Snake City takes the reader into an imaginary kingdom in the waterways of Florida, inhabited by macho gator-killers and feral pigs with murderous tusks for goring two-legged predators. At the center of this hallucinatory fable are Cottonmouth, a viper with a penchant for salty language, and his long-suffering roommate Freddie, a retired Canadian Snowbird who has stupidly purchased swamp acreage from a disreputable land developer to build his dream cabin. When both Freddie and Cottonmouth fall in love with Hilda, a shape-shifting swamp woman, a nasty ménage à trois develops. Into the grittier picture enters a religious zealot, nicknamed “Yessie” by the locals, and his stalker Handsome Harry, a ruthless alpha-gator who wants to make a fast food snack of him. Welcome to Snake City, a devouring adventure in pure evil, blood-curdling terror, and exotic dining.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Joe Rosenblatt has written more than 20 books of poetry, has appeared in more than 30 anthologies of Canadian poetry, and has been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, and Spanish. He is a winner of the Governor General’s Award and the BC Book Prize for poetry. He is also the author of The Lunatic Muse, Essays and Reflections, a work of prose on the study of madness as it relates to the muse. He lives in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.
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By Joe Rosenblatt
Exile EditionsCopyright © 2015 Joe Rosenblatt,
All rights reserved.
A Troupe of Visiting Angels
Do angels serving as messengers for the Almighty ever encounter vipers along their delivery route on earth? Let's just say, for example, a troupe of angels is circumnavigating the fringes of a cottonmouth-infested bog, and end up knocking on the cabin door of a long-haired rube named Freddie, a snowbird retiree from Canada, wearing a glazed stare and a brass earring on his chipped left ear.
Months before, while domiciling in a trailer camp, a gnomish Florida land speculator had talked him into purchasing forty acres of wetland complete with brush, decaying pine, and for company, swathes of fireflies blazing in the night in competition with the ghostly whorls of flaming methane from a nearby bog.
"I have a message for you," said the leading angel, introducing himself as Gabriel and ruffling his alabaster white wings.
"Hey, Gabe, I bet you come with a message from the Big Fellow?" said Freddie, gesturing a bent digit toward the sky. Blanching at the nickname, Gabriel kept his composure and replied, "None other, brother."
Freddie, in a vague attempt to be a genial host, was about to welcome the fluffy delegation into his dwelling when an unexpected complication crinkled his hosting propriety.
The blackest and seemingly meanest viper came out to meet his guests. The cottonmouth opened his mouth, exposing a puffy white interior, and let out a loud defensive hiss just as Freddie beckoned his callers to come inside the cabin. "Pay him no heed. He's venom-free. Why, only this morning I squeezed his cuspies real hard. Not a toxic drop in this bugger. Don't be scared, why he's just a pussycat." The angels, however, weren't entirely convinced that Freddie's companion was as friendly as he claimed.
"What's his name?" asked Gabriel, trying not to betray his fear.
"Why, Gabe, I just call him plain Cottonmouth. Now just look at his gums, don't they look like cotton?" replied Freddie with a shrug and a smile that didn't sit quite right on his face. "Now," he added, "I thought I'd name him after my dad, but heck, Cottonmouth is just fine."
Things weren't going well for Freddie. Cottonmouth's elliptical catlike eyes began to glow a deep magenta and soon a few of the angels began whispering that the devil had cleverly morphed into a serpent. Freddie, they suspected, was bedding down with the King of Hell, yet there was no mark of the beast on either Freddie's hands, knuckles, or on his forehead. Cottonmouth became increasingly apprehensive of Gabriel's frightful stare.
He had seen that look of terror before in the eyes of a swamp rat. Zapped by Cottonmouth's hypnotic gaze, that rodent had frozen in his tracks before being pounced upon and ingurgitated greedily, a very satisfying meal. Cottonmouth couldn't understand why Freddie ate dead meat when the taste sensation was in gorging on animated prey squealing for its life.
Freddie's ears began to itch as the angels conveyed their Master's displeasure at Freddie's taking up with a wild bog woman whom the locals called Hilda. Attired in a dress woven together from alligator weed, dog fennel, swamp lilies and red mango leaves, Hilda proved to be a natural couturière. Her outfit was as organic as the weed he was smoking. Freddie assumed, at first, that she was a demon.
She had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, demanding a puff from his smoking pipe, and with a few more shared puffs it didn't take long for the giggling pair to take to each other like rutting bobcats. It was this brutish activity, Gabriel claimed, which had caused a stye to form in one of the Creator's infinite eyes.
The Lake of Fire
"You'll end up in the Lake of Fire if you don't mend your ways," warned Gabriel, to which Freddie responded, "Now this here lake wouldn't be around these parts, would it now?" Cottonmouth didn't much care for Freddie's guests, and it wasn't so much taking an intense dislike to them; sniffing the lot, he could detect no food value, no presence of protein, especially in Gabriel, who eyed him with such condescension it chilled his scaly skin from the top of his head to the tip of his tail.
He would have enjoyed injecting Gabriel with paralyzing toxin, if only Freddie hadn't milked his venom as he was in the habit of doing each morning, letting the juice run into a clear glass jar he normally used to stir his hooch.
Summoning his inner mojo, Cottonmouth somehow managed to hiss out a voluble warning to the angels before they took flight. Gabriel looked back at Cottonmouth. Gabriel's sunny face, the one he normally used to deliver his Boss's nasty messages to earthly transgressors, blanched a shade whiter than his wings – and for a brief moment, his gown folded funereally into a winding sheet.
The other angels watched in terror, until Gabriel somehow managed to signal them into a flying formation, and in seconds they were skyward bound, heading into passing clouds.
A Roll on an Unmade Bed
Lately, Hilda had taken a shine to Freddie's surging companion, suggesting they take a roll on Freddie's unmade bed. She was all for a round of spiralling sex, except that Freddie balked at Cottonmouth serving as an elasticized ligature that would lash him and Hilda firmly together while they got it on with a fury that would have ignited a column of swamp gas. He proposed, instead, that she continue to lie in ambush for him. Danger was his aphrodisiac; being rolled over in the muck by Hilda excited him to no end.
But Cottonmouth didn't take kindly to their conjugal gymnastics, either on Freddie's bed or on some mud flat overlooking a marsh. Their sexual congress made him nauseous, so much so that he had to chuck the remains of an amphibian his stomach acids had recently liquefied.
Being an ace olfactory wonder, what he couldn't smell instantly disquieted him; associating taste and smell with slow food, he had arrived at the conclusion that his stretchable jaws could neither accommodate Freddie's bulk or the pièce de résistance that was Hilda; but it didn't stop his oscillating forked tongue from fanning the fragrances that clung to her like swamp bay magnolia, yellow jasmine, marsh lilies – all of which he inhaled, as well as the pleasant waftings of other exotic wetland blooms. Cottonmouth sensed daunting presences nearby.
Napping on Freddie's bed, his head resting on a pillow, he dreamt of fireflies carrying posterior lanterns which flashed urgent mating calls.
His Free-Range Seismic Tongue
Cottonmouth's reptilian sense of propriety incorporated a standard of hygiene peculiar to the viper tribe: a snakish nest was always clean for hatchlings, unlike Freddie's routinely unmade bed with its patina of excretion and dried spermatozoa.
Freddie and Hilda were viewed by Cottonmouth as no better than a kind of a runny foul-smelling foie gras he occasionally spat out after taxing the elasticity of his jaws gorging on a duckling. Also, Cottonmouth thought Hilda's breath was like a swamp flower and, as for Freddie, the snake suspected something had died in his mouth, perhaps one of those rats that lurked about the rube's cabin.
The angels were definitely off his dining radar. Cottonmouth couldn't detect anything meatishly edible in the lot. He hadn't run into their kind cruising for toothsome salt-flavoured prey among the waterlogged mangroves.
His free-range seismic tongue had its penchant for warblers and other wetland fowl, but as a top of the line sensory organ, it favoured Hilda.
He would have devoured her by degrees and enjoyed every morsel. Love for him was a total dining experience. He delighted in the song his stomach acids made breaking down his prey's loveable protein. But when it came to Hilda, he preferred, instead, to feast his eyes on her: she was a scrumptious meal by any other name, a repast to be tongued, fondled, cuddled and squeezed.
The Sanctuary of a Clothes Closet
Unbeknownst to Freddie, Cottonmouth was obsessive about snaky hygiene. As a hatchling, he recalled his mother's pride in maintaining a spotlessly clean nest. In contrast, Freddie's bed was so soiled that Cottonmouth became stricken with fear that he might develop a skin infection.
There were other complications as well. It wasn't Hilda's breath, made more pungent by living off edible swamp flora and the deep orange yolk of mallard, a diet that made Cottonmouth's skin creep; it was Freddie's fetid breath. Cottonmouth suspected a dead mouse had somehow lodged inside his mouth, and often the odour became so offensive that Cottonmouth retreated to the clothes closet.
It was his sanctuary and there he would lie down beneath a line of painted silken ties, each tie depicting a viper's triangular head, gaping mouth, pronounced fangs, and for an optical illusion, a trompe-l"il of rubied eyes.
They appeared to incandesce as though fuelled by a miniscule furnace. Those eyeballs glared down at Cottonmouth as he curled into a ball and fell soundly asleep.
The Pressures of Love
Hilda may have preferred that Freddie hadn't cupped Cottonmouth's venom for in knowing there was a real possibility she could suffer a fatal bite, her body tingled with excitement. Extreme danger provided a catalyst for a more intense orgasm, but it didn't do a damned thing for Cottonmouth except send him into a deep snake pit of melancholia. And yet, something warm and tender was working its way through his entrails even as he lashed out at her, puncturing her neck, which caused her to spiral, swoon, but not before breaking out into a storm of obscene utterances that would have made a burly teamster blush on a dock.
Through these expletives, her breath began to quicken until it found a momentary repose in a barely audible giggle which served initially to debase Cottonmouth. Yet this abject state was balanced by another feature of his biological needs, buoying him in the next instant to a snakish pride.
His tongue caught a whiff of snake on Hilda and he gradually became overcome by those reptilian fragrances, leading to a state of amorousness, especially heightened when his heat sensors told him that Hilda was glued together by an animated protein substance; still, his desire was not to devour but only exaltedly lick her.
Freddie could only watch in envy what he viewed as the snake's penile elasticity and his own now-failing member.
It was often at these hastily organized threesomes that competitive undercurrents in him led frequently to erectile dysfunction, and it was in such critical situations that she reached for an ornate dildo crafted from the hide of a salt water crocodile. It was an art object which she managed to liberate from the dwelling of one of Freddie's Bible-toting neighbours, Yeshua Possumo, or "Yessie," as he was known in the neighbourhood. Yeshua, he claimed, was Christ's given name.
Freddie thought it odd he took no offence at that irreverent nickname. Yeshua preferred it that way. He wouldn't stand for blasphemers among the swampbillies uttering Christ's first name.
"Oh, that is so sweet," Hilda murmured. "Squeeze me again, hon," and she wasn't directing her affections at Freddie but at Cottonmouth, who in an exhausted state managed to slide off the bed and slither to a corner of the cabin, where he collapsed into a heap, his tail wrapped securely around his trembling head.
Finding no response in her plea for Cottonmouth to return to their sweat-drenched love bed and reapply his delicious pressures, she then began deriding Freddie for his poor performance, his gyrating hips having slowed down so drastically they barely moved at all. He was a man in his forties, already in dire need of hormone replacement and the sparkle of Viagra, possibly the two together.
If Freddie's tears had filled a city reservoir, they still wouldn't have quenched Hilda's flamy anger as she questioned his manli-ness while looking longingly at Cottonmouth. So wildly was she addicted to his amorous compressions, thrilled to the odd love bite, but only if he was venom-free and didn't break her skin causing blood vessel damage with its resultant hematoma. There were limits she set to their frolicking.
Cottonmouth had his passions too. He possessed the intelligence quotient of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in sniffing out all the possible places in the cabin that Hilda's pleasure extender could be hiding. Freddie even once tried to hide Hilda's dildo in the cabin, only to have Cottonmouth retrieve it. It was on such occasions that a fleeting thought passed between Freddie's porcine-shaped hairy ears: Cottonmouth would make a fancy belt, with enough skin left over for a nifty tie or two, and hadn't Yessie put in a bid to buy that clever reptile?
Freddie was plainly irritated with Cottonmouth's unsnake-like behaviour, such as when he gripped Hilda's objet d'art firmly between his intractable jaws and dropped it on Hilda's lap; further, if playing fetch wasn't enough, he would slither away from the bed, gripping the panties she had woven from bits and pieces of soft-stemmed marshland grass. It titillated Hilda when he stared back at her, contemptuously shaking the garment as he drooled and hissed.
A Prisoner of Love
Cottonmouth, though de-venomed, still had his way of showing his displeasure, even vitriol. He did nip Hilda in the buff but somehow his fangs didn't break her skin, although there was a discernible indentation of two passion bites which bruised her flesh a ripe red, pink and black.
Hilda could tell, in her coquettish aloof way, that Cottonmouth was deeply enamoured with her. His eyes sparkled in her presence. He wanted to bring her gifts to earn more of her affection, so he seized articles of women's clothes fluttering and drying in the wind on a neighbourhood clothesline. Such is the chemistry that defines a prisoner of love.
He would snatch the garments with his open mouth and, upon securing the looted trove, return to gift it to her, drop it on her lap, and then their amorous gazes would meet in a conjoined illumination, a flash of white light; once, he even presented her with a black stiletto shoe which he drooled on, undulating over that shoe until the leather shone.
She fancied Cottonmouth in a neatly thatched grassy dress. Donning this frock would serve to align the feminine in him to the male side. It activated the bubbling spawn of Hilda's sexual imagina-tion to think of Cottonmouth as a cross-dressing penile-empowered reptile! Meanwhile, jealousy ate through Freddie like black rot through a once robust ruddy tomato.
The Love that Dares Not Speak Its Name
Freddie's impulse to bag Cottonmouth for Yessie grew stronger. He would throw the dildo into the same bag. Gabriel's voice crackled in Freddie's noggin, urging him to bag Hilda as well, though, as Freddie was sweet on Hilda, the latter request was ignored. Freddie assumed the voice in his otherwise silent head was due to something he had previously eaten; and upon further reflection, he repressed his petulance toward Cottonmouth, recognizing it as puerile.
Freddie, after all, was not only an adult but higher on the evolutionary scale, although Cottonmouth wouldn't have thought so. Cottonmouth was only acting out his nature. Not having a dog as a pet, Freddie felt that Cottonmouth was fulfilling a need as a sub-stitute object of affection, an honorary mutt.
He would put Cottonmouth on a leash, maybe take him for a vigorous daily crawl, and then keep him fettered and away from the love that dare not speak its name, Hilda's dildo.
Freddie was awoken in the small hours of the morning by a voice in his pillow. At first he thought it was Hilda trying to reach him from her secret retreat in the swamp. It wasn't her voice, though. This was a voice arriving from a greater distance. Freddie could hear the rumbling of thunder followed by an increasing noise level in his ears. He assumed he was suffering from his usual tinnitus, a maddening condition caused by his playing drums in a rock band when he was in his teens.
Yet there was something more eerie going on in his ear canal than just the roaring. That solitary voice trying to reach him was meeting up with a cosmic pit bull of tornado force winds. After awhile it dawned on Freddie that Gabriel was trying to reach him. "What the hell do you want?" exclaimed Freddie, forgetting for a moment he was talking to the Lord's point man.
Excerpted from Snake City by Joe Rosenblatt. Copyright © 2015 Joe Rosenblatt,. Excerpted by permission of Exile Editions.
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