Maybe It's Just Me?

On Saturday, I went with Maria and some friends on one of my wife’s thrifting expeditions—a day long trip to a variety of discount stores in our area. Our first stop was a new place for her. The 25 Cent Store is a church shop just south of us, off the highway on a winding gravel road. It’s no frills: just walls, a roof, lots of racks, and some shelves. The inside smells of dust and mildew, but everything looks clean and, hey, costs only a quarter.
It didn’t take me long to go through the men’s clothes. I’ve never have much luck in thrift stores outside of Bloomington. Most are dominated by women’s clothing. Women tend to update their wardrobe frequently. Men, on the other hand, will generally wear the same thing until it falls apart. Besides, I have a different build than most males in Indiana. I don’t wear an XXL shirt and my waist size is not 46 inches. (That's not me being mean, just truthful.) If I come away with a single anything, it’s a win.

I knew Maria would be awhile. She’s always been very fashion forward. Southern Indiana, however, has never been hip or trendy when it comes to anything—especially clothing. We were pretty damned poor when we were first married, so if she did luck into something new that spoke to her, that was interesting and unique, chances are we didn’t have the money for it. The only way for her to exercise her keen fashion sense was haunting thrift stores and Frankensteining something cool from disparate articles purchased for a few cents here and a few bucks there. We’re in much better financial shape now, but thrifting is still an enjoyable experience for her. Not wanting to ruin it, I went off in search of the books.

I found them in the next room. Shelf after shelf. Milk crates stuffed full. Boxes overflowing. Stacks piled high on broken-down folding tables. A lot of them looked to be in rough shape, old and yellowed and rotting, but with a quick glance I spotted some choice finds right away—an out of print fantasy novel I had been looking for, the first thirteen books in The Executioner series, an early F. Paul Wilson novel I didn’t own, the middle fifteen books of The Death Merchant series.

I stepped back, trying to decide where to begin. Crates? Boxes? Shelves? That’s when I spotted it. Fourth shelf up. Stretched across the top of the hardbacks.

A long black snake.

Startled, I stepped away. Can’t be real, can it? No, of course not. Some kid has obviously taken a rubber snake from the toys and hid it back here as joke. That’s a good one—

The black snake began slithering down the book shelf.

Holy hell, it’s real!

I quickly walked up front. “There’s a snake back there in the books,” I said, quietly, not wanting to send everyone into a panic.

Nonplussed, the Grizzly Adams behind the counter said, “Oh, he’s back?” He’s back? Did you say, he's back?!?! “It’s not a big deal. Just a rat snake. Like to keep ‘em around to keep the vermin out. I’ll go get him though. Put him out back in the woods. People don’t generally like snakes.”

Yes, and I, sir, would happen to be one of them.

Mr. Adams grabbed his wife and, from a distance, I watched them wrangle the snake into an old pillow case. Once caught, the wife carried the snake out the front door and over to the woods. Mr. Adams walked past me, shrugged, and returned to the counter.

I was ready to go. Maria was unfazed and finished shopping.

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