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Snakeskin Chandelier

There’s a stretch of time in the Appalachian summer when the days become as disagreeable as the heat stricken inhabitants of the region. People around here call them the dog days. Low boiling clouds barley lightened with the sunrise today. In a matter of an hour the ceiling broke and clear light danced in droplets of water scattered across the leaves. As quickly as the clouds left, they came again, and the blueberry shed filled with the sound of assaulted tin.

Raising my eyes to the roof I noticed a lonely chain hanging from the rafters of the shed. Ellen eagerly told the story of a missing oil lamp chandelier and how it once hung in a historically black church in Martinsville, VA. She finished weaving her story, having successfully deposited awe and curiosity into my childlike mind. Caught in my head, I said half under my breath, “I would love to see it, I wonder where it co-“. Ellen had my hand, pulling me down the driveway. I gave a half smile; we were on an adventure.

Standing at the basement door of her childhood home, (one of the three houses at Old Orchard Creek), we were hesitant to open it and enter the gloom. With a tentative push the door flew open and on queue, like a haunted house, the first snakeskin fell into view. My heartbeat quickened- I hate snakes. I grabbed for the light switch and with a flick dim shadows formed behind a hodgepodge of furniture and other oddities. Ellen brushed past and my gaze followed her, “There it is Ellen, in the corner there.” It was clearly old, and very rare, and only made more mysterious by the fourth hanging snakeskin, which coincidently was wrapped around it.

It was quiet in that basement for a few seconds. You could hear the house breathing, or maybe holding its breath, waiting as Ellen’s eyes slid from the Chandelier up to the snakeskin and then, the snake. Wails – feet pounding pavement – door open – door shut. I was alone with the monster, the basement a tomb for my soon to be lifeless body. Despite the dramatic scenario playing out in my head, similar to India Jones or the opening scene of Anaconda, the snake was surprisingly unconcerned. We leave, looking to recruit another to procure our trophy or dispose of the snake. With a brave heart Walter snagged the chandelier. Still the snake remained unmoved. We backed away and shut the door, leaving him to rule over his dimly lit kingdom.


Hours later, the day is drawing to a close and my heartbeat has returned to normal. However, several things have resulted from our encounter earlier. I am happy to announce the chandelier hangs elegantly in the blueberry shed. In addition, Ellen will never step foot in the basement of her childhood home again. Lastly, a certain snake on the farm now has a much more vibrant vocabulary.

– Chastan


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