Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Snake

The snake lived somewhere in the house. Tommy had seen it crawl under the carpet, and shimmy beneath the blue shag in little undulating waves until it disappeared.  This was just a few days after Chloe's hamster had escaped and was presumed dead. They had a funeral for it in the backyard, with a bouquet and cardboard gravestone made by Chloe. She spent all afternoon at it, being the creative kid in the family. Tommy assumed they'd fake bury the missing snake soon. He didn't believe it was really dead though. It was too smart to die under the stinky old carpet.

The snake was exhilirated and in a panic. He was incredibly strong and fast once free from the cedar shavings and glass walls of his sun lamp-warmed cage. The heavy carpet stretched tautly above his head, and rubbed along his spine as he squirmed along. Odd shafts of light poured down from tiny holes above, and air. He hit an impasse where the carpet met the wall. He rested there for a long time, until the scent of rotting hamster inspired him to back up a bit, jack-knife, and surge forward in an opposing direction. The carpet tunnelled open before him like a benediction. At the end of the dark chute lay the hamster remains, covered by a swarm of ants. The snake fed there on hamster and ants alike, then lay in a torpor until a soggy patch of carpet beckoned, it's spongy underfibers rich with water spiked by sugar and red food coloring.

The snake lapped at the syrup and a surge of energy caused him to snap like a whip. He burst through the sticky carpet, it's worn fibers soft as moss. He was above now, in a cavernous black space, small red and green lights blinking in the distance, representing slumbering electronics. He slid easily along the carpet and onto a cool, slick floor. The tiled kitchen offered interesting crumbs and spills to feed on, and a playful cat. The snake sped away from the feline's needling claws, back onto the carpet and through a far away open door in a wink. This room was smaller, with a row of potted plants displayed on a bench before a raised window sash, gentle night breezes blowing through.

The snake coiled up a pile of laundry onto leather sofa cushions. From there it took a flying leap, and was able to mount a side table, slither from the edge of that to the window ledge, and then along the ledge to the plant stand. One plant in particular beckoned to him, her arching succulent branches bearing red and white spread blossoms. The snake considered the screen window for a moment. Was that a tear in the corner? Should he venture out into the night air? A memory of the cat gave him pause. A truck thundered by on the highway outside, a distant siren sounded. The snake flowed to the plant with the wide, arching leaves. He rose up and swayed for a moment, gazing at the splendid plant lit with moon glow, then tipped his head and entered over the ceramic lip that held fragrant soil. He dug in beneath the frothy dry layer of spanish moss and pulled up his tail behind him. He curled around the base of the plant and found many crunchy beetles to snack on.

The plant provided beautifully for the snake. Her fruity blossoms attracted beetles and the occasional small mouse. Caretakers watered her regularly. The snake ate and drank his fill. By day he wrapped himself snugly around her trunk, and napped. By night he coiled round and round, his tail whipping out dried leaves and bits of soil as he circled prey. He never wanted to leave and never had to. In the end, he fed his towering, flowery home. Tommy and Chloe, now gangly teenagers, stroked the leaves in passing and whispered "grow you beautiful old thing, keep growing."

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