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Copyright © 2010

Ben Loory

The Snake in the Throat

a fable


A man finds something in his throat. He reaches in and pulls it out.

It’s a snake.

What are you doing in my throat? the man says.

Nothing, says the snake. Just hanging out.

The man stares at it.

There’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there? he says.

But all the snake does is look away.

. . .

The man puts the snake in a jar and closes the lid. He sits around and stares at it all day.

What are you doing? his friends say.

I found this in my throat, the man says.

The man’s friends stare at the snake.

That’s disgusting, they say. Why don’t you kill it?

Kill it? says the man.

He looks at the snake.

I hadn’t really thought of that, he says.

. . .

Long after his friends have left, the man sits with the snake. He imagines himself bashing it with a rock.

Don’t do it, says the snake. It would be a mistake.

Really? says the man. In what way?

You would regret it, says the snake. You would feel bad.

Can’t you just tell me why you were in there? says the man. Can’t you just tell me what you were up to?

But the snake just shakes its head.

I wasn’t up to anything, it says. I already told you. See, that’s your problem—you’re distrustful.

. . .

The man takes the snake out back and finds a big rock.

Last chance, he says. Last chance.

Go ahead, says the snake, staring right back up at him. Do it if you think it’ll help.

The man brings the rock down on the snake’s head. He brings it down again and again. He grinds the snake’s head into a sickening pulp. Then he throws the body away.

. . .

Later that evening, the man goes out with his friends.

How’s that snake? they say. Still in the jar?

I killed it, says the man.

His friends stop and stare.

I killed it with a rock, the man says.

. . .

The rest of the evening is rather subdued.

I have to go, says one of the man’s friends.

My wife is expecting me, says another one.

Yeah, says a third. See you next time.

Finally, it is just the man, sitting alone at the table. He sits alone for some time. Drinking, and thinking, and thinking.

Outside the door he finds a rock.

. . .

The man goes to the house of one of his friends and smashes his head with the rock. Then he goes to the house of another of his friends and does the same thing to him. He smashes the heads of all of his friends, and then he walks away. He walks to a field on the edge of town and lies down on his belly to pray.

Please God, says the man, out loud to himself. Please God, I’m sorry I did that. I had no idea I could do such a thing. I didn’t even know I had it in me.