I come in and find Evie, wearing only a thong, standing on the kitchen table, bowing. I lean my guitar against the wall and admire my girl. I never get tired of her skeleton. The tat stretches from her forehead to the tips of her toes. Front, back and sides. She’s a masterpiece although sometimes I wish the skull didn’t hide her beautiful face.
“Snake!” Evie hops off the table and runs to me. “I’ve been practicing accepting my Oscar. And I’ve chosen my stage name — Bone Girl.”
“Beautiful.” I turn my pocket inside out, and a few coins fall to the floor. “I didn’t make much today.”
“Here, Snakey. These’ll take the pain away.” Evie holds two pinks to my mouth. I try to lick them from her palm, but my tongue is still horribly painful. So I take the capsules to the sink and wash them down with a stream of warm water.
“Mommy,” Evie says sarcastically, “was out of it when I stopped by for money so I helped myself to their medicine cabinet.”
Evie’s folks are flush, and she’s done a good job of tapping them. Years ago, she found out her mother was screwing her uncle. Silence is golden. Her father is some big shot … and an alcoholic. Evie concocted stories about how he used to sneak into her room at night. He denies it, but still pays to keep her quiet.
The room fuzzes at the edges. I hear Evie’s — Bone Girl’s — echoing voice repeatedly thanking the Academy. Then we’re sinking to the floor … Evie finishes by grinding on one of my horn implants. My wang isn’t so good sometimes since I put the ring in it. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it myself, but I didn’t have any complications with the ones I’d previously cut into my face to hide the cigarette burns. Most of them. One of these days, I’ll get reptile scale tats to hide the rest.
Evie stands naked in front of the full-length mirror in our bedroom, screaming. I love it when she does that.
I start stabbing her with an imaginary knife. She shrieks even more loudly then falls into my arms. “I’m going to be the next Scream Queen,” Evie says. “The one who escapes then kills the slasher.”
“You’ll be the best. You could even be the slasher. You’d be perfect.”
“I could play both parts. Twins! I’d win two Oscars. I’m really going to be a star, aren’t I?”
“The biggest, Bone Girl,” I say proudly.
Evie gets so excited we pop some greens. This time she doesn’t have to hump one of my horns.
I have a surprise for Evie — a piece of my skull. I saved my busking bread and went to an expert certified by the Society for Trepanation Enlightenment. He was to remove a heart-shaped piece of my cranium. It turned out more like a kidney, but I still can’t wait to give it to Evie. I’ve poked a tiny hole through the piece and strung it onto an authentic gold-plated chain.
“It’s beautiful,” Evie says, draping the chain around her neck. “I’ll never take it off.” She begins weeping tears of joy. My head oozes some and hurts, but it’s worth it.
I feel guilty for not pulling my weight. Evie inherited the house we live in from her grandmother, and we get by mostly on money Evie pries from her parents. So I decide to take the bus over to Pennfield and visit my folks. It’s been a couple years, but I’m betting they still keep a wad of cash and a stash of pills in the crisper drawer.
My mother opens the door, her eyes drooping. A familiar look. “Haven’t seen you in weeks, Dennis.”
“Two years, Doris.” Ignoring the pain, I stick out my tongue. “I’m The Snake now.”
She squints at me. “Snakes don’t have horns.”
“I … changed my mind when … Never mind. I came by for my albums.”
“Help yourself.” Doris walks unsteadily to the sofa. “Wherever you left them.” She plops down next to my father, who’s slumped with his head lolled back. “Here’s Dennis.”
Fred opens his eyes halfway. “Where you been, Dennis?”
I quiver under his gaze. “I’m … I’m The Snake.” I force out my tongue. “Just stopped by to get my records.”
“You must be a bull snake,” he laughs.
“Mind if I get something cold to drink?”
Lost in her own world, Doris says “You’re a wicked little boy.” How many times did I hear that?
Fred sits up so he can see into the kitchen. “Watching you, The Snake,” he grins. Then he lights a cigarette and twists it as if he’s putting it out on something. Like my face.
I realize I can’t do this and make for the front door.
“Don’t be stranger,” Doris slurs.
“See you ‘round, Garter Snake,” Fred laughs.
When I get home, I find Evie sitting on the bed, sobbing. She says she went to see her father, but he said he could no longer afford to give her money. When she threatened to call his company, he said it happened a long time ago, and he’d take his chances that nobody would believe a freak like her.
Evie and I toss confused looks to each other. I kiss and lick away her tears, the salt stinging my infected tongue, which leaves red streaks on her cheeks. After several minutes, Evie goes to the mirror, lifts her top and touches the areas under her rib cage. “I hate to waste this skin. I think I’ll add long-stem roses … with little daggers instead of thorns.”
“Beautiful.” I finger the piece of my skull dangling from her neck and hear Fred laughing — See you‘round, garter snake. “I’m going to get viper pupils tattooed on my eyeballs.”
“Dangerous,” Evie says.
“I am,” I reply.
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