20050604

Wendy, the Snake, and the Man Upstairs


This is how Wendy’s husband found out she was having an affair. He’s not in this story, though, believe it or not. He was at work doing something mysterious with numbers that made the rest of his life madly adventurous by comparison. His red pen and his black pen were weighed at the end of each day, and if they didn’t even out, he had to stay an extra hour just to scribble financial insanity into a marbled composition book.

Wendy wasn’t wearing very much, and hadn’t been since she had come back from the grocery store and found the red truck parked in front of her cozy, suburban two-story. “Ginger McKenna, Home Repair” was printed on the side in yellow caps. There was a pair of wood planks sticking out of the bed that Ginger supposedly used if he ever got stuck in the mud, and about fifty crumpled beer cans. The truck sent shivers caroming off Wendy’s skull to settle somewhere in her backside, giving a desperate wiggle to her step.

That was forty-five minutes ago, and she had just now got around to putting the groceries away. And that was only because Ginger wanted to take a shower. Alone. To collect my thoughts, he grumbled, after rolling off her and grabbing his pants by the belt before stumbling into the bathroom.

Otherwise, she probably would have let the ice cream liquefy and the cheese go hard around the edges until he was ready to go. Ginger didn’t come over as often as he used to and when he did it wasn’t the same. Wendy suspected he was seeing somebody else. Maybe even somebody in the neighborhood. She could swear she saw him parked at the Cooper’s house one day when she was picking the kids up from school, but she might have just been imagining things. That was the problem with loving an easy-going stranger. He was strange, and he went easy.

The groceries were gathered in plastic bags around the kitchen island, clumped in piles like mushrooms around a tree stump. She had at least convinced Ginger to help her get them out of the hot car before he grabbed her and carried her upstairs in his hairy blonde arms, one thick hand behind her neck, one thick hand between her legs.

Her mind was elsewhere as she set to work unpacking. Ginger never stayed long enough, and he wouldn’t ever tell her when he was coming so that she could plan ahead and dedicate the whole day. It was definitely a strange relationship, but that somehow added to its charm. They didn’t talk much, but when they did he would tell her stories about all of the crazy things he had seen while working his old job as a high school janitor. Sometimes she was sure he was making stuff up just to make her squeal. Ginger loved it when she squealed.

Wendy had just finished unloading all of the TV dinners and was about to unpack the fruits and vegetables when she saw the snake. At first she thought it was plastic. One of the toys her husband always came home with for the dog. But then it stuck its tongue out and flopped over on its side, putting a crinkled dent in a plastic sack. Its black pinhead eyes were cloudy with shiny menace, like grapes that had gone bad. It wriggled back and forth like a beckoning finger. Had it been there this whole time?

Wendy was too naked to do anything but jump. Her robe came undone, and she nearly tripped over the sash. She went up on her toes -- tightening her long pale, legs and sealing her vagina like ziplock.

The snake slithered lazily over a bag of cabbage nearest to the refrigerator. Wendy skittered backward, hit the wall, and pressed up against it.

The snake was about as long as her forearm and bright green with a yellow stripe down its back like a garden hose. It wasn’t very big, and it wasn’t going anywhere. But Wendy was no herpetologist. As soon as she found her voice, she started screaming. Outside, Crackers the dog started barking like somebody had kicked it.

She ran into Ginger on the stairs. He was soaking wet, and had a towel loosely wrapped around his waist.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, grabbing her before they collided. “Is it your husband?”

“No,” said Wendy, “It’s a snake! A big one!”

Ginger groaned and leaned against the wall in the stairwell. He ran his fingers through his close-cropped hair and popped up beads of water.

“Don’t scare me like that,” said Ginger, “I thought maybe it was all over. I was having visions of my own naked death. Your windows are all locked upstairs, did you know that?”

“Ginger, please. Come take care of it. I can’t stand it. It’s in the kitchen.”

Ginger rolled his eyes and walked downstairs, hiking his towel up and cinching it. He left soggy footprints in the carpet, and Wendy was sure he was stepping hard on purpose. He gave her a squeeze as he passed, but she was too shaken to give much back.

“Where is it? I don’t see anything,” said Ginger, standing in the threshold.

“It’s right there,” said Wendy peeking over his shoulder.

“There’s nothing,” said Ginger. “No snake.”

“It was right by the vegetables! Is it gone? Oh, don’t tell me it’s gone somewhere! I HATE snakes,” said Wendy.

“That’s not the word on the street, my dear,” said Ginger, giving her a tanned, beady smile. Wendy hit him on the shoulder.

“Just take care of it, okay?” said Wendy. “What do I pay you for?”

Ginger went back into the den and picked up a poker from the fireplace.

“What color was it?” asked Ginger.

“Green,” said Wendy, “Bright green. And disgusting.”

“Green like the inside of an avocado, or like the outside?”

“Like the outside. But a bit lighter.”

“Aw, I bet it was just a damn garter snake,” said Ginger, “Maybe it even came home with your groceries. Sometimes snakes sneak into the produce section and find a nice place to curl up, just waiting for some unsuspecting housewife to thump a melon. Then they pounce!”

Ginger pounced, and brandished the fireplace poker menacingly. Wendy just about had a heart attack. She yelped again, and then started pounding Ginger on the chest until he grabbed her arms and gentled her down. Ginger nearly fell over laughing. He had to lean on the poker to keep his balance. The dog started back up again.

“Ginger, stop it,” said Wendy, clutching her robe and curling her arms. “You mean that snake was in my car during the whole ride home? You mean I could have touched it?”

“It’s definitely possible,” said Ginger contemplatively. “But now he’s found himself a new home. Maybe he’ll settle in, get himself a couple of snake-wives and have a hundred or so snake-babies.”

“You’re awful,” said Wendy.

“You know how snakes do it, don’t you?” said Ginger, stepping in closer and caressing her shoulders. He lowered his voice and lifted up his towel hands-free like magic. “They form a big old ball, like a dog-pile. The men all twine themselves up like string, and they writhe around on the ground, flipping around and fucking like silly. It’s a big gangbang till the girl snake calls it quits and starts biting.”

He was breathing heavy, but Wendy was nearly nauseous.

“They have forked peckers, too,” he continued, “Did you know that? Forked tongues and forked peckers. I bet it’s for double fun. Snakes are gentlemen above all. They like to keep their women happy,” said Ginger.

“You’re the snake,” said Wendy, pushing him away. She was too frazzled to be seduced. “I bet you brought that snake in with you. Just to see me freak out.”

She sat down on the couch. After a beat, she picked up her legs and sat cross-legged. She didn’t want any part of her touching the ground.

“Ah, hell, Wendy. You know I wouldn’t scare you like that. That’s crazy.”

“Well, DO something, then.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see any snake,” said Ginger, leaning over to look in the kitchen again. “Are you sure it wasn’t just a stalk of celery?”

“I know what I saw. It’s in there somewhere. You might have to move things around, lazy.”

“You want me to get bit, huh? Is that it?”

“I’m gonna go let the dog in,” said Wendy, “He’ll take care of that snake, if you won’t. All he does is chew things up anyway.”

“Christ! I’ll take care of it!” said Ginger. “Just keep that that dog away from me. He’s dumb as a doorknob, and he can’t tell the difference between a bitch and a knee.”

Ginger and Crackers had never hit it off and Wendy was forced to exile Crackers to the backyard whenever Ginger came over. The truth was that Ginger was superstitious, and he was certain that Crackers had it out for him. That maybe Crackers would somehow report back to her husband like a loyal canine homunculus.

Plus, Crackers had a habit of humping anything he could fit his legs around. Her husband refused to have him fixed. That’s fine for cats and liberals, he’d say, but a dog should have his balls.

It was too bad they were enemies, really, thought Wendy. Ginger and Crackers were very similar in opinion and constitution.

Whenever Crackers was outside, he would dig up the flowerbeds. Inevitably this would lead to an argument later. Her husband would be pissy about putting the dog outside, and she would yell at him for keeping such a disobedient mutt. He’d chew a hole in the floor if she didn’t toss him out, she’d say.

Ginger crept into the kitchen and started poking. He lifted the grocery bags up by the handle and shook them, and then moved the ones he considered clean onto the carpet of the den. Wendy leaned over the back of the couch and watched.

“Don’t put that bag onto the carpet,” said Wendy, as he pokered a bag full of once-frozen peas. “It’s all wet.”

“So am I,” said Ginger, “How about you?”

He flexed his back. Little muscles popped out like wrinkles in a sheet. His Bradley tank tattoo crinkled into lettuce, pulsing and shimmering as if embedded behind flames.

“There it is!” shouted Wendy, shrieking. “Right there -- under the cabinet with the pots and pans!”

“Where?” said Ginger, slinging the poker behind him like a baseball bat.

“Right next to your foot!”

Ginger leapt backwards, and knocked a picture off the wall as he twirled and tumbled. It was a wedding photo, and it landed backing-down on the carpet. The snake was indeed almost close enough to lick at his toes, and Ginger tried to step on its head with one gnarly foot as he caught his balance. The snake twisted, and Ginger nearly fell over again -- this time only stopping himself by ramming the poker into the ground. It busted right through the glass frame of the wedding picture and skewered Wendy’s Nana.

“Ginger!” shouted Wendy.

“I see it! I see the little bastard!”

He hunched down and took an overhand swipe. His towel fell off, leaving him in an unflattering hunch. The snake flattened into the groove underneath the cabinet, and gave a celebratory shimmy when the poker bounced harmlessly from a corner, un-sprung the latch, and sent pots and pans cascading out from underneath like entrails from a fat-bodied sacrificial lamb.

“I’m gonna get that little bastard with my bare hands,” said Ginger, tossing the fireplace poker back into the living room. Its head left a soot footprint when it landed on the carpet, and then another when it bounced.

“Don’t destroy everything, you big jerk!” shouted Wendy.

Ginger didn’t hear or didn’t care. He started tossing pans into the kitchen table, where they jostled doilies, upended condiments, and landed in a gleaming, stainless heap.

“He’s under here somewhere. He’s a tiny little thing. Maybe not even full grown.”

“Ginger, stop!” shouted Wendy. But then he had the snake by the head. He stood up triumphantly and held it out like a puppet.

“Got him! Look how tiny!” said Ginger.

“It’s HUGE!”

The snake whipped its body back and forth against Ginger’s forearm, struggling vainly against its captor. It managed to fling its tail over the side of his wrist and entwine itself. Then it just started rubbing like two sticks making a spark. Its snake eyes maintained their ebony malice and fixated on Wendy as if it knew she was the one in charge.

That she had ultimate say over whether it would live or die.

Ginger walked closer and shook the snake back and forth.

“Hello, Wendy. I’m a snake. Look at my big old teeth. Give me a kiss, beautiful. Suck on my big old snake head.”

Wendy turned away, hugging her elbows, shivering.

”Get that thing away from me!”

“You want to see me crack it like a whip? I can tie it in a knot, if you want. It makes them go crazy. Crazy snakes roll like donuts.”

“Just go throw it over the neighbor’s fence, please. And put some pants on.”

Ginger picked up his towel and started to walk up the stairs.

“What are you doing?” shouted Wendy.

“Going to put some pants on,” said Ginger.

“Are you crazy? Don’t take that thing upstairs.”

Ginger glared at her, and then shook his head. He walked over to the kitchen table and picked up a big Dutch oven. After some fumbling, he found the lid. He put the snake inside and then clapped the capper on tightly.

“You got a brick or something?” asked Ginger.

“A brick?”

“Well, don’t touch it then,” said Ginger, “Unless you want to make me some snake dumplings. Snakes go great with lentils and cream gravy.”

That was when the snake coiled and sprung. Ginger was facing Wendy when it happened, so he got the news second-hand from Wendy’s surprised expression. The snake popped out of the pot like a trained cobra from the Easter basket of Satan’s fakir.

“Whuffah?” said Ginger. And then the snake sprayed him right in the chest. It ejaculated a greasy plume of something gray which dripped longways into his navel. Ginger stood there gawking as the snake slithered free. It flopped itself off the counter, and then wriggled its way underneath the refrigerator.

Ginger dipped a finger in the oozing splooge which darkened his tits.

“Is it poison? Are you okay?” asked Wendy.

Ginger lifted the gift to his nose. He recoiled before he even inhaled, and started wiping his finger on a cup towel.

“Oh my Christ, that smells awful,” said Ginger, stretching out his cheeks to make a face like a sucker-punched funeral director. “The little bastard sprayed me like a skunk. I didn’t know snakes could do that. Must be piss or something.”

“Don’t wipe snake spray all over my good cup towels!” shrieked Wendy.

“I’m gonna rip him in two. Did you see where he went?”

Ginger wiped his chest with the same towel, grimacing.

“It crawled underneath the refrigerator,” said Wendy with a sigh.

The dog started barking again.

“Go make that dog be quiet, willya?” said Ginger. He picked the fireplace poker back up and went down on one knee. “Come here, snakey. Ginger’s got a rod for your ass. I’m gonna slip you over the end of my stick like you was a gas station rubber.”

Ginger opened the refrigerator door, exposing the coils underneath. He bent down and started sweeping the ground with the poker, one eye shut, one eye squinting at the ceiling. The refrigerator door started to close over his head, but he caught it with his free hand and sent it back along its track. It recoiled, and then slowly started to ease shut again, bouncing against its linoleum chock.

Wendy walked over to the kitchen door and peeked through the wooden slats. It sounded like Crackers was right outside, but she couldn’t see him anywhere.

She put her thumb on the handle and then turned around to look at Ginger. All she saw was wiggling ass.

She opened the door, thinking maybe she should put the dog in the garage. Maybe her husband would run him over when he came home. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Crackers was right underfoot, and as soon as there was a big enough opening, he rocketed inside, knocking Wendy out of the way. He was a largish mutt with two-tone fur and feet that slid like hockey pucks on the tile floor. He came in like a panting piano on roller-skates.

“Raouwgh! Raouwgh! Raouwgh!” said Crackers.

“Here he is,” said Ginger, “I can feel him.”

“No, Crackers!” shouted Wendy, “Calm down!”

Ginger bent down lower and stretched out flat. The refrigerator swung shut again, coming to a rest against Ginger’s neck.

“Gotcha!” said Ginger.

Crackers scrambled into the kitchen. He woofed, and sniffed the air. He ran forward, and planted his cold wet nose directly into Ginger’s exposed ass-crack. Right into his pooching, straining anus.

Ginger’s head popped up like a cork. His neck wrapped around the refrigerator door with a sickening snap, and he fell down flat, his legs kicking out, twitching once, and then falling still. His toes pointed at each other like opposing armies.

The snake slithered out from under the refrigerator, across the floor, and out the kitchen door. Crackers followed.

“Ginger?” shouted Wendy, “Are you okay? Ginger?”

Blood began to pool around his prone body. His Adam’s apple was busted like a walnut. The back of his head scraped his shoulderbones. The refrigerator door hung like the hatch on a torpedoed submarine, crumpled in a jagged rainbow. Bits of blonde hair clung to the bottom.

Unless you count blood bubbles, Ginger didn’t reply. Wendy started screaming and didn’t stop until the cops arrived.

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