Saturday, July 7, 2012
Idea Number Three: Results
Prompt: The snake curled itself around my arm and hissed softly in my ear.
This entry courtesy of Timothy Forry
I pushed the curtain aside and looked out into the audience. The crowd was small for a Saturday afternoon. It used to be that every chair would be filled, standing room only. Today, only ten chairs were occupied. I noticed a man with a bored look on his face sitting next to a young boy who seemed more interested in the electronic device in his hand than watching a sideshow attraction at a circus. An elderly couple sat in the front row. They were holding hands. Occasionally they would look at one another and smile, as if they were reliving a shared memory. None of the other patrons were remarkable. Most likely they just paid the two dollars to come inside the tent to escape the hot August sun.
I looked at my watch. Only ten more minutes. When I took the stage I would become Veleno, the Snake Charmer. I’d played the role for forty years. When I first started, the crowds would look on in awe. Little girls would scream as Rini, my python, curled her smooth body around my leg, then my torso until her oblong head peeked up over my shoulder. Now that anyone could walk into a pet store and buy a boa constrictor or python; my act seemed tame.
I let the curtain close and turned around. Rini stared at me. She knew what I was capable of.
I really am a snake charmer. Not just a snake wrangler, like most other circus side-shows.
I first discovered the ability when I was very young. I might have been four, maybe five years old. I grew in Nebraska on a large farm in the middle of nowhere. There were no other houses near mine. From the front porch of my family’s farmhouse, wheat fields and cornfields stretched out to the horizon.
One day, my oldest brother was chasing me through the dirt in front of our house. He liked to beat me. I didn’t like to be beaten.
I bolted for the cornfield. It was July, the corn was already up past my head. The sharp-edge leaves cut at my cheeks as I ran. My face was stinging. I kept running, even though my brother no longer chased me. I had never run into the cornfield and didn’t know about the old well. My vision was blurry, I was crying from the pain of the cuts. I didn’t see the broken boards covering the old well. I remember falling, then sliding. The sun disappeared.
When I came to a stop it was dark. I looked up. There was only a pinpoint of light. I heard a drip, drip sound of water from somewhere below. I was terrified to move.
But then, a song formed in my head. I didn’t know where it came from. It was not a song I ever heard. I began to hum it.
Before long, I began to hear sounds coming from all around me, like someone running their hand over rough wood. My eyes, adjusting to the dim surroundings began to see movement. I looked above me, the walls seemed to be moving. I felt something wrap around my wrist and squeeze. I was jerked upward. I was being lifted out of the well, inch by inch. As I got closer to the opening of the well I could see snakes linked head to tail, slithering their way up the steep side of the well, pulling me to safety.
I had never told anyone. Never showed anyone the full extent of what I could do. Just enough to get a job with a traveling circus.
It was time. I pressed the “play” button on the stereo backstage, then burst through the curtains. The elderly couple jumped, startled. The little boy looked up from his electronic device for a second, then went back to pushing buttons with his thumbs. His father looked straight ahead without reaction.
I raised my hands above my head. I heard Rini slithering on the stage behind me. The elderly woman gasped. Rini slid past the inside of my left foot, then encircled my leg, climbing up. She had gotten so big. Her body was almost as thick as my thighs. Her body wound around my torso, she gave me a quick squeeze, like a hug, or a reminder that she could kill me if she wanted.
The snake curled itself around my arm and hissed softly in my ear.
I knew what she wanted me to do.
No, I thought.
Rini paused, leveling her face directly in front of me. Someone in the audience gasped. I felt a smile forming at the edge of my mouth. Without thought of the consequences, I began to hum.
After nearly twenty notes of the song, I heard someone scream from the outside of the tent. Then another. The sides of the tent fluttered as I heard people running by. The audience members looked around at one another. Someone in the back stood up and rushed to the exit. He pushed the tent flap aside and I could the movement of legs, people fleeing.
Then the snakes came. They slithered under the sides of the tent, winding their way between the chairs. The little boy screamed, lifting his feet off the floor, dropping his device. He grabbed onto his father’s arm.
Soon, the whole floor of the tent was a writhing mass of serpents. I stopped humming. The snakes raised their heads, they had formed a semicircle at the foot of the stage. I turned my head and gazed at them. I smiled.
When I started humming again, the snakes moved as one, like a giant sheet of scales and tails. Their collective mass enveloped me. I felt my feet leave the floor. I was riding a wave of snakes. They plowed through the tent wall, breaking into the sun.
I just kept humming. I didn’t care who saw or heard. I was free and I wouldn’t hide my gift any longer.