THERE'S A SERPENT FOR EVERY CEREMONY
William Cody Watson
At some point I was young. I wore my favorite pair of Levi's, leather boots, and Rayban wayfarers like some kind of ceremonial garb. My hair was long and I was dead set to hang my heart above the entrance of my favorite bar, chew every woman's lips, and spit nails at the world in general.
Bullheaded and fool-hearted I was about to get in a true scrape with oblivion herself. Something heavy, something primal, and carnal and lurid and sultry and stinking and malevolent and real fucking sexy.
A place down the road, I came to learn that in the south, every step has a goddamned serpent coiled to strike and this is a short tale of remembrance.
So, I woke up with the blond seraph pounding my brain. Before I decided to wash her away for good with the day's first Budweiser, I allowed myself to reminisce.
She had smelled like vodka and ripe fruit. Electric blond, wires all kinds of twisted and frayed. The kind of girl that looks fresh off a motorcycle seat, a motorcycle that's never yours.
Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl" had charred a black spot on my brain. We must'd listened to it upwards of twenty times the night before. Left that jukebox smoking and seeping grease onto the floor.
Her tits had a sag but I liked that. She'd come to sport specifically, so I was sold. Truth told, we had history and I'd imagined sliding a string of crimson shotgun shells around her sumptuous neck a time or two over the years.
The gossamer goddess was golden, but she could've used a wash, and hell, I needed a bath too. After we left the bar I coughed, getting head in the passenger seat of her pick-up and the ceremony turned bleak. Beer bloated and snarling, we slipped away into the night's vulgarity. Perhaps against our better judgments.
Rusted shut, rusted shit. And it was out of pure personal spite that I slipped a small, thin rattler of defiance, and perhaps ego, around my own neck and fucked her in the shower and then in her big, black bed. When she stopped getting wet, my cock went numb. Then my head went numb. Then my heart went numb and I knew we were doomed. It wasn't love and I realized it'd been years since I'd wanted it to be. Couldn't really even be sure it was lust.
She offered me some coke but I declined. When she fell asleep, I ran away. Like I do. I took the three coldest beers in her fridge.
Louisiana gripped me hard with its gray and black slab background mangled by gold and neon. It was deformed in its own beauty, really. I didn't even remember getting there. Didn't remember the hours spent hunkered down in the passenger seat of JR's car. I'd probably slept but it was a dreamless sleep. The rancid swelter of a no AC road trip in the dead of a southern summer.
When I fully came awake I was already sitting in an ashen bar on Royal Street. From a sticky stool, I watched the devil tickle ivory - some religious song of disease, a creole cadence of blackened sin. JR was telling me about the heat swirls that had danced through his vision on the drive. I just kept watching Satan herself at the piano, her head thrown back; eruptions of chaos coughed into reality from the back of her throat. Some people might have called it laughter. I wouldn't.
Eventually, as if I'd signed some contract, our eyes locked and our empty pits swelled and pulsed at each other like explicit, gesticulating organs. A mere half hour later I was eating her pussy in a hotel bed. No idea whose room that was. It certainly wasn't mine, and I had a strong impression it wasn't hers either. The sex went down like a murder scene, stark reds and flesh crawling like spiders. Orgasms could've been heard and quite possibly smelled from miles away. The room spun. My head spun. She passed out around 4am. While she slept, I tried on her shoes.
I took her panties to remember it. Told JR they were a trophy - but I casually dropped them in a trashcan on Canal and took the last pull from my warm can of Miller Lite. JR bummed me a Camel. More so, I relished in the fact I could drink in the street at 10am in front of a cop than the deviance of the night before. But then I touched my ribs and winced. I knew she'd dealt me a fatal blow, but what I didn't know was how long it'd sting before it truly did me in.
Up to that point, by God, I'd made sure everyone knew I didn't give a shit whether I was alive or dead, but at that very moment I knew that was all whimsical bullshit, because I saw her eyes light up in my mind and I truly feared the duvet she was draping across my death bed. Sporting is sporting til it turns to ceremony, I thought. There's no real love, just raw remorse of some kind or another. Then there's maniacal magic, macabre and rotten, and that's an entirely different kind of beast. Like I said - in the south, with every step there's a serpent. I should've had my eyes open long ago.
Now, I'm older. Skinnier than I was then. I'm sick, yeah, but don't know how much or how bad. Definitely drunker on account of the nagging anxiety. I don't get much sleep and I talk more openly about being exhausted. But I'm still alive and I still don't cry.
There's been plenty more bloody sport; some celestial, some brutal, but mostly demonic. It all thrives in a place of pallid ruin. Fragrance of sex and odor of death become indistinguishable from one another.
The kind of mystic dark conjuring of recent days, weeks, months, and years still pale in comparison to the torrid energy that sable-haired succubus pushed into my soul that night in New Orleans. I still whisper her name on sleepless nights and I'll run my fingers up and down my ribs. I won't mention her name here for your benefit - and maybe my own.
She's still there I'm told, and every time I cough now, I wonder if I'll awake the aborted God, some big fucking copperhead with tits, slithering forth from the most ancient abyss, a sky with no stars.
I'm writing this on my porch, still in Arkansas. Across the street I just saw a man shove something wrapped in trash bags into the trunk of a black Cadillac. He's talking to himself. I wonder if he knows I'm watching?