The Going Price For Venom by Gary Reddin
On the weekends the boys would
take their bikes into the desert
carrying wicker baskets and sharpened sticks
in search of rattlesnakes.
When they’d find one beneath a rock
or behind a bush
the youngest would gig it
on the end of his makeshift spear,
not with any primal, Spartan war cry
but with a sigh, and a hint of apathy
in his furrowed young brow
as the snake entered its death throes.
The older then would put a boot against it
and cleave the head in a single motion
with their father’s old service knife
and put the head in his basket.
The body, still writhing, he would drop
at his brother’s feet
where it twisted and jumped
making shapes in the sand.
With their baskets full
and the wicker soaked red
they would ride back to town
before the university closed.
There they would sell the heads
to the doctors and their students
for five dollars a fang;
the going price for venom.
Gary Reddin is a writer from southern Oklahoma. His work has appeared in The Oklahoma Review, The Iconoclast, The 580 Mixtapes and elsewhere.