Day after I purchase the snake I get a postcard. From my brother Doug. Older by six years. Hey Bro it starts. Doug doesn’t phone or email. Sends postcards. Usually fences. Split-rail fences like out west. Or wide plank fences that keep back horses. All kinds. This latest being a high fence like Tom Sawyer painted. We grew up on Tom and Huck. Our mom obsessed with Mark Twain. Samuel she’d correct if someone slipped. I bite the edge of the postcard. Sticking it on my dresser near the fish tank. Snake drowsing at the bottom in a good loop. Outside it’s turning dark. Cold. I pull down the shade. You feel cold I ask the snake. My doorbell rings. The front one ‘cause the back is broken. Fuck I’m thinking. It’s probably one of those petition nuts. I ain’t signing anymore. You sign they come back. And back. Endless those people. The bell keeps ringing. Like a pin got stuck in. Snake moves in the tank. The racket disturbing him. I’ve started thinking it’s a him. It doesn’t look female. I poke underneath with a straw. Nothing female-looking under there. He wraps around the straw like a circus act. Doug I start calling him. After my brother. It makes me feel less lonely.
Doug I ever tell you the story of my marriage. To whats-her-name. Doug is lazing in his fish tank. He seems to blink. With snakes it’s touch and go. You can’t really tell. Are they sleeping or maybe just dozing. I pick him out and hang him ‘round my neck. Good fella I say. He wiggles getting into position. Doug we’re like a married couple I say. We spoon together. It’s nice right. Naturally Doug can’t answer. I pretty much know when he’s happy. So anyway the wedding was small I tell him. Her sister that bitch wore black. Black to a wedding. Bad omen. That sister could crack an egg just by looking. I hold her in part responsible I tell Doug. I pat his head to reassure him. I know he worries I might crack. I get close at times. But then I’ll pick him up like today. We might go out for a stroll. To the market. The dog park. We might drive out to Injun Joe for smokes. We might do nothing. Long as we’re together I say. He snuggles even tighter ‘round my neck.
Money is tight I tell Doug. Bitch stuck us with the mortgage. We could get repossessed. Doug is quiet at the bottom of his tank. I tap the sides saying wake up. It’s morning. We got things to do. Places to go. People to see. I swear to god he yawns. I swear I see his mouth open and shut. I peer in the tank doing rap-tap-tap. He doesn’t move a muscle. Doug hey Doug I say. This is getting scary. Maybe he’s not sleeping. Maybe he died while I was sleeping. All the time I think about my old man dying. He’s 93. When I mentioned this to Doug (my brother) he told me I think crazy. What is crazy about worrying about Dad I said. He’s an old man. He could die any second. He lives alone. No one to watch him. Then Doug said a lot of things back. The last thing he said was that’s the point. That conversation took place over a series of postcards. Seven I think. I think a week’s worth. Not in real time. First buying each postcard. Writing the message. Going to the post office. Time to fly back and forth. Close to a month for Doug to say that’s the point. It gave me an unease. My wife who left said Doug carries unease. At first I thought she said disease. She said it right before she split. That word unease. It puts things on tilt. This kitchen. It’s cold. I should turn up the heat. But Doug (my Doug) is a cold blooded creature. Not by heart. He has a big heart. Cold by evolution. It’s out of his hands. Couldn’t be a mammal if he tried. Same with her. Couldn’t be a wife. Did the wifey stuff. Served her little meals. And pathetic they were. Sandwich crackers spread with cheese and pimento-olives. Calling it a balanced meal. Protein from the cheese. Vegetable. Two counting the pimento she said. And a starch. And proud of it. Whole piles on a plate served with a Coke. She came from a nuts family. The sister hardly eats. The parents you need a crane to lift them out of the house. I wasn’t surprised when she left. Coming from a nuthouse. I miss those freckles she tried to bleach that wouldn’t go away.