Short Story – Abdication

I wrote this one because my tutee wanted me to write a story for him. And I thought it fit the word Abdication (remember, it was one of the words with which we had to write a one-page scene for our introductory playwriting class). I love writing for children.

Abdication – Fiction by Joyce Chua

The snake reared its gleaming black head. Its eyes flashed, never once leaving me. A hiss, almost gloating, slipped out of it. Its body was arched, lithe, ready to attack. Could it smell my fear?

Deep breaths, Alex, I thought to myself. You’re the next Amazing Animal-Tamer. What’s a mere snake to you?
The truth was, though, that I had never been able to tame any animal, much less tame it amazingly. The circus had assigned me this position because the last animal-tamer had his right leg chomped off by a tiger he had been trying to tame. Naturally, once I’d heard that, my new job had not inspired any confidence in me. But I needed this job. And, as it turned out, there wasn’t much that a mute, half-deaf man of my age and qualifications could do.
So there I was, trapped in a giant steel cage with a giant snake ready to kill me. This test was meant to be my initiation ceremony. I could see Homer, said ex animal-tamer with chomped-off leg, watching from the sidelines. You would think my employers would be kind enough to start from the basics – let me try training a goldfish or a dog or something. You know, elementary level.
But apparently, circus performers don’t have time for elementary level tricks. No, we had to leap straight to the advanced level.
Back to business. No time for regrets or complaints now. There would be time for that after I had gotten out of this jail cell.
If I got out of this jail cell. Alive.
Beano, the sword-juggler, rattled the cage. “Get closer, man! How’re you going to quail the beast if you’re afraid to get your hands dirty?”
He reached through the bars and shoved me forward. I stumbled forth, catching myself a couple of meters before the hissing creature.

The snake interpreted my advance as an attack, and launched one of its own. I barely had time to dodge before it pitched itself at me. Its fangs clamped down on one of the bars, where my neck would have been had I been slower by a fraction of a second.

Cheers erupted from the spectator stand, where almost the entire circus crew, including the ringmaster, Mr. Caramel, was seated next to Homer. I was pretty sure they weren’t cheering for me, though.
And true enough, Dobson the fire-eater roared, “Did you see that? What a magnificent beast she is!”

“Beautiful attack, Comet!” Homer cried. Rising to his feet, Mr. Caramel clapped his hands. His gold watch gleamed as brightly as his shoes.

Comet. That thing had a name. And it sure lived up to it, given the speed at which it moved. How was plain old Alex supposed to tame a gigantic snake named Comet?

“Alex!” Mr. Caramel barked. “Stop daydreaming! Do your job, or you’re going to be locked in there all day! I mean it.”

I had no idea how to tame a snake, but damned if I was going to be stuck in a cage with it for a day. I spread my stance and raised my hands before me, ready to grab at the snake should it launch a second attack. Perspiration pooled at the nape of my neck. I hoped no one noticed my shaking hands.

When it came, I spared no time to consider what I was doing. I saw my hands reach out to grab at it, then my fingers wrap around its dry scaly body, just below its head.
It lashed its body at me, but I hopped out of range in the nick of time. I waited for it to strike again, then slammed my foot down on its writhing body. It thrashed like an out-of-control hose and hissed so loudly I could hear it with my faulty ear.

With a free hand, I scrambled around my pocket for my trusty old Swiss Army knife.

‘Snick!’
Right before the snake tossed me off its body – right before I could lose my balance – I swung the blade across the snake’s neck, just below where my other hand was clamped around it.

Blood. It flowed, poured, streamed from the gash I had made. In a few moments, its body slackened, then became completely limp.
I stared as it lay before me like a thick rubber hose, its eyes glazing over as seconds ticked by. The crew erupted in cheers again – for me, this time.

“Well done, Alex!” Homer said, thumping me on the back when he approached me.

“Well done, indeed!” Mr. Caramel bellowed. “Next, we’ll try Bessie, our Sumatran tiger. She’s a tough cookie, but I think you’re ready for her. Just don’t kill her this time, will you? Sumatran tigers are much rarer than cobras.”
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