By J.S. Kierland
The child sees everything as a novelty,
the child is always drunk.
Theyd been up late smoking a Thai Stick and arguing over the latest
war, wanton sex, and what they called, other dumb forms of human
behavior like bad movies. Their discussions turned into arguments
and Eva decided to go upstairs, crawl into bed with all her clothes on,
and leave Jude pacing the living room floor by himself.
A few hours later an unexpected change in the weather dropped in over
the mountain and its cold wind woke Eva up. She reached for her old leather
jacket at the back of the closet, and took down a blanket to cover Jude
who had barely managed to find the couch before crashing. Stopping at
the fridge she grabbed a hardboiled egg, popped open a Coke, and stepped
out into the fog that had crept in along with the sudden cold front.
She pulled the leather collar up around her neck and headed out to see
if her pots had dried. Turning the lights on in the shed, she shut off
the circulating fan, took another hit of the Coke, and reached for the
pots shed left on the workbench. They were finally dry enough to
bake and this time she hoped the new glazes shed used would hold
their subtle colors in the high heat. Her old style of painting elongated
animal figures on her pots had sold well, but she wanted to get these
new abstracts into the gallery before the big buying spree on Thanksgiving
She cut EVA into the bottoms of the pots and lifted them carefully onto
the wagon. Then she covered each one with some leftover pieces of plastic
and rolled them out into the fog. Raising the kilns heat, she adjusted
its vent and heard the loud clicking just behind her. It was the early
frost that brought in the rattlers, drawn to the kilns constant
heat. She listened for the clicking sound again but couldnt see
into the bushes because of the fog, so she headed back to the shed. When
she opened the door, Jude was leaning on the pottery wheel wrapped in
the plaid blanket shed thrown over him on the couch.
Youre up early, she said, surprised to see him.
Thanks for the blanket, he mumbled with a shudder and she
kissed him on the cheek.
I have to cook the new pots and get them into the gallery before
the weekend, she said, looking for the flashlight. Had the
feeling youd sleep all day.
Those stale Graham Crackers probably helped settle things a bit,
he said, rubbing his stomach. She found the old flashlight and snapped
it on. Needs new batteries, he said, while she clicked it
on and off trying to get a better connection. Ive got new
ones in the truck.
I think hes back, she said.
I couldnt quite tell in the fog, but I think hes in
that bush behind the kiln.
You heard him? Eva nodded, and he took the flashlight from
her. Ill get the pole, he said, and Eva headed out along
the path ahead of him. She stopped at the kiln, but he kept going and
pointed the flashlight at where shed heard the clicking.
Yeah, hes back, he grumbled.
Help me with these pots, she said, flipping the extra pair
of thermal gloves at him.
It looks like hes been in some kind of a struggle. Hard to
tell how bad it is because he slid away when I put the light on him. Probably
ran into a coyote, or worse, a skunk. Snakes are such easy prey,
he said. Something took a hunk out of him, thats for sure.
Five thousand years of bad press doesnt help any, Eva
mumbled, and opened the kiln to shove in the pots. The first one glowed
in the fiery light and she moved away to let Jude put in the next one,
than she reached back and placed the last pot into the fire next to the
others, closed the kiln, and followed Jude back up to the house.
The clicking sound came again and she stopped to look back, but still
couldnt see anything. I know its him, she mumbled,
and moved up the path to the house. Jude had already emptied the flashlight
and was stuffing in the new batteries when she arrived. He looked up,
clicked on the flashlight and shined it in her eyes.
Its too early for games, kiddo, she said, putting her
hands over her eyes and sitting down.
Dont you want to come and take a look at him?
You dont need me for that, she said.
I always need you, he said, but she didnt answer. Guess
I went a little nuts last night, eh? Eva nodded and put her legs
up on an empty chair. You were pretty crazy too, he said,
and she stared back at him. I mean...when it came to women being...whatever.
The phrase is sexually more powerful, Jude.
Yeah, but it was the way you said it.
What way did I say it?
You acted like you knew so much about it.
Is that my fault?
I didnt mean it that way, he said. Its just
that you kept talking like youd done those things before.
How the hell would I know about things like that if I hadnt
done them before?
You did a ménage?
A trois, she snapped back.
Jude looked away, and mumbled, Guess I shouldve-
Two girls and one guy slow things down, she went on. Stands
to reason, doesnt it?
Maybe it just needs a special guy that-
Been there, done that, she said, with a quick wave.
You didnt say that last night.
I did...sort of...you were on a roll and I didnt want to interrupt.
Besides, I was curious about who you were going to get for the other woman.
There isnt any other woman, he said.
Did you expect me to get her for you? Borrow some guys girlfriend...or
Whats wrong with that? he asked, and laughed. She made
a sour face and he said, Okay, okay, so well just do it your
way and get another guy!
Now youre talking, she said, and sat up in the chair
waiting for him to go on.
He kept clicking the flashlight on and off, and finally said, I
think you better see him. His wounds looked bad and we might have to call
Thats definitely the way to go, she said, and he looked
up in surprise. I meant calling Animal Control, not the ménage.
Yeah, right, he mumbled.
Eva watched him mull the ménage-idea shed put into his head.
It was not unusual for Jude to jump at things after he had too much pot.
Nights like the one hed just been through gave him that drunken
childlike look the next day. The first time his mother peeked into those
eyes she named him HEYJUDE after the popular bubblegum song. Shed
even scrawled HEYJUDE Goodman across his birth certificate. (Later, some
perceptive high school administrator changed his name on the school records
to just plain JUDE, getting around the rest of the kids singing HEYJUDE
every time they passed him in the hallway.) His brother still called him
HEYJUDE but like most things, time healed a Mothers bad decision
with a few short snorts and some family giggling.
I guess a ménage would be fun your way too, he said,
avoiding her eyes.
You better put something warmer on, she told him. He nodded
and went to the closet for his work vest. Feels like it might even
snow, she added.
I hope not. Ive got a job this afternoon.
One of your housewives need fixing? she asked.
He laughed and said, No, its the Rabbi. Hes got a jammed
window that has to be adjusted.
You still give him a break on your fee? she laughed.
You cant charge your own Rabbi. Its bad luck.
First time I ever heard that one, she said.
Besides, he gives us a break on the rent.
I guess, but can you at least help me get the pots to the gallery?
He gave her his little boy shrug, and she followed him down along the
path. He was angry about the ménage, and now shed have to
figure out a way to tell him that shed lied about the whole thing
and that it had never happened. The real problem was that the image of
her in bed with another woman and a strange man was probably a bit too
much for a boy like Jude, and any belated denial that it ever happened
would never be enough to take the image out of his head. Her lie had trapped
them both, and now shed either have to go through with the ménage,
replace it with something else, or end their affair once and for all.
He moved ahead of her swinging the flashlight back and forth and she could
hear the snakes low rattle in the brush. Jude reached in with the
pole and there was a loud hissing. He pulled the pole back and a wide
diamond-shaped head rose up out of the bushes.
Looks like a pack of coyotes got him, Jude mumbled, moving
the light over the snakes upper body where deep chunks of his flesh
had been torn off. His lower end is probably worse. Animal Control
couldnt help him now except to come and put him out of his misery.
Eva watched the wounded snakes tongue flicking and searching for
the kilns heat. A strange, primitive gaze hung in its eyes and she
stared at the snake calculating the distance between them. A fear began
to build in her. She took a step back and the snake lunged. Jude swung
the pole at him, but it was too late. The rattler slipped under it and
slithered quickly along the path. Eva screamed and ran for the shed. The
large Diamondback followed, rose up behind her, and Jude swung at it with
the pole. There was a loud hissing, and the snake struck at Eva. She raised
an arm to protect herself and the snake bit down on her sleeve. She could
feel the pressure of its bite run up her arm.
Jude kept swinging the pole until Eva slipped out of the jacket with the
snake still clinging to it. They backed away, and finally it stopped writhing.
Never saw anything like that before! Jude gasped.
Is he dead? Eva finally asked.
He stopped rattling, Jude said, extending the pole toward
the wounded snake with its jaws still clinging to Evas jacket. It
didnt move. Biggest rattler Ive ever seen, Jude
said. You really think hes the same one?
Im sure of it, Eva said. Only hes bigger
Attacking you like that doesnt make sense.
Thats incredible, Jude whispered, barely touching the
snake with the end of the pole.
Animal Control will know what to do, she said.
You better go up to the house and call them. Its too cold
to be out here without your jacket, he said, throwing his vest over
Evas shoulders and checking her arm to see if the snake had bitten
through the jacket.
He just moved, she said. Lets go the other way.
The front doors locked, Jude whispered, taking her hand
and stepping over the snakes coiled backend. Once again, Eva heard
the clicking sound and looked back. Hes dead, Jude said,
pulling her along the path to the house.
Hell never die, she said, leaning on him.
Dont faint on me, he muttered, opening the door.
Ive been like this for weeks, she said.
What can I get you? he asked.
Tea, she said, and he went to the stove. She sat down heavily,
stretched her legs across the empty chair, and watched him fill the kettle.
Are you pregnant? he asked.
Ill pretend you didnt say that.
He nodded and turned on the stove. She watched him get out the tea bags,
drape them in the cups, and lower the flame. I better go out and
check on him before we call Animal Control.
Want me to go with you? she asked, but there was only the
slam of the back door.
The lump on the path was still there and Jude moved quickly toward it.
Getting closer, he reached out with the pole and jerked Evas leather
jacket upward. The snake was gone. Lifting the jacket off the end of the
pole, he felt along its stained sleeve where the fangs had struck, and
moved farther down the path. Just past the kiln he leaned in to search
the bushes again.
STAY AWAY FROM HER, GODDAMNIT! he yelled, and Eva got up to
watch him from the window as he moved through the fog. LEAVE HER
ALONE AND STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM HERE! he yelled again, and then
he was standing in the doorway holding the leather jacket out to her.
Did he hear you? she asked.
I dont know, he muttered.
She slipped into the leather jacket again while Jude poured the boiling
water into the cups, and they sipped the hot tea in silence.
You lied about the ménage, didnt you? His question
surprised her and she pulled the collar up around her neck again. It
was just your way of talking me out of the whole thing, he said,
answering his own question. Is it because youre pregnant?
he asked, and she stared across the table at him. If you are we
can go to the Rabbis house right after we drop the pots off and
set a date to get married.
Are you sure you want to do that? she asked.
Yes, Im sure, he said with a nod.
I mean about the Rabbi, she said. Are you sure?
Yes, he mumbled. And if I ask him today while Im
fixing his window hell probably drop his fee. Itd be an even
What about the snake? she asked with a smile.
Jude laughed, and said, No snakes at our wedding.
How do we keep him away? she asked, sipping her tea.
He wouldnt dare show up, would he?
Oh, hell be there, she said. One way...or the
other. For a long moment she didnt move, and then said, I
know him. Hed never miss our wedding...not ever.
Not as long as he was alive, you mean.
Yes, thats exactly what I mean, she said.
Jude picked up the long pole, and said, I better call Animal Control.
If hes still out there theyll take care of him.
Yes, Eva said. One way...or the other. Jude nodded,
reached for the phone, and she sipped the tea.