My father bought a brick house in Cynthiana, built in the 19th century. It was two-stories, red brick, with a single maple tree in front of it. Behind the house was a garage for the car and a garage for the books. Dad spent most of his time away from the house in his two-story garage, surrounded by thousands of books. And yes, it was quite easy to fill that two-story garage full of books because he read everything. I remember one of the teachers that he had worked with saying his favorite author was Nathaniel Hawthorne. Grandpa said his favorite author was Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. Some details get muddled in memories.
One day when I was younger I was playing outside the book garage. My parents watched me since I was so little. Behind me, my mother shrieked. “A snake! David, get the rake!”
Dad instead went up and inspected the creature. He stuck his hand out. “It’s just a garter snake, it’s harmless.” Dad ushered me to come and watch it. It wiggled in the dirt, meandering in the shade of the building. He wasn’t a runner.
I peeked at the snake from behind dad's shoulder. I liked it more than I liked those fleshy worms that came out when it rained. The garter snake clearly had a head, had a face, you could say. I watched the garter stick its tongue out.
Mom, still completely petrified at the scene, coiled her protective arm around me. “How can you be so sure? I still think we should kill it, just to be careful.” At her request, dad fetched the garden tool as mom spirited me away back into the house.
My poor mom received quite a few scares from me. I was wild. My curiosity sent me to strange places. I searched for the snake’s body later but found no remains. A few days later, my dad got out the video camera and took me down to the basement. We went searching for ghosts. I thought maybe I'd see the snake's ghost. No luck.
I was fascinated with everything around me, more than my parents. Well, perhaps I didn’t realize how I satisfied their curiosity. Children are entertaining like that. And sometimes they’re not.
One day, I remember asking mom, “Should we pray for the devil?” I worded it like that, to get a rise out of her. But I was honestly curious.
“Michael, what are you saying?” That was the reaction I wanted. Damn, did I like attention.
“Well, if God’s love is so great, shouldn’t he be able to forgive the devil? That would fix things, right?" And by fix things, I guess I meant, oh, ending religion. Guess I just wanted to get out of going to church or something.
But I noticed something odd. A clouded curiosity in my mother’s eyes for just a moment. “That’s not how the story goes,” she replied. I felt for the first time that she didn't have an answer.
Ever since then a question crawled around my mind: who was the snake?
…No. Why did I feel like the snake after that?