Fiction

Story: The Snake-watcher

Troy Farlander

I skittered (with the dog following me) back down the hallway, which curved until it reached the parents’ room. Paprika! Brownish red everywhere: the walls, the bed, the furniture. Then other colors started to peek out: more of that ghastly yellow, a kind of plague victim bluish black, and then, the cheap sting of turquoise.

“Mac want to play horsey?” The boy was getting closer.

An odor walloped me as I stepped into the room. It smelled like old saddle. Mac stood at the doorway and whined.

The boy’s voice swerved into the room. “Mac’s not as good as Chummy because, because, Mac, you can’t talk like Chummy can talk.” Then he screamed, “I got apple juice my apple juice you can’t have it my apple juice.”

I thought of the globe lamp, the shattered bulb, the blood on the carpet. Too late.

I dabbed my hand on my shirt and held my bag to my nose. The smell of cloth helped block the saddle smell. I scanned the room. Clay pottery. Pictures of adobes and desert scenery. Even a sombrero. I felt like ordering a chimichanga.

I looked under the bed. Not enough room to hide.

Mac looked at me and bobbed his tongue.

The boy said, “I see you, Mac. But you can’t have my apple juice.”

I slipped behind the door, and then watched through the crevice. The kickball slammed into Mac’s face.

I put down the bag, then that odor whooshed back. The boy hopped into view. His red shirt clutched my eyes, forced them to look at the familiar face on it: Chummy, with his wide eyes and scalpel beak. The face said, Look, boy, look. I see him. There, behind the door! The boy held a cup with a lid and one of those looping straws. He kicked Mac in the side and the dog snorted.

Across the room was a closet. If I could get in there without him seeing me…

The boy knelt and put his hand on Mac’s back. “I get apple juice, Mac. Apple juice. See? But you get water. Just water for Mac.”

Mac sniffed the cup, then licked the straw.

The closet. Cross the room, slide it open, step in, close it. How long could that take? And it was already slightly open.

The boy slid his hand up the dog’s back. “I can drink apple juice. Drink apple juice I say that because…you can’t have apple juice. No apple juice. No mac and cheese either. No mac and cheese for Mac.” He yanked the dog’s ear. Mac yelped, then slogged back down the hallway.

The boy picked up the ball. He ran in circles and made laser noises. How long to get in the closet? Ten seconds maybe? Five?

He set the ball on the floor, then fell on it. He rolled onto his side so he was facing the bedroom. C’mon, c’mon, I thought. Roll onto your other side.

He did.

***

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Categories: Fiction

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