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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 35 page 14


snake moving thru leaves

For Saxon (and Josh)

by Harrison Kim

Saxon, you lucky snake. The reptile refuge took you home, O unique pin-striped albino Burmese python. A place that needs you, as much as you need it. I wish it were the same for everyone. I remember standing and flirting with the motorcycle guys, your body hanging round my shoulders, me supporting your torso in my hands, my grip firm but not tight, and Josh posing us, a hundred dollars a show. “Move Saxon closer to the leather, Sammi,” he’d command, the bikers snapping photos till they had their fill of decadence, me in my shorts and pumps, Josh in his camouflage pants, boots and white T-shirt with the “Don’t Tread On Me” rattler image. We grinned to each other as we heaved you back in the van. The bikers were always impressed with Josh, the way he handled and controlled you, Saxon. For a long time he made me feel safe with you too.

You cost so much to keep. But we raked it in. The photos and online funding helped pay my tuition, I couldn’t have done it on my own. Without you and my partner Josh.

I remember my first sight of your length in his bath, in that low-ceiling basement suite. Same colour as white sand, something moving under shallow water. Josh must’ve felt free enough to let me in to his basement world, by that third tutoring session.

Josh couldn’t read or write at all then. Now he’s at least at semi-literate level. All he worked at that time was a dishwashing job. Just had you to love and to care for. He moved as strongly then as now, could lift your entire cage with you in it. You don’t remember. A snake has a definite memory deficit.

The first thing I recall about Josh was the Australian flag with a python guarding it, tattooed on his right arm — from the foolish years, he said. I owned a budgie and a white rat named Nix, but you and he were unique. You, all white, but for the black stripes down your sides and the stars on your back. And you kept growing longer and wider and stronger.

Josh talked me over from tutor to lover after a few lessons. His confidence set me right, I felt definite with him, his faith in you and me was real and contagious. You might never have felt it, Saxon, but I witnessed how he fed the living prey to your willing mouth, step by step using two sets of latex gloves, separating his flesh, his warmth and scent, from the rat’s body and yours, but treating the rat itself like a baby, firm, gently holding, his fingers never rushing, the motions encouraging you forward towards the warmth and the sustenance. I witnessed his concentration, how well he focused. If only he could apply that to the abstract, to reading and writing, to offer the total fullness of quality intelligence. That’s what I wanted, and required, to be fully his lover, not only his tutor. But Josh had no insight. He could change door locks and car tires, but there was a broken link, I believe, between his brain and his vision. It wasn’t that he lacked the capacity, it was that aphasia, that broken part, that stopped full communication.