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Snakes (standard:Suspense, 2243 words)
Author: GXDAdded: Sep 21 2007Views/Reads: 3225/1792Story 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?


"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 

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 

I went and woke up Horacio.  He squinted and puckered up his face.

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