On a cold night alone in the backroom of a dive bar Redd has the chance to find out the truth with the help of the menacing Snake Lady... but will the truth set Redd free or will it reveal the prison he actually lives in?
Glenda's & The Snake Lady by Charles Campbell http://valleyboypublications.com
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Glenda’s bar and pool hall has been a Valley staple for as long as anyone could remember. The beer was always cold and pool sharks with names like Bonehead and Tater frequented the joint over the years. Glenda’s was open for business Monday through Saturday. It was only closed when Christmas or Thanksgiving fell on a day other than Sunday. Glenda’s was open for all of the others; July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day. It was a place for adults to congregate and shoot the shit, bitch about their bosses, spouses or whatever gripes they wanted to get off their chest. The booze flowed and there were way too many fights to count. The front windows of Glenda’s were replaced at least twice a year because of out of control drunken brawls. The Burnettown PD had to be called over to Gloverville on a regular basis to sort out the riff raff, and there was a lot of riff raff to be sorted. There were bouncers employed at Glenda’s over the years but most of them wound up in the middle of the brawls instead of defusing them. One of the things...or, more properly, the thing that distinguished Glenda’s from any other redneck bar in the South was the legend of the snake lady. There was a dark room in the back of the bar and legend tells that on certain nights of the year it had an inhabitant. She would slither in from a secret entrance directly into the dark room. Glenda would chuckle if you asked her about it and blow it off as nonsense. But, it wasn’t nonsense. The snake lady is real and this is the story of a man that witnessed her firsthand. This is an unfiltered recount of what Redd Jones saw and heard on a cold December night back in 1985. 1985. Snow flurries fell upon the Valley which was a very rare thing. Even the hint of snow in this part of the country shut down schools and businesses. But one establishment that stayed open rain, shine, sleet or snow was Glenda’s. And Glenda’s was the favorite spot of Redd Jones. Redd lived on Oak Street in Gloverville and was a widower. He lost his wife, Edna, five years earlier when she died peacefully in her sleep. The coroner listed it as natural causes; open and shut, case closed. Glenda’s was certainly a place that Edna didn’t approve of and it was a spot that Redd never stepped foot in until about six months after Edna had passed. The visions of her kept him from sleeping. She would whisper in his ear in the middle of the night, always making him smile; a smile that would quickly give way to sadness when he reached over and felt the cold sheets of the empty side of the bed. Finally, one day after walking to the Minit Shop to get a loaf of bread, the neon light of Glenda’s caught his eye. Before, he never paid it much attention. It blended into the background of everything else that didn’t matter when Edna was alive. But today, it shined brighter than ever before. Redd didn’t walk into the Minit Shop that night. Instead, he crossed the street and into Glenda’s. His life would never be the same. It all started with his first beer and it snowballed from there. Redd had never been a big drinker, especially when Edna was in his life. He did the booze it up to be a big man in high school from time to time but it didn’t follow him into adulthood when he had to get a job, pay bills and provide for his wife. He and Edna never had any children which, in hindsight, may have been a bad thing. If he had children in his life the neon light of Glenda’s may have remained dull and in the background. Redd was quickly burning through his life savings and was earning a reputation as the town drunk. Glenda’s was his life night after night after night until this December night in 1985. He stepped into the bar and the atmosphere felt different. “Glenda here?” Redd asked as he stepped in from the cold. “Nah,” Sally Broner began, “she went to get Darnell. She said she was scared to drive in the snow,” Sally finished and popped the gum in her mouth. “Scared to drive in the snow?” Redd chuckled. “There ain’t no snow out there. It’s meltin’ soon as it hits the ground. Darnell better get her bony ass in here.” Edna would turn over in her grave if she could hear her husband speak in such a tone. “Well, that’s what she said. I’ll get your Bud,” Sally said and hit the tap. Something was a little off in Glenda’s tonight but Redd couldn’t quite put his finger on it. There weren’t as many people at the pool table for one and a good many of the usual suspects weren’t there. Surely the threat of a little icy rain the news wanted to call snow didn’t keep them home. Glenda wasn’t here. His favorite barkeep, Darnell wasn’t here. What the hell was going on is what Redd was thinking. Edna was the farthest thing from his mind. He was sure she would whisper her disapproval later that night just when he fell sound asleep. He only had Sally to look at and, quite frankly, her buck teeth freaked him out a little bit. He felt like he was talking to Bugs Bunny every time she opened her mouth. He wanted to shove a big carrot in it. Sally slid the cold mug over to him with that big What’s Up Doc grin on her face. He glanced down at his watch and it was almost eight o’clock. He figured he’d drink until about ten and then stumble home so he could get his beyond the grave scolding from Edna. Redd rested his elbows on the bar and Sally moved down the line to talk to Bonehead. He was looking for somebody to snake money from at the pool table. Redd finished the frosty mug and was about to signal Sally for another when the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He had the uncontrollable urge to look to his left and Redd could see the light emitting from the bottom of the closed door at the end of the hallway. The door had always been there. It was at the end of the hallway just past the bathrooms. It was never anything special; never caught his eye. Maybe it was a room full of booze or maybe there was a bedroom back there so Glenda could just crash on nights she didn’t feel like driving home to Clearwater. Redd never cared about that room until tonight. Tonight, there was a purplish glow coming out from the keyhole and space under the door. It was a glow that pulled Redd away from his Budweiser and back into the curious man he used to be. Redd stood away from the bar and walked down the narrow corridor. He passed the restrooms and stopped in front of the closed door. Sally didn’t call for him to come back and get another beer. Nobody seemed to notice Redd step away from the bar. Redd froze in front of the door. He looked down as the purple glow seemed to press around his feet. There was a chill back here. It felt unnatural, like he was alone in a graveyard – just he and the spirits. “Come in,” the woman’s voice spoke from the other side of the door. Redd reached for the door knob. His hand trembled as he grabbed the knob; it was as cold as ice. He turned it, stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. The room was illuminated in purple by the black light hanging from the ceiling. The walls of the room were black as soot and there was what appeared to be a large wooden crate in the back of the room. “Who, who’s in here?” Redd asked. He could see the breath cloud like cigarette smoke from his mouth when he spoke. “Come closer,” said the woman’s voice. Redd stepped closer to the crate but he remained far enough away as to not see what or who was inside. “Who are you?” Red asked again. There was fear in his voice but the curiosity was there. He liked that feeling. It made him feel just a tiny bit normal. “I’m who you want me to be,” the woman’s voice said and continued, “come closer, Redd. Come closer and see what you came to see.” Redd’s curiosity overtook his caution and he took long strides toward the crate until he stood directly in front of it. He closed his eyes before the last step and kept them closed. “Why are your eyes closed, Redd? Open them and see what you came to see. Hear what you came to hear. You came in here for a reason, Redd. I’ll tell you what you want to know.” Redd took as deep a breath as he could. He imagined he was about to dive head first into the deepest corner of Langley Pond and he would have to do so on full lungs. After taking the breath and holding it for just a moment, Redd opened his eyes. He immediately thought that he was dreaming or just maybe he was dead. The being he was looking at was beautiful for sure but definitely not human. Her face was slender and seductive. She had the upper torso of a woman but from the waist down, it was the body of a long, black snake. Her eyes were bright yellow with the slit pupils of a viper. Her hair was long down her back and it was dark. Redd couldn’t quite make out the true color in the purple hue of the room. She slithered from her box like a cobra out of a charmer’s basket. “Oh my god,” Redd whispered. He was frightened but much like the prey of a viper, he was frozen in place; transfixed by the otherworldly eyes staring into his soul. “Why did you come here, Redd?” the snake lady asked. “To numb myself to the world,” he answered. Redd was under the spell of the gaze. He was hypnotized by the snake lady and all his answers had to ring true. “Is it because you lost your wife?” she asked with a hint of compassion. “It is,” Redd answered shortly. “I don’t reveal myself to many, Redd. People don’t think I really exist. They think I’m a made up vision in the minds of drunken men. Is that what you believe, Redd? Do you think I’m a drunken hallucination that you will forget when you wake up in the morning?” “I don’t. You are very real. You are in front of me and I barely finished my first beer.” “Good, Redd. So, when you walked into the room, what did I say to you?” “That you would tell me what I wanted to know.” “That’s right, Redd. I will tell you exactly what you want to know but make sure you think on the question because I will only answer one question. So, be certain it’s the question you really want answered,” the snake lady finished and the room fell silent. She could see Redd truly contemplating what he wanted to know. The gears were turning behind his eyes and the snake lady was patient. She would wait however long it took for Redd to ask his question. “I know what I want to ask you,” Redd said flatly. “Go ahead and ask,” the snake lady replied. “Tell me, truly, how did my wife die? The doctor said natural causes but I don’t think that’s true. I would like to know how my wife seemed fine when we went to bed and how she never woke up. I need to know the true answer to that question.” “I will answer that question, Redd. I don’t think you are going to like what I have to say but I did tell you that I would answer anything you wanted to know and you have asked the one question and that is the only question that I will answer. Your wife was murdered. She didn’t die of natural causes.” “What? How?” “I have answered your question. You asked how she died and I answered. I told you the stipulation and you accepted,” the snake lady replied and began coiling her body back into the box. “No, no, no! You didn’t answer the question. I asked you how my wife died. You didn’t tell me how she was murdered. You just said murdered. That’s not a full answer!” Redd shouted in anger. The snake lady stopped her coiling retreat and sprang back out of the box. “I will tell you how she was murdered in exchange for something.” “Yes, anything. I still have some savings; I’ll give it all to you. Tell me how she was murdered. Tell me who killed her.” “I don’t want your money, Redd. Look at me; do I look like I barter in human things like money?” “Well, what else could I possibly offer you?” Redd asked. “A sacrifice,” she answered coldly. “What kind of sacrifice?” he asked. “A sacrifice of spirit you might say.” “My soul?” Redd asked. “No, not your soul. I need you to tell me something that you’ve never shared with anyone, including your dearly departed wife. And it must be true. It must be something that you would be ashamed to admit even to a snake lady in a dark room. I need to know your deepest, darkest secret, Redd. Then, I will give you the answers that you seek. It is a sacrifice of your sacred spirit. Men harbor secrets that they take to the grave. I need to know your gravest of secrets, Redd. Tell it to me,” the snake lady finished. Her yellow eyes were locked onto Redd’s sullen face. “I killed a man when I was a teenager. The man was Lester, Lester Chitty. He was a well known man around the Valley, sold insurance. Anyway, I was deer hunting by myself and I saw him in a clearing about thirty or forty yards away. I don’t know what made me raise the rifle. I was there for a Buck. But, I raised my rifle, lined him up in the scope and pulled the trigger. I ran away as his body fell to the ground. Over the years I convinced myself it was something I made up. I remember hearing on the news about Lester being killed in an ‘apparent’ hunting accident. It was no accident. That was my last day hunting.” The snake lady smiled and a black forked tongue shot from in between her lips. “That’s a good one, Redd. Lester was a well known man around these parts, that’s for sure. He met me once. He told me his secret.” “What?” Redd’s expression was puzzled. The black light in the room intensified. The purple glow got bigger and filled the entire room. “Your wife was poisoned. You said there was no autopsy and there was a reason for that,” the snake lady said. Redd’s eyes welled with tears, he was about to learn the answer to the question. The question that caused him to look up at the neon sign and walk across the street to take the first drink. The drink that landed him in the destructive cycle that was now his life. In that moment, he didn’t know if he could handle the answer the snake lady was about to give him. He wished he ignored the door; wished he never walked down the hallway and put his hand on the cold knob. He wanted to take it back. Walk backwards and put his life in reverse. Put it in reverse all the way to the point when he and Edna were preparing for bed that fateful night. Back before she took the first sip of that deadly glass of innocent looking water. The snake lady pursed her scaly lips and gave the answer. “Do you remember the coroner’s name, Redd?” It struck him like ice water splashed in his face. He looked up at the snake lady, lips quivering and replied, “I do. The coroner’s name was Steven...Steven Chitty. Lester Chitty’s brother.” “Steven came to see me, Redd. He gave me his secret and I suppose you figured out the question he asked.” Redd was sobbing in his palms as he shook his head. “You have your answer, Redd. You will never see me again,” were the snake lady’s final words to him as she slithered back into the crate and disappeared into the darkness. The black light went off and Redd stood alone. Redd walked out of the room. He wasn’t dazed. He wasn’t confused. Darnell spoke to him as he walked down the hallway back into the bar area but Redd ignored her. Instead, he made his way to the front door and stepped into the icy rain. He walked back to his house on Oak Street. Redd pulled out an old tape recorder that had been sitting in the closet for years. He dumped the long dead C batteries out of it and replaced them with fresh ones he retrieved from the kitchen’s junk drawer. A blank Memorex tape was already in the machine. Redd pressed the record button and recited what happened to him on this night. He made apologies to his wife for her having to pay for his unforgivable sin and to Steven for killing his brother in cold blood. After Redd finished with the sorries, he rewound the tape, placed a sticky note on top of the recorder that read, Play Me and went to the shed out behind his house. He slung the anchor rope over one of the thicker branches of the big oak in the middle of the backyard. He thought of the times Edna lay on a blanket under this oak, just reading a book. Redd fashioned the noose and pulled a chair from the kitchen table, brought it outside and placed it under the tree. He stepped onto the chair, secured the noose around his neck, cursed the snake lady under his breath and kicked the chair away. The End.
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