|Snakes (standard:Suspense, 2243 words)|
|Author: GXD||Added: Sep 21 2007||Views/Reads: 2437/1225||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|When a hundred hungry snakes showed up in the parking lot, Horacio conjured up a mouse feast with his crude flute. And by the way, where were you?|
SNAKES "There are snakes in the parking lot," he mentioned casually as I pulled open the door. The party was over, after ten hours, and I was ready to go home and sleep. "What snakes," I asked, not taking any of this very seriously. He stirred his drink with a pinkie. "Oh, the usual. Bushmasters, kraits, cobras, pit vipers, mambas, rattlers, coral snakes, adders and asps. God knows what else." I shut the door again. In the long silence that followed, my stomach turned over several times and I felt queasy. "What do you mean cobras," I shot back. This is South America. There aren't any cobras! He heaved a sigh, set down his glass and took my shoulder in his hand. I sank onto the footstool. "Look, just after sunset, while you were dancing your ass off, a zoo truck turned over half a block from here. They lost at least a hundred snakes which were on their way to the airport." He paused, reached over and straightened my tie. "You know snakes," he said, "they crawl up onto the warm asphalt and snuggle up to your tires." He refilled the drink in my hand. "You'll need it" he said softly, and began fumbling in the closet. "Hey, Bozo!" I shouted, "If there's a hundred snakes crawling around out there, where are the police? Where are the zookeepers?" He tugged for a minute or so, then pulled out a pair of tall, stiff leather boots, handed them to me and said: "It's a holiday. It's a bank holiday. It's a police holiday. The firemen aren't working. And besides, it's a weekend. The zoo is closed. And then there's the curfew. You want to get shot? Also, the hospital is on strike. And my name is Jose." I stood limp and dumb, looking at Jose, with the boots in one hand and a wet glass in the other. After all, he had a point. It was two in the morning. The others were all asleep in the living room -- in overstuffed chairs, between cushions, on the rug. Once upon a time when we were young, we could have danced till dawn. Tina and Jose always preferred the Pachanga and Merecumbe. Horacio danced the Samba and the Rumba with Jose's wife, Maria Cristina. Elena, my Elena! She was into Merengue, Fandango, Bolero and Habanera, with or without a partner. Tina had been Elena's friend since grade school. When she tripped over a lumpy spot in the rug, she let out a yelp like a puppy, frightening everyone. A few stomps on the wrinkle flattened it, but before anyone could screw up courage enough to lift the rug, every light in the house went out. We flew into each others' arms like magnets, whimpering. Nobody dared to look for a fuse. That night was magic. The magic of lush wet jungle leaves, still dripping warmly from an evening shower. The tropical melon-moon yawned its cluster of firm, fertile seedlings to dissipate the last trace of green-violet dusk. The dark earth swarmed with animals and insects cuddling and coupling -- the simple joy of their brief lives. The starlit terrace formed a bower of promise -- of promises -- of promised. Which brought me back to the snakes. They must be everywhere, so it would be a bad idea to move around a lot. They must be hungry, because everyone knows a snake travels on its belly -- the keepers must have starved them before getting them ready for air freight shipment. So it followed, they must be short-tempered, at the least. What could we give the snakes to eat, how could we appease them? There had to be a way. I went and woke up Horacio. He squinted and puckered up his face. Click here to read the rest of this story (182 more lines)
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