Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles

by Kira Henehan

Binelli had been there when I came out of the silence. Or maybe he brought me out. Maybe he was there all along.

Either way.

I opened my eyes, or maybe they had already been open.

Again, either way.

But when things focused properly, Binelli was there.

—Tea? he said.

I said yes, but my voice was rusty. Who knew how long it had been since its services were needed. I mouthed yes and then nodded to make clear that I was being affirmative and agreeable. Even then I could tell that Binelli was not to be trifled with.

The tea helped. There was honey. The tea and/or the honey made things right.

—You’ll be needing new papers, Binelli said. —Finley, he added with such extraordinary nonchalance that I didn’t even think to question.

We drank the tea. We made bland small talk to get my voice awoken and up to speed. The Lamb drifted through and glared at me, then drifted through again and managed a grimace, then finally sat down and had some tea.

Binelli introduced me to her as Finley. He introduced her to me as The Lamb. There was no basis upon which to argue either point.

We made some small talk, me and The Lamb.

This was all before Murphy. Murphy came later, as previously reported, presumably of his own accord.

—You can sleep out here, Binelli told me, when all the tea was drunk and the small talk taxed. He pointed to the couch on which I was already sitting. He pointed then to a small pile of sheets. They were green sheets, like the Tropics. It was hot in the room but the sheets made things seem cool. —We’ll get you your papers tomorrow.

—Am I Russian, I wondered.

—You don’t appear to be, Binelli said.

The Lamb made a face as if to suggest my being Russian was the most absurd idea she’d yet come across.

—Good, I said. —I hate the Russians. I had no basis for this either, but it was something I knew from somewhere deep inside. Maybe a memory that had been slow or stubborn and hadn’t left with the rest. Or maybe not a memory at all but a new kind of fact, of which there might be more, revealing themselves at whim, over time.

There were in fact more. They did reveal themselves at whim. I couldn’t know that then, but I was aware of the possibility.

—I see, said Binelli, making surely a mental note of this innate distaste that he would, no later than The Very Next Day, use against me. For no apparent reason that I can yet see other than sheer spite.

But that evening I could not have known that Binelli was filled with spite, as full as most people are filled with blood. Binelli and The Lamb retired behind a door that was shut behind them and locked with a series of brisk clicks. I took the top sheet from the small pile and made to shake it out, but before I had even made one shake I looked again at what I thought I had seen sitting on the remaining sheets and I was absolutely one hundred percent correct that there was a very large and pale snake there, all coiled up, but for its head, which was not coiled up but instead lifted from its coil and facing me with the anguished look of a creature rudely awakened.

I stood very still and held the sheet. The snake made wavy snake moves with its head but remained otherwise still.

We stood off.

I have said already that I can win any such standoff and this particular circumstance was a case in point.

That is to say, the snake moved first.

The snake uncoiled with surprising dexterity, considering the intricacy of its coiling, and shot across the space between us and flicked my ankle with its angry tongue. And with its angry fangs, I found out soon enough, as I sank to the couch and the snake disappeared beneath it.

An examination of my ankle showed tiny twin teeth marks. I have never understood the logic behind sucking the venom from one’s snake wound, as it would seem to me to merely be ingesting the same poison through another equally vulnerable orifice; however, it was an impulse I made every attempt to carry out. Unfortunately, the bite was located on the outside of my ankle, which, if you were to try right now upon your own self, you’d realize is an impossible location on which to fasten one’s mouth. I am a flexible being and I was a no less flexible being back then, and I would think that if ever such a contortion could be managed, with the panic and adrenaline it would have been managed at that moment.

Like I said: however.

Et cetera.

I could not reach the outside of my ankle with my lips and then I stopped trying. I tried instead to beat down the door behind which Binelli and The Lamb had disappeared. I used my fists and one shoulder and then the other shoulder and my hips, and I used my freshly rediscovered voice to wake them from the apparent comas into which they had swiftly slipped upon barricading themselves in their fortress. There was no response and it was a very sturdy door. I did it relatively little damage. Relative to the damage incurred upon my aforementioned appendages, that is to say.

And then I lay down on the couch and covered myself with the cool green sheet and prepared to die. It seemed a terrible shame, so soon after recovering my voice, but it was all that was left me. I thought many a regretful thought while I waited, some of which seemed to me quite profound, and I did get up once to write some things down on a pad of paper Binelli had left on the coffee table. On the top of the first page, he had written: Finley, and below that: Russian, and I left those things there and turned to a fresh sheet and made to write down my final thoughts. But once faced with the paper, all I could manage was: Bit by snake. Thanks for the tea. Finley.

I ripped that sheet of paper carefully from the pad, making sure to leave the first intact, though I didn’t suppose Binelli would have further need of his notes on me, what with my untimely demise. But one hates to have it said that one’s last act was in fact the destruction of another’s property. I folded my note and left it sitting on the pad and I lay back down.

KIRA HENEHAN was born in New York and grew up in various locales around the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. Her work has been published in Fence, jubilat, Chelsea, Conjunctions, and Denver Quarterly, among others. She has also received a Pushcart Prize and been included in A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years anthology. Henehan attended San Francisco State University and Columbia University, and now lives in New York City. Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles is her first novel.