A Labor Day Free Story for You: Snake Patterns
A juniper bush is beside the stairs leading to my front door. Its needles are so tiny and regular, they appear to be a soft green cloud. I walk toward the steps. A sudden motion catches my eye.
A baby snake, no more than 5 inches, explores the shrub. The small diamonds and triangles that make up its scales perfect in miniature.
I bend to pick him up and he does not resist, but curls around my fingers as though they are merely another texture for him to explore. His bright eyes meet mine. I see no fear, only a slight curiosity mingled with small surprise. A less alarmed look than a baby’s at the taste of a new food. A less concentrated gaze than the lion’s when he met my eyes and stood transfixed, staring until I sensed he was sizing me up as a potential meal. A less steadfast look than the locked eyes of deer when an entire herd stands frozen, as though invisible as long as they remain motionless. I don’t move either to see if I can outwait them. I never do. One of them–usually the smallest, the youngest—bolts away.
But the snake whose motion is the constant essence of life as it wiggles, slithers, squirms endlessly even active for hours after death is not motionless. It explores my hand, my fingers. Its tongue licks the air and tastes my aura.
What does he taste? My curiosity? My excitement at sharing this moment with him? Do I assume it is a ‘him’ because of the phallic symbol so obvious in our definition of snake, his shape, our icon…the harbinger of lust and passion and metaphor for the spectacular changing and explosive penis?
This one, this baby curls around my middle finger then slithers to circle my wrist—well almost—he is that small and perfect in his completeness.
I tell him how beautiful he is, such a gorgeous little baby. But I am a creature of the electronic age, not just forest and bushes. So, I get my iphone to take our picture.
Is this the ultimate selfie? Eve and snake? A selfie as metaphor for the fall from the Garden of Eden? Or is THIS the garden of Eden: this snake, this prickly juniper bush, this blue sky, this air scented vaguely of the blooming lavender and me. A woman. A mother. A Lover. An artist. Another creature.
I snap a picture that’s a struggle because one hand holds the snake. Then, I return the snake to his juniper bush. He lies there for a moment. Still. He stares at me, flicking his tongue in the fast-dash way that he has—his tongue being his whiskers and his hands.
Slowly in a quiet grace he slides deeper into the bush.
“Eat lots of insects,” I tell him.
“Have a nice life,” I tell him. Even the tip of his tail has now disappeared into the depths of the bush.
He is gone.
It is quiet.
Later, I look at the selfie. The triangular slope of his head, with a pattern of armored plates, his yellow stripes are scales braided together. Between them are the thicker threaded weaving of black. All lines, little diamonds different only in coloring.
Behind him is my hand with its crease of lines, the large ones that are my heart and health line. Small dashes, webs formed by work, by cooking, hugging, making art connect them. And the whirls of my fingerprints.
Tiny patterns in miniature. Each of us one piece echoing each other. The subtle designs of flesh repeat throughout us. We are eerily similar. Repeating.
Have a nice life.
I’ve told you about this story before, in my literary artistic adventure on wearing books. The paper snake, the story written on its belly, and the book bag were displayed in an art show. I wanted to give you the story written on the back of that cardboard snake.