Friday, November 15, 2013

the snake

February 2, 1973

I thought snakes hibernated in winter like bears.
Then I saw or rather heard one slithering through the wet leaves when I came out of the Red Baron.
Of course, I was drunk, staggering towards my car at the far end of the gravel lot.
I figured I’d get a few nods before I chanced the ride home back to Montclair.
Tommy, the bartender, always taps on the windshield when he’s finished locking up, to let me know it’s time to go and to keep the cops from waking me and taking me to jail for the night.
Sometimes, this early in the morning, when the lot is empty, I think I am stumbling over hollowed ground, some sacred place revered by Native Americans before white men built over it.
If I’m drunk enough, I see spirits rising out of the ground like a mist.
This time, I saw or heard a snake.
I did see its forward motion, slithering through the leaves, not fast, yet fast enough to make me stop and stare.
It’s slithering told me it was a snake, though its shape kept beneath the leaves or deep in the shadows cast by the buildings flood lights.
It was probably its hunting old nest or for rodents and was made sluggish by the chill. But I imagined it was coming for me. Other shapes moved as it moved, fleeing out of its path as it advanced.
I felt its threat and the urge to run.
But still I remained unmoved – a doe starting at the headlights of an oncoming car, waiting for the moment of impact when life came to an end.
I can’t quite explain the huge sense of relief I felt when the snake passed me, looking for some easier target I guess.
Still when I finally staggered to my car and got in, I locked the doors.
I don’t remember nodding off, only the tap tap tap on the glass and my jerking awake to find Tommy’s friendly face staring in at me, telling me, it was time to go.

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