Rattlesnakes – A Story by David L. O’Nan

Rattlesnakes

It was damn quick – when I first got out of high school,
Me and Rachel decided to take the marriage walk, we were always high and in for the joke.
An Austin, Tx spring, our wallets and purses were constantly a little short.
Bills and rent played second-fiddle to a shaking house of sin. Of course.
While drunk one night, Rachel bit my arm and said, “Boy, go get a real job.”
I tried to think if any skills I’ve been taught could get us back. I looked into her blue eyes and
Said, “I guess I can try a little, I think.”

Rachel had been a waitress at Timmy Boy’s Steaks and Ice Cream Saloon for close to 3 years.
She was 19, and I was about 20 when I got a call from my crooked uncle.  He said, “Ronnie I’ve got an
opening that’ll get you some cash.  A little traveling around the deserts and Southwestern sunshine.”
So, I had to tell Rachel I’d be leaving.  Maybe for 5 or so months.  
She said, “I can’t be here lonely, still not knowing if we have another on the way.  I guess mom could use the company.”

I began to learn and hate all that is construction, welding, and the summer as well.
Cement mixers, bulldozers, anvils, and feeling ill every day.
Daydreaming about my baby, as the sweat whipped across my face.
I lay on an eroded hill with old paint chips stuck to my eyelids, and counted the endless stars,
While the other boys, drunk on Dalmore, talked in racial slurs and confederate speak.

Another morning, the bones in my back stuck.
Hoping tetanus doesn’t set in from the rusted siding I have to rip away.
The perspiration drips down on a hissing rock,
and my eyes become blurry and full of rattlesnakes.
Just get me to the next payphone so I can hear her voice.
Missing my baby, many miles down south.  Her Texas drawl, with a quirky laugh.
That night I dreamt of stabbing knives, and it thundered endlessly.
The sky threatened with twisters, like everyday
with the muse for this destruction, being me.
And I was flashing back to when I was just a child,
hiding in with my fear as the wind bashed the floods against the brick wall,
yelling out for anyone, but anyone wasn’t close.
I became a survivor without even trying while the whole town fell apart.
And I walked to my grandparents and heard I had no home.

That same feeling, alone and claustrophobic at the same time.
Echoes by the canyons seem to breathe heavy with banshee sirens.
They sing to me to paralysis in my immure dreams.
I finally get to her, past those rattlesnakes,
my heartbeat jumping with shock,
as she tells me she had to move on, the loneliness led her astray,
to another blue collar man with flashier cars and the wit of a wiseman.

The rest of the night I’m just drinking, and fighting with the other guys.
They call me names and I call them bastards and the anti-Christ,
and I’m punching anyone that gets near me until my muscles spasm and fail.
I run around in paranoia, in depression, past the beautiful flowers.
This will last much longer than their enchantment to the rest of the world.
The images of you and him, some cowboy that I don’t know. 
I fill with hate as the blood drips down my beer can,
and I contemplate taking my last breath over this ditch.
That smells of sulfur and the rattlesnakes shakes the ground to a tremor in my haze.

I’m driving home on the long highways, to gather what I have left.
The only neighborly thing I can do is introduce him to my grandpa’s old revolver.
I’ve had to shoot a rattler, and I have had to shoot the moon.
The wildness in my blood has come to swarm like the twisters that are looking for something new.
A new muse, a new path, new trees, new homes to ruin.
I go from hums to a drunken scream, driving on and off the road.

In the distance, I heard those banshees singing a new song.
They flew through me with all their harmony, as I felt my death was more than okay.
And I wanted, and I wanted, and I needed, and I needed to just
forget her face.  I just need, need, need to survive against these rattlesnakes.
They come with skin, they come as serpents, they come as broken mirror shards.
And I have to breathe, breathe, breathe in, drink in this air ‘til I sleep in this pain.

I wake up on the side of this long highway in my 1993 Sierra truck.
I’m not sure to be scared or to praise the winding blacktop.
I went from mutilating to mercy to the grim reaper behind me.
Trying to guide me down these suicidal streets, with the ammo in my lap.
I swerved off into the country dust, dirt flying everywhere.
I hold the gun and begin to sing myself a song from Townes.
Who’s waiting around to die? I just keep telling myself while I hide from the rest of this race. 

I get out on Barnett Road and head down to the shit and algae pond.
The fish are biting and the rattlesnakes become an orchestra of trauma in my head.
Crying into my hand and shrinking towards the ground.  Wet-kneed jeans, beer breath,
and bleeding in the staining grass.

I put the gun up to my head, and decide to just swing it into the air.
Landing in the gut of the pond, to just watch it sink in the ripples, just like her.
I grip my hands for God to see, and I just lay down there to erase the venom in my veins.


Bio: David L O’Nan is a poet, short story writer, editor living in Southern Indiana. He is the editor for the Poetry & Art Anthologies, “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art, and has also edited & curated other Anthologies including 2 inspired by Leonard Cohen (Avalanches in Poetry & Before I Turn Into Gold) and Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Inspired by Bob Dylan. He runs the http://www.feversofthemind.com website, a word press site that helps promote many poets, musicians, actors/actresses, other writers. He has self-published works under the Fevers of the Mind Press “The Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers” “The Cartoon Diaries” & “New Disease Streets” (2020).”Taking Pictures in the Dark” “Our Fears in Tunnels” (2021) a collection of poetry called “Bending Rivers” a micro poem collection “Lost Reflections” and new books “Before the Bridges Fell” & “His Poetic Last Whispers” (2022). David has had work published in Icefloe Press, Dark Marrow, Truly U, 3 Moon Magazine, Spillwords, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cajun Mutt Press, Punk Noir Magazine, among several other lit mags. Twitter:


Art: Visions at the Snake River, (c) Robert Frede Kenter (2005/2023). Robert Frede Kenter is the publisher/EIC of Ice Floe Press. Work published widely in poetry, prose and visual poetry in books & journals across the seasons. Forthcoming in The Storms Journal and a new Anthology from Steel Incisors (2023). Twitter: @frede_kenter. IG: r.f.k.vispocityshuffle.

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