Snake Eyes

Arthur Meiselman

Scene4 Magazine — inSight - perspectives on arts and media
writings: story

October 2013

Mr. Joe Caswell is a not too old, not too young man, easy to smile, easy to laugh, quick to anger.
Mr. Joe Caswell is a consumer and dismisser of most things
especially people.
Mr. Joe Caswell believes that the end justifies the end and the means is an opportunity that defines his life in the present.
He doesn't remember his past and can't envision the future.
On this day, Mr. Joe Caswell is lost. He finds himself on a lonely desert road with an over-heated car, an empty gas tank, no traffic after hours of waiting, and a blank horizon in all directions.

Mr. Joe Caswell, the epitome of a self-made, self-found man, is lost.

At 3pm sitting in his white silk suit and sweating in the shade of his car with no drink, no water, no breeze he sees a small dust cloud moving close to the sand off the road. It's headed straight toward him. Through his dry eye-lashes and drowsy eyes, he watches it carefully. As the dust begins to clear, it's occupant begins to appear. It is a sidewinder rattlesnake moving in its acrobatic circus-freak style and moving rather quickly. Straight toward him. This serpent is known to be relentless. And Mr. Joe Caswell is known to be relentless. He pulls himself up, takes off his jacket, waves it like a warning flag, shouting, jumping and sweating. Everything is extremely hot. The snake keeps coming.

He reaches under the driver's seat in his car, yanks out a paper bag, removes a pistol, a revolver. He turns and fires at the snake. He misses. He fires five more. The snakes keeps coming. The gun is empty, he has no more bullets, he yells and throws the gun at the creature. The snake stops six feet in front of him and stares at him the way snakes always seem to stare at you when you stare at them. Then this multi-S-shaped reptile does the unexpected: it turns from its sidewinding to face him head on and begins to rise up, up until it's six feet tall and revealing itself as a cobra snake, a large, hooded, menacing king cobra, six feet away, six feet tall.

Mr. Joe Caswell is having a hallucination.

He takes a step to the right. The snake coils and leans to its left. A step to the left, the snake coils and leans to its right. An attempted step forward, the snake coils and leans forward.
He looks over his shoulder at the open car door and thinks: I can dive into the car and close the door. I can hide until it goes away.
To his unexpected astonishment, the snake says: No, you can't move fast enough. You can't escape.

Mr. Joe Caswell is having an astonishing hallucination.

The snake says: You're in my garden, you're in my desert, there's no escape.
He thinks: It's the heat and no water. It's a heat stroke.
The snake says: No, it's the end of your road. It's the rest of your life.
He thinks: I got to get back to Vegas. It's the heat. For crissakes, I got to shake off this crazy nightmare, back to my home, back to my friends. I got to...
The snake says: You can't go back. You have no home, no friends. All that's waiting for you are the people you've conned, the men you've ripped off, the girls you've slapped around, the cops.
He thinks: I bought and sold the cops in Vegas for years. Suckers, all suckers. I never ripped off nobody who didn't want to be ripped off. I never slapped a girl who didn't want to be slapped.

He sits down. The snake doesn't move.
He thinks: I gotta shake this off. I need to get it together.
The snake says: What do you need?
He thinks: I need gas, I need that air-con.
The snake says: The tank is full, try it.

He jumps into the car. Turns the key. It starts, the air-con starts with it. He presses himself against the vents and breathes in the relief of the cold air.

The snake says: What else do you need?
He thinks: I need something to drink, I need water, no, I need scotch.
A pile of bottles of scotch appears outside the car. He pushes himself out of the car, grabs a bottle and with a loud laugh, drinks.

The snake says: What else do you need?
He thinks: I need a gun, I need bullets.
A pile of guns and boxes of bullets appear next to him. He grabs one and fires it at the snake. He misses. He grabs another and fires it. He misses again.

He thinks, he says: Wait a minute, wait a minute... this all in my head, none of this is real.
The snake says: Oh it's real, as real as it's going to be. What else do you need?
He says: Okay, okay, (laughing) I need a girl.
A woman appears in front of him, tall, bleached-blonde, skin-tight dress. He grabs her, puts his arms around her. She puts her arms around him. After a moment, he glares over her shoulder at the snake. Then he yells, grabs her, shoves her into the car, slams the door shut, puts the car into gear and crushes down on the gas pedal. The engine revs and roars but the car doesn't move. He does this over and over again. Finally, he lunges back out of the car and faces the snake.
He says: (loudly) I got to go home!
The snake says: You are home, this is home, this is the only home you'll ever have.
He says: (plaintively) I got to go home.
The snake says: Wherever you've been you've always made it your home.
He says: That's right.
The snake says: Then you always throw it away for another one.
He says: That's right.
The snake says: Well... this is the last other one. Make yourself at home.

He takes a long drink from a bottle, reaches into his pocket and takes out a pair of dice. He shakes them hard, blows on his hand and throws them down. They come up with one spot on each cube. He snickers a hissing smile, picks up a gun, narrows his eyes, turns and lunges at the snake. The snake doesn't move.

Mr. Joe Caswell. They found him lying spread-eagled on his back next to his car. His coat and a revolver lying on the other side of the road. He was burnt red and shriveled. The police who found him called it, heat prostration.
The serpent called it, home.

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Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the Editor of Scene4. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms. For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.
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©2013 Arthur Meiselman
©2013 Publication Scene4 Magazine

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October 2013

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