Alex Streiff

Rattlesnake-tough

I always said I wanted to be rattlesnake-tough, sunning thick on jagged rocks, my hot music rasping
through the summer woods, fangs through flesh like warm butter.

My mother, shining a flashlight by her ankles in the humid dark, was repulsed by the snakeskin
pumps in the department store. In the backyard she gripped the axe handle with sweaty palms.

I’d ask her, is that something I could be? What if you found me curled up with you after a bad
dream? Mother, would you, if you were scared enough, chop my winding body to bits?

I was nine when I saw the footage in science class: jaws widening, she took her stillborn young back
inside, knots bulging down her patterned length.

Under duress, my body coils around itself. I lift my head, cock it back. What if one day you turn a
corner and I don’t give the shaking signal? My venom is strong; you can’t suck it out.

Alex Streiff is the fiction editor of The Journal.
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