by Rose Jermusyk.
She was taught not to love the snake. She was taught to keep her distance. But what is taught and what is learned are often not the same thing.
She learned to ponder the snake. She learned to watch from a distance. Until she learned that a snake can be kept in the home.
“All you need is a large, glass case.” She was sure, “the snake will learn its place.”
At first she kept the snake in its case in the parlor while they got to know one another better. After a proper interval she brought the snake in its case into the bedroom while they became better acquainted. Finally she let the snake out of its case whenever she was home and at night it lay in a coil beneath her side of the bed.
She fed mice to the snake, until the snake asked for a heartier meal. She fed rabbits to the snake, until the snake said there were wolves in the woods behind her home. She let the snake stay out of its case for all hours of the day and night, and the snake kept the wolves at bay.
“The floor is ice,” the snake hissed one night. “May I sleep in the bed?”
And she let the snake into her bed where it slept in a coil.
“My side is ice,” the snake hissed one night. “May I sleep beside you?”
And she let the snake stretch its length beside her body, but much of the snake reached far past the end of the bed.
“I don’t seem to fit,” the snake hissed. “May I hold you tonight?”
And she let the snake coil itself around her. She said nothing as the snake’s grip grew tighter. She said nothing as she slipped in and out of consciousness.
“Do you love me?” she asked with her final breath.
And the snake hissed, “Yes.”