The Snake King Sells Out
by Rahul Kanakia
After his abdication ceremony, Norman stayed away from his old kingdom: the dancepits
beneath the bridge; the alleys where discarded shells and coils of molted skin hung from
streetside stalls; the boiling cauldrons where his people softened their carapaces and
anonymously impregnated each other; and, most of all, the huge vacant lot where he'd once held
court from atop a tall slab of granite that his subjects had stolen from a construction site.
Instead, he retreated to the backyard of a former admirer. He found the handsaw that the man had
said he owned. Perry put down a blue tarp, slithered onto it, and went to work.
The spines running down his back snapped off at their hilts. He collected them in a bucket. The
interlocking horns emanating in a tangle from his forehead and scalp had been the largest rack in
Oakland's Scaletown, where the money that the scale-dealers would pay for a few inches of horn
was often the only thing standing preventing a snake from starving. Perry had become king
because he'd refused to make those compromises. But now, he carefully sawed off the rack and
swaddled it in a blanket.
When Perry had told his fellow kings what he was planning, the conclave had hissed at him. He
was the heaviest and oiliest snake amongst them. His durable carapace had once totaled a Ford
Explorer that had tried to run him down. How could someone like that ever go back to being
pink, soft, naked? But Perry was firm. He didn't want to spend his life as king of a squat. He
knew he was capable of more.
Finally, even his scales were peeled away, packed in paper, and loaded onto the bed of a
borrowed truck. Then he carefully sanded down the last few millimeters of scale with a large file
and collected the glittering dust in a jar. He checked himself in a hand-mirror. Perry looked like
a human again; he looked like the man his parents had expected him to grow up into.