Thursday, March 26, 2015

Snake Charmer

She loved the way the snake curled around her V-neck sweater, his hard diamondback pattern shifting in the sun. It was unseasonably hot for early November, and she could smell its animalistic odour, like her own sweat. She liked the way it felt, slick as oil, its firm sliding muscles, tense and locked now, ready to spring – to strike.
    During the year the townsfolk had a picnic and contest to see how many diamondbacks they could pull out of the ground. There were prizes for the heaviest snake, the longest snake, the first one caught and the last one caught.
    Georgia won first prize for the smallest snake, naming him Flush. Flush was only twelve weeks old, so she started to train him and knew that later he would be entered into the pit. The “pit” as it was commonly called was a feast of snakes, all writhing, crawling, twisting over one another. The men bet on how many rats, mice and red meat each snake could eat. Usually it was Rattlesnake Queen who won every Saturday, consuming two rats and five mice, sometimes more.
    Georgia hoped that Flush would become the big boss in the pit, taking home the prize.
    However, weeks, months passed and still Flush remained small.
    Matlock, Georgia’s husband said, ‘You have to feed him some of those ghost rats, the white ones with pink feet. That’ll bulk him out.’
    Georgia opened the spring-hinged door at the top of the cage. She sat the rat on the door, letting it ratchet inwards. The rat plopped to her feet, her long pink tail ticking back and forth like a clock counter. Flush, coiled in the corner, a tiredness in his demeanour, rippled slightly. The rat sat upright and began cleaning her underbelly with rhythmic and graceful brushes.
    Georgia hissed at Flush. ‘Go boy, lunch!’
    Inquisitive, Flush uncoiled and seemed to be caging the rat with his right eye. The rat darted forward and sat on Flush’s head, then ran down the length of his body and back again, as if carrying out a daily massage.
    Georgia, her legs almost folding underneath her, watched on. The rat was not trembling or frozen in fright, instead it patiently licked Flush’s face. In some divine fancy or adoration, she used a circling motion over his mouth and eyes like a gentle lover.
    Georgia heard Matlock’s footsteps and called out. ‘Take a look at this!’
    Matlock looked down into the cage, instead of Flush opening his jaw to swallow the rat, his darting tongue surged forward, as if ready, in response, to cleanse the rat’s head.
    ‘I can’t understand it,’ said Georgia. ‘I know a lot about animals, about fully-grown snakes eating rats, about us eating rattlers, our yearly round-ups, but nobody, nobody in this great southern town could tell me that a rat and a diamondback would EVER become friends!’



Published by Australian Poetry Centre, Melbourne

of Arc & Shadow

of Arc & Shadow
Published by Sunline Press, WA

The Joyous Lake

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