Chaplain Hunk And The Serpent Woman

My stepmother, the Serpent Woman, has been having a trying summer: she lives in the Colorado Springs area, where they have been treated to ankle-deep barrages of hail that ate the roof of her mobile home and wildfires that scared her less than they did me. I guess you get used to it.

She also lost a couple of friends; one human, the lady who taught her to drive several years back, and one reptilian, an albino corn snake which became egg-bound and died before she realized what was happening. I had never heard of this condition. It actually took a necropsy to figure it out in this case, and the snake vet returned a small parcel of Sunglow’s ashes.

Serpent Woman scattered my father’s ashes atop the Rockies near an elevation called Wilkerson Pass, which had been his idea, and her friend — who had cheerfully endured a long decline in a nursing home and hospice care — reckoned she could do worse than end up in the same place. There was a hitch after the cremation though, as a relatively estranged family suddenly became totes invested in deciding what to do with their sister’s/aunt’s/great-aunt’s remains, and the bickering (including a mulish heel-dig over a $75 Fed Ex fee) went on so long that the hospice chaplain — not only supportive and empathetic, according to Serpent Woman, but a bona fide hunk — concurred with her instinct to let the family tussle it out. “Let’s write a symbolic ceremony,” he said, “and I’ll go with you up to the Pass where we can honor Rita’s memory.”

“I’d like to bring Sunglow,” said Serpent Woman. “Rita liked all my critters.”

So off through the mists and vistas of the Rockies they drove, Chaplain Hunk and the Serpent Woman, with the tiny box containing ashes and two oversized snake eggs. When they got up in the neighborhood of the pass they came out above the mist into clean autumn sunlight, where Rita was remembered aloud to a landscape that cascaded out for miles below them and Chaplain Hunk, slightly bemused, then read the Rainbow Bridge story, which he had not previously encountered. It may be the first time this story was read out on behalf of a snake of any description and unquestionably the first time that Chaplain Hunk had ever performed the memorial offices for a reptile.

He thanked her, afterward, for introducing him to it. They came down off the mountain with most of the day still left.

I wonder what thoughts will attend his next reading of Genesis.


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