chapter 49

Snake Story

    This story just suddenly jumped into my mind (I have been sipping whiskey from a coffee cup). This is a snake story. A Texas snake story. It probably isn't true, but what the hell. The story goes like this:

    Once upon a time, long, long, ago, far, far away, in a strange land known as South Texas, a lonely, tattered, mixed-up pilot crawled out of a

rattledy-trap old crop-duster and walked off down a dusty trail to a little outhouse without a door.

    And as I was walking off down that dusty little trail I heard a rattlesnake!

    Now, for those of you who have never had the experience of walking off down a dusty trail to an outhouse without a door and hearing a old-time sure enough grand-daddy of a South Texas diamondback RATTLESNAKE!!! do his rattle, I'll tell you right now, it's something you don't really need to hear, not even one single time in all your lifetime.

    A man just doesn't need to hear that sort of thing. But if you ever do hear it, on the hottest day God ever let live, on a lonely little airstrip in the farthest end-of-the-world corner of nowhere, you won't ever want to hear it again for however long it is that you intend to hang around in this miserable old world.

    And that's what I heard! And the cold chills ran up my spine. And the hot sweat crystallized into little burning needle-points of ice, and the chills ran up, and then down, from my ears to my bottom-end. And I just stood there. And I didn't hear it again, and I thought: "Maybe I really didn't hear it." And then I thought, "Ha!" So I just stood there.

    And then I heard it again! Right there! Right there in front of me! Right there in the weeds! And I stared, frozen. And I saw something moving ...

Right there in the weeds!... Not six feet in front of me! Right there in the weeds beside that little dusty path. So I just stood there and stared at it.

'Cause now I could see it, moving in the weeds. And it RATTLED! again!

And then it RATTLED! again!

    Now, this next part of this Texas snake story, the part I am about to tell you right now, this is the part you're not going to believe. And I don't expect you to believe it. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't even tell this story

if I hadn't been sipping whiskey out of a coffee cup. But this is the way this story really happened. This is the truth.

    Now, that diamond-back rattlesnake just kept rattlin', but in a odd sort of way. And he was laying in the grass, I could see him plain now, in an odd sort of way. And I got to staring at him. And what I saw didn't make sense at all. But there he was - it was - just the way I am telling you, big as life! Honest.

    And what I saw was a monster snake, big as a fire hose, long as this snake story, fat as a goose, scary as the very maw of hell. It was a snake like no snake I ever saw, but it wasn't a diamond back rattlesnake. That's right, it wasn't a diamond back at all. It was an entirely different kind of snake.

    It was a Blue Indigo snake.

    Did you ever see a Blue Indigo? Ever hear of one? Well, a Blue Indigo is

a snake of the brush country. A Rio Grande River Country snake. I've seen

a few, but not many. But the one laying there in the grass, right beside the dusty path to my outhouse without a door, was the biggest snake I ever saw in my life.

    And he was busy. He was hard at work. And what he was hard at work doing was swallowing a diamond back rattlesnake! He was swallowing a diamondback rattlesnake the size of a fire hose, a fire hose that was not quite as big as the fire hose the Blue Indigo was the size of. And he was swallowing that diamondback head first.

    And he must have had about half of him already swallowed, because there was about three feet of the tail of that diamond back still sticking out of his mouth. And the head of that Blue Indigo was the size of a bucket.

    And that diamond back was still putting up a fight. I guess his head about that time was a good three feet buried inside the stomach of that

Blue Indigo, but he was still squirming, and coiling, and rattlin' like crazy.

    And those two snakes writhing there on the ground, hooked up together that way and stretching out all across the dust and weeds, was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was like nothing I ever wanted to see.

    And I couldn't help but wonder just exactly what was going on inside the little snake brain of that diamond back. Just what sort of things would a snake be thinking, finding himself caught up in such a situation?

    And I could see where his head was making a twisting knot in the belly of that old Blue Indigo. And I wondered if he was still biting, just sinking his fangs over and over again into the belly of that big Blue Indigo. If he was still striking out, it wasn't helping things one bit. He must have long since pumped out all his poison, and it hadn't done him a bit of good.

    I guess there wasn't much left for that diamondback to do but chew and squirm and bite and cuss. And I think I know what he was thinking. I think I know the thought that was going through his tiny little snake brain.

    I think he was thinking, "What am I doing here?"

    But it was all over for that diamondback. I could see that that big monster Blue Indigo, big as a railroad tie, big as a 750 pound can of napalm, big as a side of beef hanging on a meat hook, bigger than life itself, wasn't the least bit concerned as to how the struggle was going to turn out. He just laid there all stretched out, and every now and then let the muscles of his body ripple from the base of his jaws right down to the tip of his tail. From time to time he just lazily flexed his body from one end to the other, from one end of what must have been, I swear, eight feet of rippling muscle, right down to the very end of his blue-black tail.

    And every time he rippled those muscles the body of that diamondback would slide a little deeper into his stomach. And that thrashing tail would flash madly with what must have been a dozen joints of rattles. And every time I heard that buzzing rattle, the cold chills ran up and down my sweaty spine.

    It was a strange sight, it was. I couldn't decide what to think about it. I still don't know what to think about it. I was terrified by the rattling, but I could see that that diamondback would never again take a bite out of anything.

    That evening, before the sun went down, those snakes had disappeared from my airstrip. I didn't see that old Blue Indigo leave, but I know he slid away into the brush with a full belly and a smug look.

    I'll bet he's still down there today, somewhere, just getting fatter, and shinier, and smugger, with every passing year.

 

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