"Temptation take me by the hand I'm goin' to Missouri!"
My uncle Bud used to shout those words whenever he'd had a few too many. And that was quite often. Uncle Bud died of the drink and the sorrow. The drink? Old Grand Dad. The sorrow? Old Aunt Celia.
"Well, go ahead and go to Missouri!" Aunt Celia would yell. "Be a cold day in a harlot's bloomers before I'd try and stop you. Now stop talking to the damn snake and get your pickled butt up to bed!"
Uncle Bud would always listen attentively when Aunt Celia would speak. And when she had finished speaking, he would take whatever she had said and place it in a gloomy storage bin somewhere in the dark recesses of his whimsical mind. (Leaving it there for the worms to deal with at a later date.) Then he would talk to Moses, a common green garden snake that Uncle Bud had found sleeping in his tobacco tin some months back.
The big round tin has been home to Moses ever since.
"Must be the aroma makes him sleep so good," Uncle Bud said. "Ain't it the damnedest thing, though?"
"Ain't it the damnedest thing, though?” Aunt Celia mocked. "Ain't you the damnedest fool! Keeping a snake in a tobacco tin and calling it Moses! Maybe you'd like to find yourself a big ol' tobacco tin to live in! Fine by me if you did!"
Aunt Celia stared at the spectacle of Uncle Bud talking to a common garden snake named Moses and shook her head.
"I'm going' to bed," she said. "Come if you're coming. Don't if you ain't. Either way suits me just fine."
Uncle Bud made some more room in the storage bin and continued his quiet conversation with Moses.
"You ever have a yearning to take flight, Moses?" Uncle Bud said, rousing the snake from its sleep.
"I have. Got to get myself to a quiet place, a place where they only bother you to eat and sleep and have a little fun."
Moses poked his head out of the can and seemed to be paying attention.
"I think about it a lot, Moses. Only wish I could find someone to show me the way."
That said, Moses slithered out of the can and headed for the door. He turned around once and looked at Uncle Bud. The look seemed to beckon the old man to get out of his seat. Moses then passed through the small opening below the door and was gone. Uncle Bud followed. It was the last day anyone saw him alive.
The following morning, Uncle Bud's body was found on the Missouri side of the Mississippi river, directly across from his home in Illinois. His wife could not explain how her husband had made it across the river in the dead of night.
"The drunken old fool!" were her only words of remorse.
No one ever knew how Uncle Bud made it across the river. Except maybe Moses. But he's not talking.