Brandon and Zoe stared across the overgrown lawn at the ramshackle house. A dim light glowed from within. The light flickered or was it something dropping from the curtains?
“Do you think Captain Medusa is in?” This is what the kids in the neighborhood called the old man with the crazy hair that lived in the house.
“Of course he is! Where else would he be?”
None of the other kids would go near the place but Brandon and Zoe could not resist. This summer they had sealed their friendship with a kiss. Tonight, after sharing another, they found themselves outside the creepy old house.
“Come in, come in,” the captain waved at them. “Hurry! The ship sets sail at dusk!”
Brandon started to pull Zoe away, “I better get going home. It will be dark soon.”
Zoe regarded Brandon mischievous glint in her eyes. Brandon continued, “My mom says there is a burglar on the loose. He broke into a house just two streets over. He even beat up the homeowner.”
“What? Are you chicken, Brandon?”
Brandon did not like being called chicken by a girl, even if he had kissed her. “Okay. But just for a few minutes.”
Captain Medusa was wearing a sea captain’s navy blue coat and had thick goggle glasses perched upon his nose. He encouraged them to enter, “Quickly! Come in! Come in!”
He pulled them through the door and ushered them into the living room. “Take a chair in the Captain’s quarters!”
Brandon and Zoe moved hesitantly toward two gothic high back chairs. Brandon started to sit. “Wait!” yelled Zoe.
Captain Medusa saw the problem and with a sweep of his hand tossed the snake out of the chair. “Just some riggin’!” he exclaimed through a smile that was missing some teeth.
Two more snakes waited in Zoe’s chair. “Well, sit!” invited the kind old man.
“No thanks. I’ll stand,” Zoe replied with a gulp.
“No time for jawing, anyhow. Follow me into the galley. We need some grub before we set sail.”
Brandon and Zoe stopped gawking at the snakes in Zoe’s chair and followed the old man through the hallway. “Mind the riggin’!” he warned. “It’s a sailor’s life, yes it is.”
Zoe could not help but scream as she gingerly stepped over several snakes writhing on the floor. “Look out!” yelled Brandon. Snakes were sliding down the wall having released their curly grip from the banister above. “Let’s get out of here,” he urged in a desperate whisper. Unfortunately the hallway between them and the door was now covered with snakes. They had no choice but to follow Captain Medusa into the kitchen. Zoe felt compelled to speak up. “Captain!” The old man turned toward her with a warm, if insane, look upon his face. He said, “Yes, my dear, what is it? We sail soon!”
Although trying to remain polite, Zoe half screamed, “The snakes! What about all the snakes?”
The clueless old man looked at her enquiringly, pushing his pop-bottle glasses up closer to his eyes. Zoe realized he could barely see a thing. “You mean the riggin’, the ropes?” he asked. “Can’t hoist a sail without them!” He gestured at the slithering snakes in the hallway. They hissed collectively in response. “Now sit, my buccaneers, while I get you something to drink.”
The two kids sat down at the kitchen table, deciding to play along until they could figure out a way to escape. Captain Medusa put a couple of saucers down in front of Zoe and Brandon and hurriedly filled them with cream. Brandon said, “Captain, we really can’t go on your voyage. We have to be getting home.” The two intently followed the old man with their eyes awaiting his reply. Maybe he would show them a snake-free way out. Captain Medusa did not answer. Instead, he stared at the table with a sudden keen interest. Zoe looked at Brandon, neither wanted to see what had captured the captain’s attention. Brandon was not going to look. Zoe thought she had better. She glanced at the tabletop. There, sipping from the saucers, were about half a dozen snakes! Zoe started to run. Brandon followed – pale as a ghost and gasping for air! As they passed Captain Medusa, he reached up to the top cabinet, “You haven’t had any cookies!” He opened the cabinet door and snakes fell from above in a slithery waterfall. The kids turned the corner, ready to jump any snakes in their way, but to their surprise the snakes parted gracefully and allowed them to pass. Zoe and Brandon sped out the door without looking back. Captain Medusa walked into the hallway, the snakes closing in around his feet. He shook his head, “Hard to get a good crew these days.” The snakes bobbed their little heads up and down in agreement.
The officer reported to the sergeant, “They found him dead by the bed. No sign that the old man had any idea what was happening.”
“You mean he was sleeping, right there, when…”
“I would say so.”
The detectives looked at the crime scene in silence.
“Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about that burglar anymore.”
“What about the old man?”
“His vision is poor and he is getting on in years. He thought the body was some sort of rum barrel entangled in ropes. The old guy said it took him twenty minutes to get the ‘barrel’ untangled from the ‘rigging’.”
“My God” the sergeant said slowly, as the full impact of what had happened began to sink in. “There must have been a hundred of them.” As if to underscore the point two snakes slithered from under the bed and disappeared down the hall.
“Let’s get out of here!” the sergeant said.
“What about the old man? Do you think he’ll be okay?”
“”Yeah, I’d say he’s the safest guy in town.”
copyright © Jason Sullivan 2013
*originally posted at amwriting.com
graphic © Sashoalusevski | dreamstime.com