“Why be a snake?” The scaly coils pulled in, an inquisitive glance outward, then eyes upward in thought. The tail lifted to touch the chin, thinking, thinking.
“I guess,” it said finally, “because I love it. I love eating things… Digesting things through a tube that’s my body. Plus, it’s sexy to be a snake.”
The lion shook its mane. He had been about to eat a snake this afternoon, but then it had begun talking to him, philosophizing, expressing deep thought at the mouth of death, finally asking the bigger, deeper questions of what lay behind its slithery-snake nature. The lion felt compelled to give it its chance to survive. Would it survive? The lion’s stomach rumbled, said, “Most likely not.” The lion’s eyes showed deep pools of burnished gold, the forehead was crinkled, the whiskers were sloping down with the down-turned mouth… Now, deep thought was occurring in both these animals.
“I could wait to eat you until we get to my den, instead of doing it out here, if it’d give you time to talk things out?” Mercy was new to the lion, and so he settled for a sort of forced politeness.
The words shocked the snake, it remembered suddenly where it was. Grass rustled, a puff of dirt sprang up as the serpent jerked away, a full convulsion of the body that sent it backward in a lightning flash of movement, only to be pinned down by the lion’s yellow paw in an instinctual, feline motion designed to be even faster.
The sun hung low on the horizon as the snake swung from the lion’s jaws, held so firm as to be trapped, held so gently that it was able to ride uninjured. Seeing that it was still safe and whole (at least until they arrived at the lion’s den), the snake’s contemplative monologue continued.
“Well, I certainly didn’t expect to see the day’s sunset in such a state as this! My head dangling upside down from a cat’s mouth, whose saliva is ruining the finish on all my scales. Honestly, how do I keep getting in these situations? And why don’t I feel in the least bit frightened? And you, lion,” it turned its hanging head to address him, “why is it that I’m still alive?”
The lion’s mouth was full, so he said nothing. But he did think to himself how strange it was that he’d gone through his whole life never knowing snakes could talk.