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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 35 page 16


I admired how he could control you, Saxon, with a motion, or a tap. He knew your kind so well.

Near the end of our relationship, Josh became ever optimistic, asserting that he would never stop trying, averring that I would always teach him, though in reality we only travelled round and round the same lonely wheel. He never fully graduated from serpents to girls, from unskilled to literate. Like you, he seemed to have no sense of past, present, or future. He ate when he was hungry, slept when he was tired. He remained in a forever now, always moving within the circle of you, me and himself. He found that circle full of meaning. That was true for both of us at first, as I found in him a protector of my own wild ways, a guide to move me towards stability and routine.

I had been scattered, in motivation and resolve, with men and work and goals. Not remaining on anything, ever drifting, I could’ve ended up never knowing the freedom of success. I’d be living still in my sister’s garage with my white rat Nix. Now my pets and I live upscale in a new apartment. Things have worked out for the best, for all of us.

Josh desired me to show and to pose you. He insisted on it, not just to make money. He thought everyone should enjoy what we did, and it was his duty to show the world the charismatic Saxon, in your length and magnificence. He didn’t understand that snakes grow too difficult to manage, and that a new teacher must practice on those who can learn. From Josh, I learned compassion, patience, and concentration, but he learned almost nothing, in the end. He simply repeated the mantras of his faith in the three of us. He still had to ask me every day, “What do these headlines say?”

After I graduated and Mississauga school district offered me a teaching position, I needed to move. Josh couldn’t care for you on his own.

In the end, Saxon, I called animal control and told them there was an exotic snake being held with no permit. I spoke with authority and concern. They acted on my complaint right away. My life then fell back in control again, my aspirations to a new, safe life renewed. I felt relief at no longer having to lift you and be afraid.

Josh didn’t understand my fears, he insisted he’d protect me always. But I had tamed myself by then. I no longer need another’s restraint to modify myself.

Josh works at the reptile refuge now, and we haven’t seen each other since animal control took you to your new home. Josh knew it was me who told the secret. But I have faith he’ll be forgiving. He’s like that. He doesn’t seem to carry any anger. I don’t think he’s dangerous in the same way as you, Saxon. Yet if you feed something for a long time, it becomes dependent, as it grows in its affection and demands more and more. He’s been phoning and leaving messages that he wants to see me, to take just one more lesson. “I want to learn,” he says. “You’re the only one who can teach me.”

He’s not malicious, he just doesn’t understand.

I will say, “I have a dog now,” and I’ll tell him it’s a big, fierce Rottweiler. I’ll say that maybe one day I can visit the reptile refuge and we’ll watch Saxon together, “just as friends.” I’ll say that I can no longer teach to his weaknesses. That would only end up as another round on the wheel. His strengths are physical and emotional, he is not cut out for reading and writing and discussing plays and music concerts. Finally, it’s all too personal, and I don’t feel the same way about him.

Josh has found his niche, working at the refuge, what he always wanted, feeding and caring for the beasts, you included. No more dishwashing for a living! He’s graduated from basement suite snake care and I feel overall maybe I had something to do with that.

And now, the phone rings again, and I know it’s Josh, forever patient yet insistent, calling several times a day, imploring me, pleading once again for human love.