It wasn’t the copperhead’s fault that my boot came down on its tail, no more than it was Bobby’s fault that he’d been raised by a snake-handler and only did what he had to, out there in the woods, after it was too late to get the snake’s fangs back into its mouth. Though the hooked needles hadn’t broken through the leather, Bobby took the head off with a hard blow from the machete he kept strapped to his back whenever we went out into the woods. With the tip of the blade, he showed me how even when severed from the body, a writhing coiled S bleeding out on the pine straw, the jaw would still strike for hours, sometimes days. The tip of Bobby’s blade was rusting with drying blood as he carefully pointed out the keeled scales, the triangular head, the vertically slit pupil indicative of pit vipers. He said it wasn’t my fault, that copperheads weren’t supposed to be this far east of the Apalachicola and certainly not during this time of year. Cottonmouths, sure, I was looking for their deep brown and black bands, the fiery belly. But not the sand and tan colors of copperheads. Guilty, because all the copperhead was doing was being a snake, I didn’t want to leave the gaping mouth there on the ground, waiting for some prey that’d never get eaten. I dug a hole, and Bobby used his blade to scoot the head into it, covering it with dirt and a big rock. We left the body for the birds and raccoons.

Allie Marini Batts can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math, and her work has appeared in over 100 literary publications that her parents haven’t heard of. She is an MFA student at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her work and book reviews are available at and