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Archie & Friends
by YVONNE GEORGINA PUIG
One morning Archie wakes with a pain and discovers that a nest of snakes has sprung from his heart. He throws the snakes out the window and watches till they slither out of sight. Once he can no longer see them, he believes them gone, and returns to his sleep.
In the morning Archie finds more snakes sliding out from his heart. He calls his friend Abel for help. Abel is a hermaphroditic half-man, half-bear with a fumbling demeanor, glasses, long black hair, and a hollow hole where his mouth should be, through which you can see clear through his head. Abel likes to entertain Archie by balancing shot-glasses inside the hole in his face. They fit perfectly.
Given the hole, Abel acts out his suggestion to Archie about the snakes. He gestures with his wild hairy arms that the snakes must be beheaded. He scribbles on a pad, “Snake, get a hoe!” Archie should yell, “Snake, get a hoe!” every time he finds snakes leaving his heart, and Abel will come running. To prove his skill, Abel runs down into the garden, retrieves a hoe, and hacks off the head of every snake till the floors are streaked with cold blood.
Archie feels grateful he has such a good friend. He spends the day pruning his olive tree, admiring the long narrowing valley at his feet, brown as toast in winter, emerald rich in summer, and now, in spring, something in between. He forgets all about snakes.
The following day the snakes spout from his heart like the guts of a geyser. “Snake, get a hoe!” he cries. Abel arrives with his hoe and begins hacking. Another friend, Paulene, comes along. She wears a long paisley dress, torn up black tights, and carries a portable boom box. She picks up the snakes, and coos to them, “I’m sorry honey baby,” before handing them off to Abel. When the snakes are all dead, Paulene turns on her boom box, Abel hands around his shot glass, and the three friends have a dance party, splashing their feet in the puddles of blood. Abel gets so drunk he falls over like a tree. Paulene just keeps dancing. Archie is angry he has to clean up the mess.
In the morning, to apologize, Abel sends over a gift basket full of pleasant-smelling body deodorants and room sprays nestled in a bed of green paper grass, with a card. Sorry. Archie is touched.
A few weeks pass without snakes. It seems the three friends have gotten rid of the pests for good. They are proud. Archie spends his time outside, doing pull-ups from the branches of his olive tree, practicing his harp, sleeping soundly without dreams, and dancing at Paulene’s dance parties. They go on a vacation to the city, where they drink sitting on benches, and pass by museums. Paulene doesn’t like museums because she gets confused by her reflection in the picture glass. Abel has a gland under his hairy arm which excretes cash; the nights are long and lavish, and in the mornings they are hoarse from talking into people’s ears. Life is fun.
When the snakes return, Archie shoots out of bed grasping his chest. His heart vomits snakes. He tries to scream, “Snake, get a hoe!” but he gags on the words. A snake hangs from his mouth like a long black tongue. He pulls the snake, out and out and out, it is so long, until finally he can speak. He calls Paulene. She will provide comfort. Paulene arrives with muffins and milk, and rubs his back. “Those snakes are so mean, don’t pay attention to them,” she says. “Poor Archie, honey baby. They attacked you!” Paulene tucks him into bed.
Two angels named Arthur and Mabel appear to him in a dream. They are children, twins. They stand in a classroom acting out parts in a play, but Archie can’t hear their voices. Mabel gets close to Arthur and says lots of things and moves her arms around and sometimes points at Arthur. Then Arthur does the same. He says lots of things and tosses around his arms and points. Then they calm down. Mabel puts her head on Arthur’s shoulder. They hug. After a time, they look right at Archie, who is not in the classroom, but watching from the place in his brain which feels, and raise their eyebrows as if to say, see? Archie tries to turn off the dream, but suddenly he can hear them, and they know his name... Archie? they call, in small, eager voices which he pretends not to hear. Archie?
He wakes frustrated. Those angels disturbed his sleep! All day he sees their faces in his fingertips while he strums his harp, in his olives as he prunes, in his biceps as he flexes. He calls Abel and Paulene. Over beers they all agree, the last thing he needs are little angel children bothering him during his rest. Who do they think they are to ask him questions? Do they expect something from him? How dare they! Paulene scratches Archie’s head. “I’m so proud of you for ignoring them,” she says. Abel stands by with the hoe over his shoulder in case of snakes, and nods. No, Archie definitely doesn’t need that. He needs a dance party.
Yvonne Georgina Puig is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here.