Sitting on a rock by the hillside,
My friend brought his boot down
On the scorpion, its tail
It did not try to escape
But swung its broken sting
My friend squashed it again
Grinding his boot on the crushed remains
Till it became indistinguishable from the black earth.
We were sitting in his garden
Admiring the Orchids and Anthuriums
As a non-descript snail crept by my feet.
I picked it up, held it to my face
Both wondering at each other.
But then my friend took it from me -
The crackle of the shell cracking
Reminded me of the Pappads I take with rice.
My friend rubbed his shoe on the grass
The gluey fluid stuck the blades together.
It was late evening
We had scotch and ice by our side
And the grass was cool beneath our feet.
As I listened to the croaking frogs
I remarked on a distinctive call.
My friend picked up a palmful of gravel
Threw it in the direction of the pool
Even the Cicadas were shocked to silence.
We were reminiscencing about our younger days
How the world has changed
In the forty years since we parted ways.
How, on our way to school
Running over the culvert
Across the paddy fields
How my friend would grab
The little green grass snakes
By their tails and swing them
One swift, full swing
Like the riverside laundry-man
On to a rock and smash their heads
And laughing, fling them
Into the swampy field.
The paddy fields are gone
So is the pond we used to bathe in the nude.
It was a dark, cool night, our faces hidden in the shadows
The expensive scotch, pleasantly glowing in my belly.
In my friend's voice, I hear his spite and frustration
I could imagine the froth of dislike
Foaming at the side of his lips
Sparking and popping
As spittle dribbled down his chin.
I sat listening to him and wondered
How it would be to hold his head
Between my hands and slam it against the wall
To grind his face on the granite surface
And slam, again and again
Until his face became a ripe, red tomato.