Did you get him this time? Wow Dad, the bullet tore up the kitchen floor.” Warren Saunter, 12 years old, was a night owl and up early.
Glen went into the bathroom, shaved, brushed his teeth, went back into the bedroom where he got clean shirt trousers and socks. “Ain’t wearing no durn socks that a rattler slept on, no way.” Glen then went down stairs and poured a cup of coffee. He had set the Mister coffee before he went to bed. “Warren, did you have a rattle snake in the house, have you started to play with snakes now?”
The four children, one-by-one came down stairs, got a glass of juice, an orange and a banana and sat down at the table. “When is Mom coming home?” Warren asked.
“Yeah, Mom has been gone nearly two weeks, I want some breakfast.” Billy Dee quickly finished his orange and banana, then headed for the cupboard to get cereal. No one said anything about the snake, no one got shook up that there was a snake in the house.
Glen finished his second cup of coffee and began to function. “Where did a rattler come from, how did it get in my bedroom?” He looked at the children. “Warren did you take it away, I put it on the table?”
“Yes Dad, I put it on a chair on the back porch.” Warren looked at his dad. “I looked at the snake and it was a rattler, nine rattles, but I never remember seeing a snake around here.”
Glen, as he went out, put the snake in a paper bag and threw it in the back of the truck. “Jake Drawly’s brother works for the state in game and fish so he might be able to tell me something,” he thought as he got into his truck and headed to work. Glen ran a Rolling Mill at the Rubatex plant. He had been there since he was sixteen, working nights and summers, then when he came back from the Army he was assigned to the Rolling Mill and that is where he had been ever since. He was, and as long as he worked there, would be one of two men who ran the Rolling Mill.
At lunch time Glen and Jake sat in the corner of the cafeteria. “Jake, you ever seen a rattle snake around here?”
Jake took a big bite of sandwich and slowly chewed it. Jake did not talk with his mouth full and when he swallowed the last bit, he took a drink of milk, wiped his mouth and looked at Glen. “No, can’t rightly say I have. Matter of fact, Ted, who works for game and fish, and I were talking after church about the lack of snakes around here. There are only a few garter snakes, some long name Ted calls them.” Jake then took up his sandwich, “Why do you ask,” he asked as he took a big bite.
“Because one was on my trousers when I got up this morning, shot the scudder with the .44, blew a hole in the bedroom floor and tore up the new linoleum in the kitchen. Boy the wife is going to be PO’d.”
Jake gulped, mouth full and said, “Naw, no way.”
“It is in the back of my pickup in a paper sack,” Glen replied. Jake pulled out his cell. “Ted, Jake. Glen found a rattlesnake on his trousers in his bedroom this morning.” A pause. “No, he is OK, shot it with that dang .357, . . . Ok, just a sec.”
Jake looked at Glen. “Can Ted come look at it? For no rattler has been reported around here, can he come get it from your truck?”
Glen nodded yes.
“Yeah, it is in a paper sack in the back of his truck. You know the old yellow Chevy. . . . yeah that one. Ok, thanks brother, and remember Friday night is chili night at my house. Bye.”
“Well what did he say?” Glen asked as he looked at his watch. They had five minutes.
“He will come and get it, check it out, then I am sure he will let you know. Sure you didn’t fall off the wagon last night and think you saw a snake?” Jake laughed as he put his thermos back into his lunch bucket. “Maybe someone was trying to kill you.”
Both men went back to work. Jake was in maintenance. At four, when the shift changed, Glen went back to the cafeteria, ate his other two sandwiches, and drank a couple cups of coffee. One shift down, one more to go.
It was quarter to one when Glen arrived home. He brought his big old six cell flashlight in with him. Everyone was in bed, so he turned out the lights and went upstairs to their room. He turned on the bedroom lights, but as he walked toward the bed he saw the key on the floor. He bent over, picked it up, and put it in the door. Then he got down on his hands and knees and checked under the bed, behind the dresser, and every place in the room. When he was satisfied, he took a shower. Before getting in bed he locked the door and put one of those cardboard thingys that cleaners hang on the doorknob. If the knob was turned it would fall off. And with that, he put the pistol and flashlight under his pillow and went to sleep.
When the alarm sounded, Glen turned on the light and shone the light all around to see if he had another intruder. The little cardboard tube was on the floor. Someone had tried to open his door!
He arose, went to the door, opened it, and looked down in front of the door where he had dusted some of his wife’s talc. There were footprints.
Breakfast and the pre-work ritual went as usual, and tomorrow his wife would be home. “Dad, why did Mom have to go to Seattle?” Ellen asked for the umpteenth time.
“Your mother is good at her job so when the Skagits moved they insisted that your mother drive the truck, packing and unloading them.” Glen’s wife Margie worked for the local Mayflower company. She drove a truck, packed and did it all. Many people liked her and insisted on Margie handling their move. Matter of fact, she now owned, well the family owned 30% of the local company, Detailer’s Van & Storage.
“Dad, you mean Mom is so good at packing stuff and driving the truck that people want her to go to where they are moving so she can unpack it?” Ellen shook her head in disbelief.
Mary spoke up. “El, mom is very good at what she does, Dad is good at the plant running the Rolling Mill. I hope to be that good a teacher and what ever you do, you most likely will be a whiz at if, if you like what you are doing.” She was well beyond her 22 years and loved teaching.
“Oh, I am only working one shift today, so what if we cook hamburgers, French fries and a big salad, it is supposed to be nice,” Glen said. All said yes and off they went.
When Glen drove into the parking lot at the plant he saw Jake and Ted standing there. When he stopped, both were at his door. “Glen, you say you woke up and found that rattler on your trousers?” Ted did not beat around the bush.
“Yes, I woke up, looked down saw the snake on my trousers, grabbed my gun and shot it. It was not coiled to strike, but sort of stretched out sleeping.” Glen got his lunch bucket and locked his truck. “Why, why do you ask?”
“Glen, that was an Oklahoma rattler, indigenous to the Tulsa area. How did it get there, did one of your children have a pet snake? It is not from around here and my boss is upset over it,” Ted said.
Glen told the same story over, they shook hands and Glen went to work, but all day his head was going in circles, was one of the children trying to kill him? Where had the snake come from, which of his children wanted to kill him?
After work, Glen stopped off and bought stuff for a hamburger fry; good meat, those large buns and Ore-Ida crinkled frozen French fries, plus six jugs of the Mug rootie beer. When he arrived home he found the grill started and the girls had the fixings ready. They played Horse as they normally did; the backboard and basket had been well worth the money, as well as the heavy screens of the windows. As they ate supper they played trivial pursuit, Mary and Billy Dee were getting good, but not quite good enough to usurp old dad. Afterwards he watched TV and wondered what was going on that he could not see, what was wrong that he did not know about, for that rattler was real.
Glen turned in about nine-thirty, again locking the door and placing the cardboard on the door knob, again searching the room for any intruders or dangerous critters. He was soon asleep. Again in the morning the cardboard tube was on the floor and there were the same footprints outside the bedroom door. Again the morning rituals were the same. What was going on, what on earth? This was a TGIF for Glen, the day seemed to go on and on as he was engulfed in thought about what had happened. “Am I paranoid, am I about to flip my lid,” he kept asking himself. After work he bought Margie a small bunch of flowers and he bought a bottle of her favorite wine. Mary was going to Denver with some friends so he made chili and rice. Five thirty no Margie, then at ten after six the phone rang; “Honey, they found a load for me back to Denver, so I won’t be home until late tomorrow night or on Sunday, love you,” click she was gone.
After supper, Billy Dee had a date, Ellen went to Sue’s house and Warren went to the library, researching a Physics project. He made a pot of coffee, got a tablet and started drawing boxes, trying to figure out what was going on. When that failed he turned on an old movie and fell asleep. When he awoke Billy Dee was just coming home and the other two were in their rooms.
After showering, Glen took Margie’s bath powder and dusted it on the floor outside the bedroom door, then he took a plastic glass, filled it with pennies and balanced it on the door knob, leaving the door unlocked. He stuffed some pillows in the bed, took a blanket and the big flash light then went over to the window and lay down. Soon he was asleep.
Kerthunk. Rattle, rattle as pennies hit the floor; Glen awoke, shined the light at the door to see someone depart. He jumped up and ran to the door turning the hall light on. He saw the tracks in the powder, looking like the previous tracks. He stopped, listened, hearing nothing. Then he went to Mary’s room, opened the door went in, of course she was gone. Then he went into Billy Dee’s room, he was asleep. Glen walked to the edge of the bed and lay his hand on his son’s heart. Slow heart rate and his breathing was very slow and rthymatic.
Shaking his head he went to Ellen’s and then Warren’s room, same thing, reduced heart rate as they were at rest and sleeping. He checked each’s bedroom slippers and there was no powder on them and when he smelled them, no fragrance. What the heck was going on, who was at the door? For if it had been one of the children and they ran back and jumped into bed, then their heart race would be fast and their bedroom slippers would have smelled of Margie’s powder. Finally he went back into their room, locked the door and crawled back on the pallet. He lay there for an hour or so before he finally fell asleep.
Saturday was a normal day for the Saunters family, shopping, laundry, running hither and yon. Glen was quiet and thinking. If it were not one of the children, then who was it? Was it someone coming into the house? Was it a ghost? Glen did not believe in ghosts. Billy Dee and Ellen had dates so he and Warren went to their favorite Mexican place and then to a movie. They just don’t make movies like they used to make them, he thought.
Sunday afternoon just before five Margie arrived home, she was full of energy, “Great trip, got a three hundred dollar tip and Jeanie Joe, got a hundred. The load back to Denver got me another hundred tip,” she said as she poured a glass of wine and recounted the mansion the people had moved into in Seattle. That night was a quiet one as was the next two weeks. Glen had, in a way put it in the back of his mind, not thinking about it until?
“Honey, I have to take a load to Pueblo, unload then pick up a load and take it to Taos.” Old customers, keep wanting me to do their moves and they are willing to pay a premium,” Margie announced at supper on Thursday night.
“Oh you taking Jeanie Joe with you?” Glen did not like these trips. The pay was good and she did have some security in owning a little of the company but it did not seem right to him.
“No, her husband says no, matter of fact she is thinking of quitting because she says the hours are too long anymore since Skeeter took that long haul job.” She paused and her face said there was more. “No I was thinking of taking Jimbo, he is young, works hard and we work well together.” She braced herself for Jimbo Johnson was a tall Adonis looking young man, single and quite a reveler, from what they had heard.
“OH! Really,” Glen replied. “Honey, I know you are good, but I do not like this traveling, once in a while is fine, but it seems lately you are doing a lot of it.”
Margie looked at her husband, “What is it Glen, you afraid I am going out catting? Is it because I am a married woman? Am I not supposed to be good at my job and try to get ahead?” Her steely Gray eyes were staring a hole in her husband. “What is it, out with it,” she paused, “I enjoy it, it is a big deal for me to go to other places and see how others live.” The children had already left the table. She rose, started piling plates, “I am going to take Jimbo with me. He is hard working wants to learn and it certainly does make my job easier.”
Glen started to speak, to say, “Your own little wonder play boy,” but he thought better of it. “Honey, I just don’t like you to be gone, it is just that simple, so bear with me, I will get used to it and learn, promise.”
So Friday morning Glen kissed Margie good bye as he left for work, “See you when you get back, love you, babe,” he said as he pinched her bottom and ran for the door.
Friday night he and Warren played chess, then he read until everyone was in; Mary was getting serious with her boyfriend and was talking of moving in with him. Both Glen and Margie, being old fashioned, told her it would look bad from the students point of view, so think twice and if they were that adamant, just get married. That cooled Mary for a few weeks. But it was every night and Glen remembered when he and Margie were courting, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, then home to bed for work did call.
When Glen got ready for bed, he made the dummy in the bed, leaving the door unlocked and slept on the pallet over under the window. Again he had his large flashlight and trusty .44. He then set his small alarm for one and went to sleep. When the alarm woke him, he turned it off, sat up with the flashlight in hand and waited.
One-fifteen, one-thirty, quarter to two then he sensed something. The door opened and a figure slowly made their way to the bed, then lay something on it and turned to leave. As they did he turned on the large flashlight and saw the person. Whoosh they were gone. He turned on the lights and there I his bed was an agitated rattler. Glen went down stairs, got a poker and tied a piece of string on it and found a cardboard box with a top. He went back, the rattler was lying on the bed. Glen worked the string over the rattler’s head, lifted up, raising the snake. He moved it over to the box, dropped the snake inside, then holding its head to the bottom of the box, he closed the box and cut the string. He took the box down stairs, took some tape and taped the box closed, then put the box in the back of his truck with a cinder block on top of it.
He went back upstairs and checked each child’s heart rate. The person in the room was about warren’s height, but had long blonde hair, hair down over their shoulders and was wearing a black or dark blue gown or cloak.
Each child was sleeping and again their heart rate and pulse rate was that of a sleeping person, very slow. The next morning he called Ted and told him he had another rattler, Ted met him in the parking lot at work and took the box. Glen talked to Jake at break and Jake recommended he talk to the police or talk with Mrs. Smothers a local lady nearly a hundred who was into haints, spirits and the supernatural. Glen thought about it, except for the snake he had nothing and he knew it was not the children because of their heart rate and breathing.
Glen called and four Mrs. Smothers was in the senior citizens home and was told that if he wished to talk with the old lady, unofficial of course, he should bring a pint of peppermint schnapps. Then the lady snickered and said, “Of course sir that is strictly against regulations and you could be arrested.” Glen first went to the library and talked to the head librarian; when the told her his address and where he lived, she became interested., she thought a few minutes then wrote a couple things down and told him to read those, it was about haunted houses in their town.
He checked the two books she recommended and two others then bought two pints of Peppermint Schnapps and went to see Mrs. Smothers. Hi Mrs. Smathers I am Glen Saunters and I have had a little problem at home, you think you could steer me in the right direction and tell me what is going on?” The old lady was sitting in a lounge chair and as he leaned over, Glen slid the pint into her hands and under the blanket over her legs.
She smiled, “Sit down young feller and lets talk,” she said. It took about five minutes for her to understand and to recognize where he lived. Finally she laughed, “Young feller, you live in the old Phelps place; it was built by Jim Phelps for his new bride, built it of the best logs he could find.”
“My house isn’t log, it is frame and is stucco inside and out, I know it is older than I or my father,” Glen replied.
“Yes, young feller, now lets see, as I said, Jim Phelps built it and they had five children, boom, boom, boom as quick as that. Jim was a wagoneer and then was the first trucker in these parts. His wife Nellie, Nellie Bowyer she was, was a sickly thing and after those children so fast she was tetched and had to be put in the asylum. Well Jim had a hired woman take care of his kids and she had three children afore she just left the children and ran off. Nobody ever heard of her again.
“This is my house, you are talking about,” he asked.
“Yes sonny, yes indeed. Anyhow, Jim’s oldest daughter was like twelve or thirteen and she becomes the mother to the other six children and Jim, took liberties with her as if she were his wife.” The old woman saw she had Glen riveted to her story; so she looked around to see if anyone was watching. She had made him sit so he would block any view from the door. The old lady quickly and quite adeptly raised the pint, popped the top, took a big swig and put it back in her lap. She winked at Glen. “Now, man that tastes good,” she said as she wiped her mouth just like in an old western movie when a drunk takes a swig, then wipes his mouth on their sleeve.
Glen knew not to interrupt the old woman. “I am glad,” he said with a big smile as he lay his hand on hers.
“The girl’s name was Jenny Lee, Jenny Lee Phelps. Well of course being a young thing she had no control over what her daddy did to her so one Friday when old Jim came home drunk and had his way with her, then passed out. This little girl, took them six children to the barn, came back locked the bedroom door and the house door, sprinkled lamp oil all around, set it on fire and ran to the barn.”
“So she burned up her daddy,” Glen asked.
“Naw, Jim he woke up, busted out the windows and got out. He figured the girl saved the other children so he rebuilt the house and had it stuccoed inside and out so it wouldn’t catch on fire again.” The old woman paused, then continued, “Well the girl, Jennie Lee lost the baby and old Jim got her in a family way again. So this time the girl she waits for him to get drunk pass out and then she puts a big old rattle snake in the bed and she slept with the children.”
“So that is why someone put a rattler in my bedroom?” Glen looked funny, for he had done no wrong, not at all.
The old woman had another nip, “Well Jim’s brother and his wife, who couldn’t have children moved in and took over Jim’s business. Well his wife ran away with the local Methodist preacher and he took a liking to Jennie Lee. Well he did her once and the girl did the snake bit on him.” The old woman was grinning for she saw Glen, shuddering. “Anyway ever since then when a couple with children live in that house if the woman goes away, Jennie Lee comes back and puts a rattler in his bed.” The old woman took another swig.
The matron came in, “Time for your therapy session Mrs. Smothers, so tell the man bye.”
Glen stood, leaned over and slid the other pint into the old woman’s hand, Thank you Mrs. Smothers and if you don’t mind I will come back and bring my wife with me, so she will stay home and not go on business trips. Two snakes are enough for me.”
The old woman winked at him, “Sonny, you come anything you want,” she said as she rose and took her two bottles and put them in the drawer.
Glen thanked her again and left the room. “Mr. Saunters, I think one is OK, but next time do not bring two, OK?” She winked at Glenn.
When Margie came home, Glen having read all the books and done some research sat his wife down and told her what had happened and what the old lady had told him. “Glen Saunters, you expect me to believe that mularky, do you?”
“Honey, ask the children, and ask Ted Drawly, ask them.”
Margie looked at her husband and saw he was sincere and afraid. “So what do I do about the next trip?” She laughed
Glen stood, looked at his wife, “Honey, the next time you are not home to sleep in this house with me, I will take the children and go to a motel or some place. It might be hokum, it may be a big bag of crap, but I am not about to wake up again with a rattler in my bed.” The next day Glen bought one pint of Peppermint Schnapps and Margie accompanied him to see Mrs. Smothers.
Margie, wife, works for moving company
Mary, 22 daughter, first year school teacher
Billy Dee, 18, HS Senior, cool dude
Ellen, 16 moody typical teenager
Warren, 12, the Einstein of the Saunter house
Jake Drawly, co worker
Ted Drawly, works for game and fish
Mrs. Smothers, local woman who was into spells and haints.