Wednesday, 21 December 2016


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Greg slipped into the seat next to Jessie almost at the same time as I vacated it. His pliant body wrapped itself around the young woman like ivy around a trellis. Jessie flinched slightly as his scaly hand rested itself on the bare skin between the top of the skirt and the bottom of her top.
“How you doing?” he hissed, his hand slithering down her leg and resting on her knee, but he didn't wait for an answer; he just started talking in about his latest success speaking barely above a whisper so Jessie had to lean in closer and closer to hear his voice in the raucous bar.
His tongue seemed to dart in and out between his thin lips as he spoke, almost licking Jessie's skin with every sentence. Jessie was disappearing, Greg filling the space that she vacated; constricting her, trapping her in her seat. By the time I came back from the toilet he'd almost surrounded her. He stared at me. His dark beady eyes said that I was certainly no long welcome and inviting me to vanish. 
I sat down despite the venomous eyes. I wasn't interested in Jessie myself, but I felt she might need some support.
“So,” I said, “what are your plans for Christmas.” I wasn't interested in festive frolics but anything to take Greg's attention away from Jessie.
“Not much,” he said not taking his eyes away from his prey.
There wasn’t one scream, there was a multitude of them, all different pitches, all different volumes, but all saying something serious was wrong. Tables went flying, chairs were like skittles, the retreat was in full flight. Soon the left-hand side of the pub was almost completely empty. On the other side of the clearing, I could see what looked like a blackish brown snake under a table.
“It’s a fucking black mamba!” someone said.
“It’s just a toy,” said Greg, barely looking away from Jessie.
“It’s no toy,” someone else said. “It’s hissing.”
“Well it’s probably just an adder then, it won’t do anyone any harm.”
‘You pick it up then,” said the barman.
Greg unfurled himself from Jessie and walked towards the hissing creature. He crouched down on his haunches and put out a hand to allow the snake to sniff him, like it was a dog. He waited a moment, the black beady eyes of the snake staring into his. Then, he leant forward, but the alcohol in his system meant he moved too quickly. The snake sprang as quick as you like, people screamed and the remaining tables scattered as it flung itself at Greg and then sidewound back under the tables in the corner.
“Don’t worry,” Greg said, “adder bites aren’t poisonous to humans.” And then with perfect comic timing, he keeled over onto the floor.
No one moved, no one went to help him, not while the wild snake lurked menacingly.
I could see tiny pricks of blood on Greg’s neck and his body shook with spasms. Then he was still.

Three weeks after the funeral, I met Jessie on the off chance.
‘I’ve just had a new tattoo, wanna see it?”
I nodded.

She lifted her shirt to reveal a black mamba slithering up across her belly where there was bare skin between the top of the skirt and the bottom of her top.

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