Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A Story A Week: Rattler
Kim shaded her face with her hand, wishing for the hundredth time she’d worn a hat, or at least more sunscreen. She could feel the skin on her nose blistering, as if she were standing with her head in an oven.
“It all looks so perfect from up here,” she said, kicking at a tumbleweed a foot in circumference that was inching closer to her every time the wind breathed. They almost seemed alive, the way they lingered in one spot – usually in groups – only to race away the next moment.
“It is perfect,” Patrick said. “What’re you talking about?” But he was laughing as he said it.
“I’m talking about not being able to see the puncture vines that pop your tires from up here.”
“Or the sludge at the edge of the river.”
“Or the crab grass.”
“Or hear babies crying,” he said.
Their daughter was back with Grandma and Grandpa. Kim checked her watch. She was still breastfeeding, so they couldn’t be away long.
“But at least your parents have a pool,” she said. “And I’m ready for it right about now.”
“Time to head back?”
“Will you carry me?” She was joking, of course, but Patrick glanced down at his sweat-blotched shirt, and held out his arms.
“Hey, if you want me to….”
“No,” she said. “But I’ll take one of those sweaty hands of yours, instead.”
“What we need,” he said, hooking his hand into hers, “is a slip n’ slide that runs from up here straight down into my parents’ pool.”
“Now that would be awesome,” she said. “I could definitely go for—”
“Stop!” His hand worked loose.
“Did you hear that?” The tendons in his neck stuck out like cords.
She shook her head mechanically. All she could hear was a breeze rustling through the grass, and crickets.
“Rattler,” he said.
“I don’t know, I can’t see,” he whispered. “Back up.”
They took three steps backward. Kim’s instinct was to keep going – run and never stop. But Patrick grabbed her elbow. “Okay, buddy, where are you?” he breathed.
Her eyes scanned the parched, blond brush. “Do you see it?”
“No,” he said. “But rattling’s a warning.”
“Patrick,” she whined.
She wasn’t faint hearted usually. But Patrick hadn’t mentioned the possibility of snakes. Snakes were different.
“Let’s just keep moving,” he said. “Don’t hurry. We’ll just walk through this section and get past it, wherever it is.”
“I don’t think I can move.”
“You don’t have a choice,” he said. “Take my hand. Don’t speak. Just walk.”
She felt his hand slide back into hers, tugging her rigid body forward. “Patrick!”
It was a pain like a knife slitting the skin, one you don’t feel at first. But she’d seen the head lunge at her from behind one of those puffs of sagebrush. And she’d seen its beaded tail as it made its escape. And now, slowly, she felt the burn.
He swore, down on his knees next to her, juggling his cell phone in his free hand. “We’ll get you back, Kimmy! Sit up! Don’t lie down! Hold on!”
The sun’s glare hurt her eyes. She closed them. This didn’t feel real, the burning on her face and the burning in her leg, the double puncture of two venomous fangs. Her mind reeled at the impossibility of it.
“Where’s that slip n’ slide when you need it?” she gasped.
Thanks to Kim for the inspiration for this story. The words she chose were mirrored, breastfed and patchwork. Not sure how I got a rattlesnake story out of that, but inspiration works in weird ways sometimes. Kim, don't worry. Patrick gets this particular Kim to the hospital and she doesn't die. Wouldn't want you to think I was trying to kill off the character I named after you. *grin*
If you would like to provide some inspiration for a future story, click here and write your three words in the comments section. Thanks!