The Snake

by Beckett Quirk, age 13
The Snake Beckett is 13 years old and goes to Saint Ann’s school in Brooklyn.

“As I walk to the street corner where I work, I feel free. No one is giving me funny looks. No one knows what I’m keeping in my bag. Then I get to the street corner and set down my hat. Already, people are looking at me. I reach down into my bag and pull out my snake, Jimmy. I drape him around my neck and start the day.”

As I walk to the street corner where I work, I feel free. No one is giving me funny looks. No one knows what I’m keeping in my bag. Then I get to the street corner and set down my hat. Already, people are looking at me. I reach down into my bag and pull out my snake, Jimmy. I drape him around my neck and start the day.

Now people are really staring, as looks of disgust are shot in my direction. I have grown accustomed to the look of shock when people notice Jimmy on my shoulder. Their eyes open wide. Some tap their friends and point towards me, and some take out their phone to take a photo. Some people walk by as briskly as possible, and some walk slowly and gape. No matter the reaction, people never stay. The sight of Jimmy is nothing but a minor distraction or a small break from the ordinary. Although it is odd and surprising, it is no marvel for this city.

Simply holding Jimmy barely makes me any money. If I want to eat dinner tonight, I need to make more of a spectacle. I take out the gummy bears and place one in my hand so that only Jimmy can see it. I place my hand about two feet above him and he reaches up. I slide my hand to the side and then to the side again. I do this until I create a steady sway to make it seem as if he is dancing. Now people are really taking notice of me. I see coins and some bills being dropped into my hat. I continue to sway him from side to side. My mind almost shuts down doing the same task all day. Then, I notice a man walking towards me.

He comes to me and says, “Do you want to join my circus?”

“Does it pay well?”

“Better than this.”

“What will I do for the circus?’

“Train snakes and maybe other animals.”

“Will I get a bonus per other animal?”

“Listen, you’re performing on the street, just take the job.”

“Alright. I’ll join your circus.”

It turns out that I can train other animals, not just snakes. Now, Jimmy is one of our top-selling points for the circus, and I train any animals that are new to the circus. I am training our bears. I need to chain them to a wall, so the only way they can walk is by standing up. Once they learn to stand up, we tie ropes to their necks and tug them so they do what we want. I have never had animals that are scared of me, but these bears are. When I come near them in their cages, they run to the opposite side.

I walk out of the circus tent, and there is a mob of PETA protesters. The protesters seem to mainly be kids from the neighboring college, but there are also a few older people. They hold signs, but all the signs say roughly the same thing. The signs say that all our animals are treated inhumanely. They say that we torture animals. I try to ignore them, but I can’t get the thought out of my head. Am I cruel? Is what I’m doing wrong? Yes.

In the morning, I go to the ringleader’s office. I am about to go in, but then I think about what life would be like if I quit. Where will I be? Stuck going to the same street corner and doing the same thing every day. Maybe I can find a job somewhere else, but here, I have stability. The possibility of needing to go back to street performing sounds too bad for me. I turn back and go to teach the bears more tricks.

 

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