Freddy the snake-man came by when Becky and I were sitting outside on the smoking bench at Vaughans Lounge. When he came close we could see the two snakes coiling and writhing around his hands.
One was pale ivory speckled with coral-colored markings. The other was even paler, with markings that were lavender-pink ghosts of those of its sister.
They were young snakes, Freddy said, only a few feet long and harmless. They were boa constrictors, and he had a name for them that I can't remember, but it was something flowery.
Becky held one and let it crawl up her body and coil its tail around her index finger. She stroked its flanks and let it nuzzle its arrow-shaped head on her throat. "It feels so silky," she said.
I'm less enamored of snakes, but I worked up the nerve to touch one. And she was right. Its skin, though shiny, was not "slimy" or moist at all, but rather, it felt like a finely woven silver chain, the scales like tightly braided wire slipping cooly past my fingers. I could feel the taut muscular energy beneath the skin. The pale snake - Freddy said it was an albino - cantilevered its body out from Freddy's grip, a miracle of physical strength.
The snakes fluttered their little forked tongues, flicking against our fingertips.
I don't think I've ever handled a snake before - certainly not in recent memory. I'm not sure I like them, but I can't forget the feeling of the silky, muscular energy of them coiling against my hands. Freddy the snake-man is a professional dealer in reptiles.