Patty shook the sand out of her socks and stuffed them into her runners.
“Move over. Give me some rock, baby.”
Mary laughed and inched over to the other side of the granite slab, stuffing the towel under her to block the heat. Sun filtered through the trees, spilling across the water like forgotten diamonds. Tree frogs and cicadas were all that moved in the summer heat.
“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” she began. Patty joined in and the two of them sang with their eyes closed against the brightness. When the words were finished they began to hum harmonies, accompanied by lazy ripples along the shore.
Mary’s voice trailed off. She opened her eyes just a little, enough to peer through the bright haze down toward her feet. She didn’t move.
“Pat,” she whispered. But Patty was floating off with the melody.
“Pat,” she whispered again but it came out like a hiss of breath between clenched teeth. “Don’t say anything and don’t move. Trust me.”
Mary took a long breath, her mind, body and spirit exhaling as quartz, feldspar, and mica. She was washing into the music of waves, soaring through the treetops and she could feel her sister doing the same.
She became aware of the snake’s belly as it eased its way over her ankles but there was no fear. She was drifting. Insects sang and a warm breeze played over her skin. She wanted to remember everything.
She could feel her sister now, absolutely still, her breath slow. Trust. Trust her. Nothing moved except the snake. The sisters stood together in eternity.
There was no rattle, only the drone of insects watching from the trees. The cool writhing was gone. Mary opened her eyes and glanced over at her sister’s feet. Nothing.
“I think it’s gone but don’t move yet, just in case it’s beside you.” Mary’s voice was barely audible.
Patty followed the movement out of the corner of her eye, watching as the snake disappeared under the boulders. “It’s gone,” she said.
They lay there together in the sun for a few minutes more before rising from the rock.
“It wasn’t that big.”
“No, only a couple of feet.”
They put their socks and shoes on and stepped from the rock onto the path that led away from the water. Patty started singing, “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.”
Mary put her arm around her sister and sang harmony.