– Snake! Snake! Snake!
The dog raised an ear with the noise, then went back to sleep. He was a watch dog.
– Snake! Snake! Snake!
The noise was closer, so the dog thought he’d better give a yelp, better stand on all fours, better inform his masters of the noise.
– Why ya yelpin’, dog? Woke us up, ya did.
And then the two on the veranda heard the noise.
– Why isn’t that ya cousin Elmer a hollerin’? the older one said.
– That’s Elmer all right. I can see him a runnin’ down the hill, replied the younger one. Yellin’ something about a snake. Fastest I’ve ever seen him run.
The wizened Elmer finally reached the rundown ranch. Nearly out of breath, he kept uttering Snake! Snake!
– Now what’s this all about, Elmer? Another one of them tall tales of yours? the older one started.
– Ya spend all that time by yourself, Elmer. Ya don’t know the dream world from the real world, the younger one added.
The dog went back to sleep. His work was done.
Elmer collected himself and stopped his panting.
– Uncle Jed, Cousin Jethro. It’s the doggone biggest snake in the world! he proclaimed.
– What you on about, son? We only got some of them rattlers. And all of them varmints can’t get a livin’ here, just like us, Jed replied.
– Now cuz, you need some excitement or some lovin’. A woman or one of them blow up dolls, Jethro added (he always added).
– Ya all joshin’ with me agin, Elmer kicked the ground in frustration. I’m a tellin’ ya this thing is huge. He’s a paddock long, a car high, and ya can’t even see his head. It’s stuck in the sand.
Jed spoke first – he always did.
– So boy, ya tellin’ us that ya seen some serpent on ya farm the size we ain’t never seen before?
– Uh-huh, come see for ya selves, Elmer replied.
– Elmer, so this ain’t one of them wild goose chases? If we git off this porch we had better be doin’ it for good reason, Jethro added.
– I was out a huntin’ critters in the back paddock and there in front of my eyes was the biggest snake in the world. I rubbed my eyes and it was still there. And then I git real scared and panicky, and I ran over here.
– OK son, just remember ya ain’t got no back paddock – only one paddock.
– And ya ain’t on none of that weird moonshine, or them plant concoctions?
Finally Jed said, Git ya gun, Jethro. We’ll see what’s stirrin’ up Elmer.
I’ll take over the story now. I’m the hotel owner in the neighboring town. The preceding is what Jethro, Jed and Elmer told me about how it all started, after they bust through my bar room door yelling Snake! Snake! The Largest Snake in the World!
All the locals in the bar barely raised an eyebrow when the relatives raised the snake alarm. See, anyone who named their boy after the Beverley Hillbillies TV character, but never found Texas Tea, has got to be odd, or maybe has a strong hold on reality. Jed’s wife had long gone off with a traveling salesman, to look for a better life, leaving Jed and the addition Jethro to fend for themselves. In Beverley Hillbillies terms they kept themselves in ‘vittles’ by doing odd jobs around town.
As for Elmer, he was the black sheep of the family. Middle-aged – somewhere between forty and sixty – Elmer was obviously closely related to Jed. Jed’s sister left town quickly many years ago, according to the old-timers. Did she have a dalliance with a local … or a traveling salesman? Rumor is that it was Jed, but that’s small town gossip. Whatever, we knew little of what went on out on their places – they kept to themselves pretty well.
Elmer, as noted previously, was a bachelor. No woman ever looked at his gaunt, worn, unshaven exterior, and with few words, he couldn’t engage them with flirty banter or woo them with his mediocre intelligence. He offered them nothing – no money, no sex appeal, nothing. And he had no phone out there to even ring the two local hookers for service.
So it was rare to see Elmer and his relatives in town, let alone seeing them so animated in my bar.
I was the only to respond to them – the locals went back to what they usually do: drinking and tale-telling and watching sports on TV.
– What you hoopin’ and hollerin’ ‘bout Jed, Jethro and Elmer? Not another snake story? The boys have told plenty of them, I said.
– Ya all gotta come fast. It’s the biggest snake ever! As long as a football field and thicker than a man!
– Oh yeah, some of the patrons groaned.
But I thought these boys don’t come into town much and they’re not up for real gossiping, like most of the townsfolk. So I thought I might pass over the reins to my wife, and follow the boys out to Elmer’s place. At least it would get me away from the humdrum of our small town.
And so I was the fourth person to see The Snake.
Well, believe me, The Snake wound like a river across Elmer’s paddock and had dropped its head into one of the sand hills. It was well camouflaged: a motley light orange like the surrounding rocks and dunes. It had green flecks across its girth, although there was little plant life on Elmer’s patch to blend with.
We all stood, mouths agape, a distance from the giant serpent.
– Watch out, Elmer uttered. If we go closer it might lift its head outta that sand and eat us all up. It’d be hungry out here, like us.
I suggested to the three that they move close to the front of the snake (as bait, unbeknown to them), whilst I go to its tail to feel if it’s real. They bought this, and so I was the first to feel The Snake.
I can confirm that The Snake felt snaky. I tugged at its tail, but The Snake did not move.
Back with the three, I reported on what I had found and then suggested I take a selfie using my smartphone of the four of us in front of The Snake. This would show all that we were the finders of The Snake and we owned it. A little like staking your claim in the gold rush days, I stressed to the boys. I was keen to post the snap on Facebook.
Odd, I took the selfie, and re-took the selfie, but there was no snake, only the background hills and dunes. Was The Snake an illusion? A figment of our imagination?
Undaunted, one by one we persuaded townsfolk to visit Elmer’s place to view The Snake, even though we had no photographic evidence of its existence.
Then the story took off. Those in the bar were talking The Snake, and talking it up big time. The town, always doing it tough, was buzzing.
I quickly became the trio’s manager, with Jed guiding townsfolk to The Snake, and Jethro adding help. Elmer stood protecting The Snake, ensuring that no photographs were taken (based on our previous experience).
Even as the summer midday sun beat down, townsfolk flocked to see The Snake.
The Snake, unmoved, basked in the heat, still with its head in the sand.
And then I said to the three, charge people an entrance fee. And so they put up a hessian fence around The Snake, with Jed now collecting the entrance fee, and Jethro helping. Elmer started to gain confidence and provided a brief commentary on how he found The Snake. I banked the money, taking an appropriate cut for my role of manager.
We continued to make sure that no one took photographs, announcing that if they did they could startle The Snake, and it being a wild animal, we had to think of public safety.
News spread outside our town and outsiders started to roll in. I quickly added to the accommodation at the hotel by bringing in some temporary trailers. I bought all the vacant land in town, providing it as camping facilities (at a fair fee).
The country was now abuzz. News of The Snake even made it to the White House. The President proclaimed that The Snake would make America Great Again. He was proud that The Snake came from Middle America, where all his supporters were. He would build a wall around The Snake to keep all unwanted vermin out. He would visit The Snake next winter, after he sorted out some matters.
The Snake was big! Some planes crisscrossing the nation apparently diverted a little to let people get a glimpse of The Snake. Again, although many air travelers said they saw it, there was no photographic evidence.
Our town had trebled in population and started to resemble Las Vegas with casinos, nightclubs, plenty of hookers, and so on. We started a theme park – SnakeWorld – close to The Snake.
As manager, I suggested to the three relatives that they become ‘hands-off’, and employ young people to do the work, like at McDonald’s. I was only looking out for the three, I stressed.
A huge international herpetological convention was held in town. Each of these snake experts inspected The Snake, wanting to classify it, to name it (probably after themselves). They argued, and went away still arguing.
And then it happened. All bubbles must burst. To start with, the young employees had not been vigilant. They had left an entrance door unlocked when the left at night. Next morning, when we did our rounds of inspecting The Snake’s condition and our infrastructure, we were horrified to find The Snake with numerous small incisions in its flesh. The Snake had been vandalized.
A few days later, I learnt via social media, that Chinese scientists had found that The Snake’s flesh gave men virility that they had never known before. Chinese businessmen immediately made me offers to buy The Snake and ship it back to China.
As I was weighing up offers, another catastrophe occurred. One of the big city papers had a front page headline: ‘The Snake is Fake’. Apparently, one of the paper’s reporters had not been frisked properly by the young employees and had used her phone to photograph The Snake, with as before, no result. The paper asserted that The Snake was some sort of visual trickery, that the owners (us) were magicians – even if this was so, it would be still worth paying to see the trick.
The press descended on The Snake site, trying to get their part of what they now dubbed ‘Snakegate’. The President quickly distanced himself from the controversy, saying that in the true meaning of democracy and the American Way, people could decide for themselves about The Snake.
As manager, now a very wealthy one, I was very perturbed about the possible impact of the scandal to the revenue of my conglomerate, Snake Enterprises Inc. Elmer, as our spokesperson, fronted the media at SnakeWorld, confidently deflecting questions about the reality of The Snake. He even allowed one of the leading journalists to touch The Snake’s tail, as I did at the start of summer. The journalist confirmed that The Snake felt snaky and thus appeared real.
Just as Snakegate was abating and the first cool winds of fall swept across the landscape, one morning on our rounds, to our shock The Snake was gone, with not a trace, not even a curvy path in the sand.
I quickly called an emergency meeting with the three relatives. We need to close all The Snake facilities now, until further notice. Lay off the young employees. You three and I need to leave the country. Our bank accounts are safe in Switzerland. Leave a sign in front of the entrance saying ‘The Snake has temporarily left the house’.
It is ten years since The Snake came and went that summer.
I’m told Elmer lives a Hugh Heffner-like lifestyle on a remote Caribbean island, with scantily-clad women at his beck and call.
I’m not sure where Jed ended up or even if he’s still alive, but I’m sure Jethro followed him wherever.
As for me, I now live in China helping Chinese businessmen search worldwide for The Snake, so that they can get a piece of the action. I do this at a very healthy consultant’s fee.
As for the President, he only lasted one term in office. In the end, like The Snake, almost no one believed in him. We Chinese became great again, particularly after Russia ditched America.
And what became of SnakeWorld and our town? My wife, before she took up with a traveling salesman, messaged my secret email address to say that SnakeWorld is in ruins and the start of the President’s wall has been destroyed by anguished locals that have gone back to struggling after The Snake left. The town has dwindled back to its former self, women have left, men have returned to boozing, and The Snake’s site is now consumed by sand drifts.
Only a small group of The Snake believers hang on and have bought Elmer’s property. They have constructed a small effigy of The Snake and worship it. They say The Snake will return … one day.