Sumac: A beginning

by Tracey on July 18th, 2015

“The snake committed suicide. It swallowed its own tail.”

Orhianna screamed. Wearing shorts and a cream colored sleeveless top with buttons, she sat on the couch with her bare legs up underneath her. The summer heat had come early.

“That’s obnoxious, Orhianna.” Liam, her older brother, admonished her. “Aw man, look what you did. Now, I’ve been shot.” He remained focused on his video game.

“I can’t help it.” She said.

Thane, the tall young man telling the story, laughed and brushed a lock of dark blond hair away from his green eyes. He smiled at Orhianna.

“Snakes scare me to death.”  She pulled her pony tail which had caught behind her back and combed through the long auburn tresses with her fingers.

“So anyway,” Thane continued. “When I told Dave it was dead, that’s when he says, ‘Cool. Can I hold it?’”

“He didn’t either. That’s disgusting.” Despite the content, Orhianna was engrossed in Thane’s story, mostly because he was the one telling it.

“He did too. So I said, knock your self out, Dude. And he picked the dead snake up and started playing with it.”

“Wait, the snake ate itself?” Liam slouched on the couch, focusing on his video game with the X-Box remote in his hand. He’d swiped a couple beers from his parents’ fridge and was feeling pretty good.

“Yea, I told you already, it committed suicide.”

“I’m not really sad that your snake died.” Her dark brown eyes sparkled. Orhianna had had a crush on her brother’s friend since she was twelve. Home from Ball State University for the summer, she was happy to be hanging out with her two favorite guys. As kids, the three of them had been inseparable.

The three hadn’t seen each other since the holidays. Thane and Liam came by to visit with Orhianna, who was staying with their parents. They had just finished their junior years at the local University of Pennsylvania in West Chester, their home town.

Liam threw his video game controller on the carpeted floor. “Come on!”

Thane continued, “Anyway, so Dave picked up the snake like this.” He had Orhianna’s attention, so he mimicked his friend. With his hands out palm up, he raised and lowered them alternately and while making a goofy face.

Orhianna squealed.

“Wait, but that wasn’t even the funny part. Then he said, ‘We should bury it. You know, give it a funeral.’ So that’s what we did.” He blinked matter-of-factly.

“You gave your dead snake a funeral?” Liam was more focused on the video game.

“Where did you bury it? If I come over to your house, I want to be sure I never go near it. What if it wasn’t really dead?” Orhianna braided a strand from her pony tail. She had missed this; even if Thane was talking about the one thing that freaked her out the most.

“It’s in my parent’s back yard.”

She cringed again. “Did you put a headstone on it?”

Liam shot another alien then, with a flurry of thumb action, he leaned forward, grunted and nearly stood up. “Oh, crap. Oh, crap. Ooh.” He threw the remote down on the floor and flopped back down on the couch. Exasperated, he ran a hand through his short brown hair. “That’s it, your turn, Thane. I’m done.”

Thane sat between Liam and Orhianna. “We didn’t put a headstone on Diego’s grave.” He noticed Orhianna’s big eyes were surrounded by long dark lashes.

“No? Why not?”

“Because, it was just a snake, O. Jesus. Thane, you going to play?” Liam finished his beer.

“I’ll make sure you don’t step on the grave.” Thane watched O twirl her silky hair. “Maybe now you can come over some time. I mean now that the snake’s gone. I mean, now that there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Orhianna smiled. “I’d like that.” She looked up into his green eyes.

“Thane, you going to play?”

“Naw, not right now. Let’s go to a movie or something.” He suggested.

“I’ll see what’s playing.” Orhianna thought a movie was a good idea. She imagined Thane holding her hand in the dark theater. Even after a year of college, she still crushed on him. She pulled her cell phone out of a pocket in her shorts and started typing in the name of a local movie theater. Oddly, her phone started ringing as she did so. Liam’s phone began ringing, at the same time.

Brother and sister looked across the couch at each other. “Jinx!” They said together, laughing.

The smile disappeared from O’s face as soon as she read the caller ID- West Chester Police Department. “Liam?”

Liam’s expression went sober. “Answer it, O.” He instructed. “They’re calling me, too.”


© 2015

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