The Ballad of Snake Bit Jimmy by Kurt Newton...

Too many times it’s the good guys that get all the glory. All those sweet talking fuckers, those honesty is the best policy pricks, and all those go to church love your mother wash your hands after you wipe your ass smug-faced shits...just for once I wanted to see it happen for one of us. That's why I hatched the plan to break Jimmy "Snake Bit" Maroney out of County and make him a hero.

You see -- Jimmy was shit out of luck since the day he was born. Never had a decent thing go right for him in his entire miserable life. His name speaks for itself. And this latest time was no different. Same old shit. Wrong place, wrong time. Jimmy attracted trouble the way money attracts hookers. Only this time he was looking at hard time.

The way I heard it, Jimmy was walking past the liquor store last Thursday minding his business when out runs this guy -- blam! -- slams into Jimmy. Money goes flying, gun pops out of the guy's jacket, stays at the scene. Jimmy's knocked on his ass, hits his head, sleeps it off for a few. When he wakes up cops are cuffing him and telling him anything he says can be used against him.

Of course there's no witnesses -- at least none that would come forward. Of course they don't believe Jimmy's story about the mystery thief. Jimmy's got a rap sheet longer than his dick, so of course they throw him in County to wait trial. So, being Jimmy's one and only friend, and sick and tired of the injustices in the world, here's where I come in.

I happen to be standing on the corner thinking about what I could do to help poor Jimmy when one of those TV vans -- the kind with the satellite dish on top -- pulls up outside the jail. While they're setting up, I walk over and ask what's the news? A cameraman tells me they're doing a spot on some program for troubled kids that takes teens on a jail tour to show them what their future looks like if they don't straighten up. I had to laugh at that one, because sometimes it doesn't matter if you're as straight as the line on a field sobriety test, bad has a way of finding you if it wants to. It just depends on what side of the bed bad woke up on that particular day.

I tell the cameraman there's an even better story inside about a friend of mine who's totally innocent...wrong place, wrong time, and how the cops are playing tag you're it with crimes and criminals out there because it makes their job easier. Of course, the guy wasn't hearing it. In fact, that's when he told me he had to get back to work.

Fuck him, I thought to myself. And fuck the world for not giving a damn. But then an idea went off in my head like a roadside bomb. There'd be a film crew, teens, probably some of them girls...a plan started to rise up out of the smoldering drug-abused ruin of my brain like one of those giant snakes down in the jungle swamps. Snakes.

I hit the streets, aiming my feet in the direction of an exotic pet store I knew of a few blocks over. When I got there some scrawny kid behind the counter with tattoos and piercings tells me it's illegal to sell rattlesnakes. Wouldn't you know? But what about this guy over here? I ask. There's a snake that looks just like a rattler in one of the terrariums. "That's a Gopher Snake," the kid says. Gopher Snake, huh...and my brain gets to thinking...yes, even better. Problem is I don't have any money. All I've got is a dime bag of weed and a couple rocks I was looking to sell in case I needed the cash. Well, what are friends for?

I make the kid a deal and he looks at the mini-bags in my palm like they're the Holy Grail. He puts the snake in a box and tells me good luck. I could tell the kid was already thinking how fucked up he was going to get tonight.

You see -- being shit out of luck wasn't the only thing Jimmy was good at. He had a thing for snakes, and snakes must have had a thing for him. It must have been his I don't give a fuck attitude 'cause he had no fear of the legless beasts, and they seemed to sense it, felt right at home in his hands, around his neck.

So, just as the teens arrived for their tour, I went around back of the jail and found a window that was cracked open. Must have been a bathroom window by the smell of it. I opened the box and lifted Mr. Snake out by his tail. He was pretty fucking mellow for something that looked so dangerous. His tongue flicked at me as I lifted him up to the window and fed him in. Then I went back to my corner and watched the drama unfold.

All I wanted was for them to find the snake and maybe, just maybe, Jimmy would be in a position to do something right for once in his miserable life. Jimmy to the rescue. He'd tell the cops he had a way with snakes, and maybe the cops would let him catch it, save the day. And it would all be on film for the world to see. As luck would have it all hell broke loose, but none of the kind of hell I'd planned. There were screams. There were gunshots. When the dust finally cleared two teens were dead and so was Jimmy.

The official story was Jimmy broke out of his cell, and in an attempt to escape, killed two of the kids before he was put down by the cops. I didn't fucking believe that for a minute. And something else looked funny. It looked as if the cops were shaking down that TV crew, confiscating things.

So as the crew was packing up, I went to that cameraman I'd talked to earlier and asked him what went down. He just looked at me like he wished this day had never started. But then he said something I didn't expect. He leaned in and told me I was right. "Tag you're it," he said, then he handed me a video card, one of those flash memory cards they use for digital cameras, only this one was bigger.

So, after finally seeing what really went down -- how cops overreacted when Jimmy found the snake in his cell, telling him, with weapons drawn, to drop it like it was some kind of weapon, and how when Jimmy held the snake out to them, knowing it was harmless, one eager young rookie with a nervous trigger finger started shooting, bullets ricocheting off cell bars, spraying like sparks from a grinding wheel, hitting two kids in the process -- I knew what I had to do.

A friend of mine had internet, so we emailed the file to all the local television stations and the major networks. But it wasn't until we uploaded it to YouTube that the real shit hit the fan. For once, the good guys got screwed and one of the bad guys got to play hero.

Jimmy would have liked how things turned out. God rest his sorry-assed soul.

Kurt's stories have appeared in Dark Discoveries, Shroud and Polluto.  He lives in rural Connecticut where the only crime is how boring it is.

Kurt also has a novella out called Breaking Eggs that he co-wrote with L.L. Soares.  It was published last October by Sideshow Press and is available to buy here


David Barber said...

Kurt, this was so good on so many levels. Well written, an excellent story and an ending that made me feel so sorry for Jimmy. Great work, buddy!

Jimmy Callaway said...

I always have a soft spot for characters with that first name, but the story holds up well beyond that. Small-time crooks and their small-time lives and deaths are always a good subject.

Benjamin Sobieck said...

That second paragraph summed up my graduating class from high school.

kurtnewton said...

Thanks guys. Much appreciated.

Bill Baber said...

well done Kurt, very good flash!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I loved the narrator's voice, was perfect for this kind of story. Some great lines throughout too.

David Cranmer said...

I enjoyed this especially the final line.

kurtnewton said...

Thanks again everyone. I feel officially welcomed!

AJ Hayes said...

Walked straight through the story with not a foot put wrong. Sure and logical every step of the way. Everything happened the way it had to happen. Too bad but life is that way sometimes. You didn't flinch or backstep and left me with a little bit of joy for getting even with five-o and a whole lot of dammit! for the way jimmy got done to. Ilke it when a story does that for me. Thanks,Kurt. Good ride.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Yep. I'm with AJ. Perfectly done.

David Barber said...

Kurt, you are officially welcomed. Come back anytime!

kurtnewton said...

Thanks guys. David--thanks, you can bet on it.