Relaxed Reads: En Route to New York, part 2

Seth Murray

“So you never explained just exactly what a ‘snake person’ is,” I said. We were on the shoulder of the highway, sitting next to the duffel bags the twins had grabbed as they left the bus. I was next to Jane and Archimedes was by the road, smoking a cigarette and lazily holding his left arm out, thumb upturned to signify our status as hitchhikers. It was overcast and felt like rain.

“Right,” she began. “So basically, we’re amateur snake-farmers. Or at least, as much of a farmer as you can be within city limits. Every night, around 5:30 or so, we each grab a couple snakes and go walk around the Village and the Lower East Side with them.”

I paused, trying to come up with the appropriate response. “For what?”

She laughed. 

“We walk around with them. I know it sounds ridiculous, but everyone loves it. People are always stopping us for pictures and stuff. It makes for a cool pic, and a cool memory, posted up on Bleecker with a 6-foot boa wrapping himself around your body.”

“I think my dad would feel differently. I’ve seen him have borderline panic attacks in the presence of garter snakes,” I said.

“No no, that’s the best part. Watching people overcome their fear of snakes. You’d be amazed to know how many people are just like your dad. Snakes can be surprisingly tender, particularly ours. Once people realize that, and with the right sort of encouragement, they’ll begin to warm up to the idea. It’s actually quite inspiring. All part of the show.”

“The show?”

“The show,” she said. “I treat everything like a show. Life itself is one giant, off-Broadway performance and the snakes are just part of the act for me.”

“And what about for him,” I asked, gesturing towards Archimedes. “What does he get out of it?”

She looked down at her feet. 

“I’m really not sure anymore, to be honest. I actually don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to continue with it all. He just landed a new gig.”

Every few seconds one of the cars in the lane nearest to us would whizz past and create an air wave that never failed to make me flinch. It’s funny, I thought, what people choose to see or not to see. For the people driving past, it almost seemed as if we didn’t exist. Archimedes seemed on the verge of giving up and walked to stand closer to us.  

“It’s because of our dress,” he said. “We must look like unsavory characters, indeed. Jane, maybe you should hold one of the snakes out. That never fails to draw us an interesting crowd.”

“ ‘Modernity misconstrued, a look considered reprehensible outside of big cities.’ That’s what I feel like our problem is,” I muttered.

I looked up and realized they were both staring at me. Archimedes took off his sunglasses to reveal eyes just as brilliantly green as his sister’s and met my gaze. 

“And just what exactly was that?”

“I think it’s a line from a Marias novel. Javier Marias. Spanish author. Sorry if that came off a little callous.”

He put his glasses back on and chewed on his upper lip for a few seconds before responding. 

“You’re absolutely correct. ‘Modernity misconstrued,’ who would’ve imagined? You may have been on to something, sister.” With that, he spun on his pivot and resumed his post by the highway, away from us.

“He may even like you by the time this is all over,” Jane said.

I paused. “Does he not now?”

She laughed. “He doesn’t dislike you. At least, not as intensely as he does some.” 

Ouch, I thought. I was baffled by just when exactly the twins had found the time to discuss their opinions of me, considering I’d been with them the entire time since we had met. Then again, there were a lot of bizarre things about the twins. You learned not to question much of it.

I walked over to where Archimedes was standing. “Hey, man.”

“Hello.” Same facade maintained behind the sunglasses. He was completely unreadable.

“Jane told me about the whole snake thing. It’s cool. Who comes up with something like that, though?” I said.

“Ideas sprout. Some crazier than others. Everyone has them.” He spoke slowly, in a measured sneer. “However, some people choose to ignore them, and others nurture the wildness. That’s really the great divide between people in this world. Oh, look at this.”

Just as he finished, a semi-truck saw us and slowed down, stopping completely a hundred feet or so down the road. The truck was dark purple and was hauling a black trailer. He flashed his lights at us twice.

“Well,” Archimedes said. “I suppose that’s for us. Coming, Jane?”

“Of course,” she said. She struggled to grab both of the black duffel bags so I went to lend her a hand. We carried them over to the truck. The truck itself was sparkling clean. Our reflections glimmered as clearly as if we were looking in a just-cleaned mirror instead of the black abyss of the trailer.

“Are we sure about this?” Jane said.

“I’ve never hitchhiked before. I have no clue,” I said.

The passenger door swung open as we approached. Archimedes was the first there. He turned back to us, shrugged, and climbed in.

“I guess that’s our cue,” I said. Just as we got in it began to rain.

To be continued…

Contact Seth Murray at [email protected].