It was getting late in the afternoon at the caravan park. Tents flung all over the place, with spaces of grass and sand between them. The beach not far away, flocks of seagulls tearing bits of food apart and squabbling as usual. For most of the people there too, it was getting time to eat.
Alice was sitting on a rock, overlooking the ocean, and the waves. Sunburnt a bit, she was munching on an apple, a nice red one and considering her palm, a mystery, but she had been told about love lines, marriage lines, heart lines. It was mystery to her. It was cooling down and so she got up and walked back to the tent on the beach, and met up with Ferodo, that infuriating guy boyfriend, whatever.
Alice and Ferodo took off up the track together. Alice offered Ferodo a bite of her apple, and he took one, but was still thinking of fish and chips after all. He thought of holding hands perhaps. Who would go first, the woman or the man in the equation ? They often thought about crossing the line, that marks the balance point in a relationship. When tension increased, the strength and straightness of the line as well. It appeared impassable sometimes, but other times it relaxed into a kind of curvature not starting or ending, but eminently crossable. Still, her hand was all sticky with apple. Perhaps he would just kiss her instead.
“Ferodo !. Quick, look, what IS that ? ”
“Can’t see a thing mate !”,… “where ?” he asked..
“Just there, you idiot !” “Look, It’s a snake!” she said.
“Na, theres no snakes around here !, it’s the beach, don’t worry” he said.
“OK OK I see it !” he added.
There on the path in the darkening, was a curved black line in the sand, the line was fixed in the sand but the front extended and the back contracted so that the line seemed to move forward in perfect formation. It was a Taipan by the way, one of Australia’s most deadly snakes, a bit off track, and who knows where it had come from or why, but too dark to make it out clearly….
Alice screamed, “It is headed for that tent over there”. “quick kill it ! Or something !”
Ferodo, didn’t know too much about snakes. He figured it was dangerous, and that he should take care, but as the light was fading was pretty sure he didn’t want to jump on it.
“Keep your eye on it, and don’t get too close !. I’ll be back ” he said.
He quickly ran back to his own tent and looked around for a weapon. There on the bed, where he had left it, was a hammer, perhaps that would do. He snatched up the hammer and ran back to where Alice was following the snake up the path slowly but surely without deviation advancing on the lighted tent further on.
Ok, so with hammer in hand Ferodo looked at the snake saw that even though the snake was curved and snaking it’s way up the path, and even though he was kind of shaking all over, vibrating with adrenalin, and not knowing really if this was ok, he got the hammer in his hand. His right hand. Should he use his left ? Wasn’t real sure, his mind started to optimise the situation, but then he realized he just had to go for broke, forget the optimization. If he had had a chance to pre-meditate killing the Taipan he certainly would not have chosen a hammer.
His right hand swung out, with the hammer at the smallish head moving in a dead straight line at constant velocity forward, slightly raised off the ground, and with the little minute tongue flicking the air occasionally.
Whack ! Smash, and then a violent eruption in the sand, of fury of the headless snake, whose head had clean come off all mashed on the end of the hammer. The snake was thrashing around, and it was not clear it was dead, even though it’s head seemed to have come off. Ferodo relived the last 200ms of it’s life to assure himself, that that was all he had to do. He was shaking all over, possibly more than the snake itself. He felt sick, like , way too much excitement that was unplanned and not part of expectations for this holiday.
Alice was standing there… ” what on earth !” she said, you could have got bitten ” what if you had missed the thing, you can hardly see it even now in this light”
Ferodo got his breath back, and said ” ok, ok but well, it’s dead now and at least it’s not going to get into the other people’s tent, whoever they are. ”
Alice and Ferodo looked at each other with a kind of new understanding. The line had shifted in the sand between them. Alice stepped forward to meet Ferodo, and stood with her foot clear on the still thrashing body of the snake. She was standing there like it didn’t count anymore, with a half eaten apple, and that there in front of her was another mystery to fathom.
After a while, the stars were coming out, as they turned, with apple and hammer in hand and walked off to get fish and chips.
Attribution : Featuring the Photo of the B2 snake nebula http://www.howardedin.com/wp/ creative commons.