The scarlet sun had almost vanished behind an unfamiliar horizon. Chilled by our dessert of homemade ice cream and the sudden onset of a whipping wind, we were ready to return home. Our host delayed this departure with a question: “Would you like to watch me feed my fish?”
Eager to get inside and warm up, my sister, my brother and I followed him into the house. He wasn’t a total stranger—my father knew him from work—but the glint in his eye seemed to indicate something left unsaid.
We filed past him into a dimly lit room. He closed the door behind him. “Take a look around,” he offered.
As our eyes adjusted, we noticed several fish tanks standing on counters, and a hamster cage took up most of a corner table. The shelves were lined with books and unlabeled canisters. What held our attention, though, lay on the floor in the center of the room.
Something was hidden under a dark sheet—a box, perhaps? The man grinned as he saw our eyes transfixed. In the silence, a sound of movement escaped from under the sheet. Just a small rustle, but the source was clear.
He checked his watch and walked toward the fish tanks. “Well, we can give them a bit now,” he said, picking up a plastic container. “It always seems like a waste, though.”
Taking turns sprinkling the flakes into the water, we became wrapped up in the bulging eyes and slowly opening and closing mouths. Another soft sound from the box brought us back to our senses.
Nobody moved. He eyed the box and smiled. A feeling of paralysis come over us. A quick glance showed that my siblings were also wishing to be back with our parents.
A beep emitted from his watch. “It’s time,” he announced. “You guys ready to feed the fish?”
Still rooted to the spot, we watched as he pulled up a corner of the sheet. I had no desire to discover what hideous fish could be that large, or why it lived in the dark.
“Now, I have to do this slowly, because too much light all of a sudden can be a shock.”
As the sheet came off, we saw that it wasn’t a box—it was a large glass tank. In the dim light, it took a while to distinguish the large object on the bottom. A ball python, four feet long. My sister screamed. My brother gasped. I tried to make a sound, any sound, but nothing came out.
Our host laughed as he walked toward the counter holding a scoop. “It’s time to feed the fish. I must have forgotten to mention…we’re feeding them to my snake.”
Kevin Hogg teaches high school English and Law. He holds a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Carleton University. Outside of writing, he is a husband, father, and Chicago Cubs fan. He also enjoys thistles, pulp-free orange juice, and depressing John Steinbeck novels. His website is http://kevinhogg.ca.