Towering above me, he shoved it inches from my nose from behind his back, a menacing grin on his face. His fist, smudged with mud, held intertwined in his stubby fingers a squirming green garden hose complete with yellow line that leveled its head and tiny eyes at me and darted out its forked tongue, meeting my gaze. The three brutish sons of my babysitter sniggered and chortled in concert; they were my inventive captors before and after school. This was not the first of their many attempts to terrorize me. They waited for my squeal, my stumbling flight towards those waiting to restrain me, but they did not get the satisfaction they expected.

I reached out, sliding my long fingers between his and extracted the serpent, watching it twine langurously in my hand, exploring me tentatively. I immediately fell in love with its silken undulating texture, the tautness of its muscled skin wrapping around my wrist, the gentle nudge of its head into my palm. Its tongue, slipping from between thin shiny lips met my own fleshy ones in feathery light kisses. When I looked up, they stood, wide-eyed and incredulous at this little girl who wasn't afraid of snakes. They meandered off and I was left unmolested and I learned a valuable lesson about boys that's always served me well...

Never show fear.

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