Blind Strike

{August 28, 2007}   Cobra’s Lesson, part I

After a long walk, Squirrel found the place where the desert floor rose in a mound. Jumping chollas hung irridescent in the sun, and saguaro reached their great arms to the sky. At the base of the hill, Squirrel spied a small opening in the ground.

She hesitated, sniffing around the entryway. Going in didn’t seem so smart. She smelled death. But, lifting her sore paw pads, and looking around at the tough plants made to withstand the sun, she saw that she had no choice. She was not built to be out in the desert. If she did not go in, she would surely die.

Squirrel stepped inside. Cool air wrapped around her and her lungs drank deeply. As Squirrel’s eyes adjusted, she saw that the tunnel dropped down a short way and then curved into the hillside. Squirrel took a few steps forward, until a distant hissing stopped her short. Around the bend came Cobra with his back up, tongue flicking forward in twin points.

Sure that she had reached the end of her days, Squirrel flattened herself against the floor and closed her eyes. She waited for the sharp pinch of Cobra’s teeth at her flesh, but the bite never came. Trembling, Squirrel opened her eyes.

Cobra looked thinner, deflated. “Shhhh.” His voice was soothing. “What pathetic sight is this? Rise, little one, and tell me, who sent you?”

Squirrel took a deep breath and stood on all fours, ready to back out of the tall, narrow hole should Cobra try anything. “S-scorpion told me you might be able to…to help me.”

“AAhhh.” Cobra’s voice took on a lilting tone. “In that case, come into my home, friend, and we will see just why it is you need helping.”

With that, Cobra wrested and rippled himself until his head was pointed back the way he came. He slithered farther into the den, casting Squirrel a backward glance and flicking his tongue before winding around the corner. Again, Squirrel hesitated, as if someone had whispered an admonition she couldn’t quite catch. But she thought again of the parched land above, the pain in her delicate feet, and Scorpion’s brusque manners.

Perhaps these creatures have different customs, she thought, and minced her way around the bend.


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