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Snakeskin Bite (standard:drama, 656 words)
Author: BENTLINKAdded: Aug 24 2010Views/Reads: 2128/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A boy learns a life lesson.

The Snakeskin Bite 

The huff of hot gases from the falling rifle's discharge lifted then
dropped the light brown hair above his right temple only hundredths of 
a second after the hollow-point bullet made its singing spinning way 
skyward. This was not the boy's first brush with death. He often 
climbed to dangerous heights on roofs and rock cliffs or to the 
uppermost limbs in the largest of trees. He had been raised in a 
careless way; the people responsible for his upbringing happily 
oblivious to the many chances he took so long as he stayed out from 
under foot. Along the way to growing up he had adopted this same 
careless, “his life is not worth paying attention to” outlook as well. 

As he sorted through the facts of this, his latest close encounter with
death, and forced himself to examine the truth of just how near to 
death he had come, his body began to fail him. His arms and legs first 
trembled then went to jelly. His knees weakened until they could no 
longer support him and his whole body sagged as a boy shaped balloon 
with a slow leak might, his skinny buttocks settling onto the nearest 
tree fork. When he looked to see why his hands were hurting badly he 
discovered his fingers were blue from gripping so long and tightly to 
branches of the little tree. 

The decision to climb the small tree with a loaded rifle was that of a
careless, lonesome, under trained boy with his first gun. His lack of 
training combined with his concern about the present location of the 
former owner of the enormous castoff snakeskin he had seen moments 
before had almost proved fatal. The singing round from the 22 had been 
chambered to protect him from the unseen snake. Those discovering his 
body would have never known the irony of his death. The paradoxical 
lack of fear for his personal safety while at the same time having a 
powerful unreasoning fear of snakes and snake bite that almost killed 
him. No one discovering his body would understand that what appeared to 
be a fatal head wound from the dropped small caliber weapon was in 
truth an unloved inexperienced boy dead from fear of a snakeskin bite. 

He understood that his life was spared by a miraculous inch. This
current inch, this single perfect inch was why he still lived. Had the 
bullets path been but an inch closer to his head he would have known 
nothing of the singing bullet, the rifles' hot gasses or his hurting 
blood starved hands. His inch was the difference between being alive in 
the here and now with the burned gunpowder taste and smell instead of 
dead. But for the fateful inch, his still warm young body would be 
dangling by a leg wedged amid the trees many small branches. Hanging 
suspended by a foot and ankle head downward with chin and both arms 
pointing at the discharged rifle lying near the base of the little 
tree. Pointing accusing at the offending weapon or perhaps instead 
reaching in a too late lunge to try to take back what had already 
happened. Giving evidence to where the bullet had started ending this 
twelve year olds life would be a small harmless looking blue-black 22 
caliber spot clearly visible on the underside of his chin. 

By the grace of his personal miraculous inch, he was unmarked on his
outside. There would be no need for discovery of his dangling body by 
strangers or for an investigation of his death by townspeople in 
authority. No official reports need be written to reveal how carelessly 
the boy had been taught to live or how needlessly he had died. There 
was only this learning of another of life's many lessons, the cooling 
rifle, and a shaken lone boy sitting in the forks of a small leafless 
tree on a gray fall afternoon. 


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