Preacher Martin Riley was at his podium waiting to give his sermon. His assistant Jasper opened the front doors of the church for members to enter the church. Misty Goodwin walked inside the church and went up to the third row of pews. She sat down in her usual spot. “Good morning Preacher, I have been waiting all week to hear your sermon and I am so glad that it is finally Sunday.” He looked over to her and said, “That is great news to hear. I think you will like this sermon very much.” As Martin reviewed his sermon papers, several church members came into the room and took their seats. The room was full of members 10 minutes later.
Martin began his sermon. “Hello and welcome. I hope you all had a great weekend and didn't get into too much trouble. We all tend to get into trouble frequently and especially, when we are young and naive. I remember when I was young; my father would make me bring a switch from the yard to spank me with.” The members of the church laughed upon hearing this. “Just like our fathers, the Lord judges us and forgives us. He alone can make us worthy of him. The creature he has chosen to be his helper in judging us is the serpent. If we are worthy, he will cause no harm to us. If we are not, he surely will poison us with his lethal bite. God is very merciful when we repent and will not let us die from it. The devil is not merciful and will let you die for any reason. So, I ask you to hear with your ears and heart what God has to say in his good book. I will read to you from Acts, Chapter 28, verses 3 through 5. “When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm."
The preacher went on, “We will be protected, if we are on the right side of God. That is why we must be diligent in serving Him. The devil can strike at us whenever he pleases, just like a serpent. A serpent may or may not warn you before it strikes, but it intends to bite every time by its own volition. God will not let the serpent’s venom kill those who have His blessing.” Martin spoke for another 45 minutes. The members felt highly encouraged after the sermon. When everyone had gone home, Martin met with his assistant Jasper in his office to talk about the next sermon. He said to Jasper, “That was a great gathering don’t you think?” Jasper replied, “It was probably the best one yet. I am a little worried about using the snakes at the next one though.” Martin patted him on the shoulder and said, “There is no reason to be worried because we are the only people who are going to handle them.” Jasper shook his head and rubbed his chin. “What if someone is bitten? They could die from it.” Martin sat down in his chair and responded. “I will make sure that doesn't happen.”
Jasper asked, “How will you do that?” Martin answered, “I plan to keep our slithery friends in an enclosed area. I will have everyone move a couple rows back from their normal seats. There is no way that they will be bitten.” Jasper replied, “That will work out. I will be here early on Sunday to help you set everything up. See you then, have a good week Preacher.” Martin smiled and said, “You too Jasper, take care.” They shook hands and Jasper left the church. Martin stayed at his desk and began to write his next sermon. After an hour, he stopped and left the church. He locked the doors. Then, he went to his car that was parked across Peach St. and got in it. Martin shut the door. He started the car and drove down the street. Martin turned the car onto Mayfield Ln. He went down it and turned left onto Douro St. His house was near the end of the street. He parked in the driveway and got out of the car.
Martin entered his house. He was very anxious to see his pets that he kept in the back bedroom. They were snakes of various kinds. The rattlesnakes that he was going to use for his sermon were among them. Martin headed straight for the room and flipped on the light. “I’m here my babies and it is time to eat.” He stored live rats and mice as food for the snakes. They were kept in a plastic box. It was located on the shelving along the right wall of the room. He went over to the box and opened it. Martin took a mouse in his hand. Then, he carried it over to another plastic box. This one had a snake in it. He opened the lid and dropped the mouse inside the plastic box. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake inside it bit the mouse and waited for it to die. When the mouse did, the snake slowly swallowed it up. “That should fill your belly for a while.” He fed the rest of the snakes in the room. They included Rattlesnakes, a couple Copperheads, a Gabon viper, a few Pythons, and a Russell’s viper. He left the room when he had finished feeding the snakes.
Martin had developed an obsession with snakes when he was a kid. At age 7, he caught his first snake in the yard of his childhood home. The snake was virtually harmless being that it was a Garter snake. When he was 12, he caught his first venomous snake. It was a Coral snake. He put little effort into capturing it. Martin had pinned its head on the ground with a stick and then grabbed it. Capturing it pleased him so much that he had to run to the house to show it to his mother. She was not happy with him when he brought it in the house. “Get it out of my house this instant! How many times do I have to tell you not to bring those terrible things inside?” Martin’s response was, “There is no need to worry because I have control over it.” He received his first bite at the age of 12. Martin had been playing in the woods near his house when a Rattlesnake bit him. It was hidden under some leaves and struck him on the leg as he walked by. His father, Richard came to his rescue when he heard him cry for help. Richard rushed him to the Emergency Room and a doctor gave him anti-venom. The incident did not stop Martin’s obsession, it encouraged it. His obsession was greatly influenced by his father. Richard was a Pentecostal preacher who practiced snake handling. He did not believe in the use of anti-venom for treating bites. Richard felt that God was the one who decided who lived through a bite. The handling of snakes was his way of showing devotion and trust in God. Martin met his wife at his father’s church. Her family attended service weekly when Richard was the preacher. She was familiar with snake handling because of that. Ann watched others practice it but never touched snakes herself. Ann remembered the death of Martin’s father very well. He was bitten by a rattlesnake and died.
Martin was waiting for Jasper to arrive at his office Tuesday. They were going to set up a pin for the snakes to be in for the handling. He wanted to make the pin to keep the snakes away from the members of the church. Jasper came into his office and shut the door. “I got here as fast as I could. My wife had me doing some tasks around the house.” Martin said, “That is alright, I had to finish writing my sermon. Let’s go work on the pin.” Jasper opened the door and they left the room. They went in front of the pulpit. Then, they took some boards that were laid out on a table and stood two boards on their sides on the ground. Martin hammered nails in them to keep them together. He did the same with two more boards to complete the pin. Martin said, “Jasper lets go have a look at the snakes we are going to be handling during the sermon. When we are done, I will take us to the diner to eat.” Jasper replied, “That sounds good to me.” They went outside and Martin locked the doors. Then, they headed for the car across Peach St. The two of them got in it and Martin drove to his house. When they got there, he showed Jasper his collection of snakes. He was very adamant about them. “This one is a Gabon viper. You have to avoid this guy because he can deliver a deep bite. What do you think about them?” Jasper laughed at the question. “They are very interesting but don't ever ask me to feed them. I am not inclined to do it.” Martin responded, “No problem.” He picked up the lid on one of the rattlesnake containers. “Can you hand me the snake hook over there by the bookshelf?” Jasper walked over to the back wall where it was and picked it up. He gave it to him. “I also need that cloth bag sitting on the table.” Jasper grabbed it and handed it to him. Martin said, “If you could hold that bag open, I will place the snakes inside. I will make sure that none of them bite you.” They went to each of the boxes that housed them. Martin took them out with the snake pole and set them in the bag that Jasper held open. He put 10 rattlesnakes in the bag. “That should be enough snakes for the sermon.” Jasper said, “I would think so. Hopefully we don't get bit. Have you ever been bitten by one of these things?” Martin answered, “Yes I have. I try not to but it happens. Let’s head back to the church.” The two of them left the house and got in the car.
Martin parked in his usual spot across the street from the church. He and Jasper exited the car. Jasper carried the cloth bag of snakes and they made their way inside the church. It was two o'clock and Martin only had an hour to get ready for his sermon. “Jasper can you set the snakes down in the pin? Don't worry about letting the snakes loose because I'll do it after I get ready.” Jared did what he was asked and then sat down on one of the pews to rest. A few minutes later, Martin came out of his office. He had dressed himself in a suit. Martin walked over to the pin. He leaned over the side of it and got hold of the cloth bag of snakes. Then, he gently dumped them out onto the floor.
Excerpted from "Windy Roads (Volume 1)" by Craig Spinnato. Copyright © 0 by Craig Spinnato. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
The author was born and raised in Riverside, California. He attended high school at J.W. North and college at Riverside Community College. His favorite authors include Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Jim Butcher, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick, and others. The first book he wrote and published was Windy Roads volume 1.
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