Baby Snakes

by Max Hipp

She duck-walks from the pool tables to the bar balancing a vodka tonic on her head. She’s got on tight black pants and a sparkly crimson vest a sexy magician might wear. She’s got curly blond hair and dark lipstick, like goth Shirley Temple. She whips her head and the tumbler is on her shoulder. She slides it down her arm to her hand and finishes the drink in one motion. The place explodes in cheering. We’re beating on the bar with our fists.

I’ve been throwing scotch at my teeth all night. My job is programming computers to robocall people to tell them they’re in danger of being arrested for tax evasion but all they have to do is call some number to sort everything out. No idea what happens if someone actually calls—it’s possible the act ruptures the space/time continuum. The recording is terrible, broken English, but that’s not on me. I’m paid by people I’ve never met to keep dialing numbers. Some numbers I make up. Others I pull from internet records or the lists the bosses send me. It’s not what I envisioned when I finished art school, but artists who want to eat must work shit jobs.

I blink and she’s next to me. Her blond hair isn’t hair. It’s tiny albino snakes. Cute baby snakes, sure, but snakes nonetheless.

“Hey sport,” she says, “my eyes are down here.”

They sure are. Her eyes are dark pools, the way I imagine the La Brea Tar Pits to be, full of dinosaur bones and eons of filth. She whips a barstool up, balances it on the end of her nose.

“Good god,” I say, “I am so turned on right now.”

“I know, right?” she says.

She catches the barstool on her knee and tosses it to the other knee, back and forth like that for what feels like a million seconds. At this point everybody surrounding us is clapping. She catches the stool with her toe, lowers it down and sits.

“Hooray!” the bar says.

The crowd disperses. She lets her mouth hang open and bugs her eyes at me to mirror the stupid look on my face.

“I’ve never seen anything like you,” I say.

“Well,” she says, “when in doubt, buy the girl a damn drink.”

We have a few damn drinks. We snort Adderall off a table in back. I show her the wadded-up-straw-paper-expanding-into-a-caterpillar-when-I-add-water trick. I knot a cherry stem with my tongue. After each of my tricks, she claps for me with enthusiasm. I wonder momentarily if love is just a frightening irresistible force that sucks out your soul so sweetly you enjoy it.

Because I don’t remember driving or leaving the bar or paying the tab or walking or anything, we seem to teleport to my apartment. I don’t care, though, because I am going to get it on with snake girl. I am going to make those snakes strike and recoil, strike and recoil.

She picks up my Keurig, my toaster, my Captain Crunch, a bunch of rotting bananas, and starts juggling them. Her arms move so fast the motion generates wind. It’s like she has a blur of extra arms, or maybe the snakes are involved. It’s too blurry to tell. I’m somewhere between horny and terrified.

“Wait,” I say, “have you seen this?” I get my laptop.

“Grr,” she says and tosses everything back on the counter.

There are these enormous toothy cylindrical gears at the dump that can shred anything. We watch a video of them eating a table, a bookcase. A couch lands on its side against them and you think no way is a couch going to get sucked into the gears side-first, but it does. It bounces around until a corner gets caught and collapses like an eggshell. She’s breathing on my throat, staring at me so hard it prickles my skin. As the gears grind things down, I wonder what’s on the other side of them. Could be a wasteland of everything in the world shredded to multicolored bits. Or it could be an alternate realm where broken objects are reconfigured whole again, good as new.

Next thing I know lying I’m on the bed, she’s standing at the foot, both of us naked.

“Hey,” I say, “did you?”

“Of course not,” she says, smiling.

“Oh, alright, I guess.”

She rises and glides over me, her eyes and mouth opening wider. Her facial orifices ignite like Iraqi oil fields, or natural gas fires belching from deep in the earth, those flames that never go out. Sweat blooms everywhere. Wind howls in my ears. Her snakes are long wavy shadows behind the glowing orb of her face.

My arms vein like marble. I see them turn the color of porcelain before I close my eyes. When her fires blister my lips, my instinct is to run.

My instinct is to combust in her heat.

Max Hipp is a teacher and writer living in Mississippi. His work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, New World Writing, Unbroken Journal, and Five 2 One. Find him on Twitter at @maximumevil.

Artwork by: Emily Wiethorn

Emily Wiethorn (b.1991) is a photographic artist currently based in Lincoln, NE where she will graduate with her MFA in Studio Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is an Instructor of Record and holds a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. She received her BFA in Photography from Northern Kentucky University. She has most recently been awarded the 2017 SPE Student Award for Innovations in Imaging, was a Critical Mass finalist in 2017, a finalist for The Texas Photographic Society’s National Photography Award, and is a featured artist in the spring 2018 issue of PDNedu. Her work has been published online with Musee Magazine, Lenstratch, Loosen Art, among others. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally in China and Italy. She works primarily in self-portraiture where she explores notions of feminine identity, societal constructs of femininity, and self-discovery.

Instagram: @emily.wiethorn