Grizzled and sun-burnt wrinkled forty year old snake charmer. He hears the music in his head and then places his fingers on the stops of the flute. Stop. The snake is an old friend – oldest friend – Time, eternal changing time itself — always slipping into and out of its skin — dodging and leaving death behind — too heavy to travel into the future, the snake must leave its skin behind — we do it too, just not in one piece — hairless, we are snakeskin — what is the difference — wrinkled — his father taught him to play the flute and charm the snake. Years ago, when he was not as old and wrinkled, when his hair was still a full fiery profusion he had charmed the snake to charm a person, a girl — as the snake moved she moved and his conspiracy with the slitherer somehow got him the strange life he now goes home to — strange — he used the snake to charm the wife and now he charms the snake to feed the wife and the strange children that issued forth from her belly.
For him, the best part is playing the music and watching the snake and then sometimes the eyes of the people watching him and watching the snake — he wonders what the snake watches —
It was not easy to learn how to do — how many false notes? How many snake bites? Cool. Calm. Hours and days with his father. The gold coins at the end of the day. The small one room house, where his children sleep in mats on the floor. The little bowl of curried rice for dinner. The sun in the morning slipping past closed eyelids. The walk through the thoroughfare, wearing his flute on a hemp string around his neck and carrying the reedbasked with the snake in it.
The snake does not have a name. Some charmers name their snakes, name them after women or old friends or strange names or jokes. He never did this — not sure why. Perhaps he did not think it was his place — or saw the absurdity of giving a human name to a snake — they’ve been around longer than we have —
The snake was safe. Ate rats and mice. Never bit the children. Already, they had grown fearless of it. Even now, his son’s eyes would linger on the flute.