Fleshy Things, fiction by Stefanie Freele

In his hand, the Sono­ran Moun­tain Kingsnake. Around his neck, green stripes of the Rosy Boa. “You want to touch him don’t you?”

Nev­er have.” She says, abrupt­ly real­iz­ing how inex­pe­ri­enced this sounds.

Cold-blood­ed.” Tak­ing her hand, he holds her palm along the snake on his neck. “Cool to the touch.”

I know. I know.” She tries to pull back. It would almost be inti­mate except a rep­tile is between her hand, his skin. He’s most like­ly done with the bar scene she thinks, a scene she hasn’t even tried much of as she’s under­age, hasn’t found a fake id and isn’t will­ing to risk the humil­i­a­tion of being kicked out. She can tell he’s shaved and trimmed his beard for years. There is most like­ly so much he’s already done she hasn’t.

All instinct.” His boot, dusty, shred­ded, well-worn under­neath frayed jeans, rests atop the cage of the long hiss­ing beast. “Some have a bit of a tem­per,” he says.

She con­sid­ers the word tem­per, the flip from easy to angry, and how tem­per could be used to describe a snake or a man, a pas­sion­ate and fierce man, but not her­self. What could go so wrong so immediately?

He’s watch­ing her watch him.

She eval­u­ates the blue-green ser­pent tat­too trav­el­ing up his fore­arm, the beard along his jaw, the strong shoul­ders beneath lan­guid snake. All things that make her swal­low and feel uneasy, like she might not be able to get her arm back, or, she might extend the oth­er arm so he could take it in his -

Ever seen a Cal­i­for­nia Leg­less Lizard?” he says, look­ing amused, final­ly let­ting go of her hand.

Is there such a thing? She wants to say yes, she wants to say no. Either way, they both know he’s going to show it to her.

Ste­fanie Freele's short sto­ry col­lec­tion Feed­ing Strays was a final­ist for the John Gard­ner Fic­tion Award and the Book of the Year Award. Her recent fic­tion can be found in Glim­mer Train, Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Review, Night Train, Nec­es­sary Fic­tion, Smoke­long Quar­ter­ly, Word Riot and Cori­um Mag­a­zine. Ste­fanie is the Fic­tion Edi­tor of the Los Ange­les Review.

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3 Responses to Fleshy Things, fiction by Stefanie Freele

  1. Jim Nichols says:

    Good stuff.

  2. Kristen says:

    The feel of this is per­fect. I can remem­ber being her, being with him, want­i­ng to pre­tend I knew but not know­ing, want­i­ng him to think I could keep up with him, but know­ing we both knew I couldn't. Awful. Excit­ing. You bring it back so effortlessly.

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