Saturday, November 25, 2006

Snakes in the Basement

I stand in the corridor of an old castle and watch them file by. They are going to a funeral for a fallen warrior, all the full-time vets in funny hats and merit badges, and my old simple boss is dumpily in somber step with this crew. He doesn't even turn his head to look at me standing by the side.

I continue outside and mount my bike. I am riding down a remote lane along the moors now like in Jane Austen and Bob Thomas steps to roadside. He's a year older than me back in high school. That's him heading this story, taken at a reunion in 2005.

Bob thomas wants to know, "Are there snakes in the basement?" I had just seen a funeral procession headed there, so I said, No, no, all clear.

I ride out, about, and return. It's an indeterminate number of hours later. I am swarmed by an angry mob.

They are raging at me. What'd I do? I didn't do nuthin' - what'd I do? They are screaming and threatening. You done it, they yell. it was you? It was who? What'd I do.

Slowly at a high decibel the story slams by in jagged shards. Bob Thomas was bitten three times by water-headed cotton moccasins in that very basement I told him was secure. He has developed a severe palsy as a result, like a Parkinson's patient. Here's Bob Thomas now, making a shaky entrance.

I sit with him while the mob simmers, quiets, ambles off. I'm sorry, Bob Thomas, but I didn't know. He doesn't say anything, just shakes. I sit with him for a time, part in commiseration and apology, but mostly I'm thinking what will the mob do if I make to leave?

In that flat pastoral land, I sit sadly, showing great empathy, while Bob Thomas shakes, and the mob lurks, muttering growls audible across the grim country.

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