"What kind is this one, Avi?” A youthful voice asked. Avi turned to find Margreth, his kid sister, holding a snake, thick as her arm, high over her head. Avi was still thinking of his conversation with Rachit a few moments earlier. He reached for the snake and took it from her grasp. She explained, “I found it near the house. There's a whole nest of them. What kind is it, Avi?”
“Hey little fella,” Avi said as he took and held the arm-length serpent up to the sunlight. The snake crawled and stretched out the length of Avi’s arm, tickling him as he slithered. Avi laughed at the sensation. He pointed to a place behind its head. “See, Margreth, you can tell what kind of snake he is by the neck. See how it’s wider here?” Avi pointed to its sides where the body flattened out.
“If you tickle him, he’ll do a dance for you.” Avi gently ran his fingers over the snake’s belly until the creature raised up and looked him in the face. He broadened his neck until he looked striking.
“So, what kind of snake is it, Avi?” Margreth asked once more. Her face was beaming with enthusiasm. Avi hesitated, knowing it would build anticipation.
“It’s called a cobra,” he said. “Here, he’s friendly.” He reached out to let the snake crawl onto Margreth’s shoulder. The cobra slithered happily to his new companion. She giggled as he glided over the tender skin under her cheek. Its tongue tickled her ear and grazed the side of her head. Her laughter grew more exuberant.
“Margreth, where is Dad?”
“He's with Momma; baby's due today,” Margreth said, which jostled her new snaky pet. That lit off another round of laughter as the cobra topped her head and began down the other side of her face. He patted her on the shoulder. “Have fun, Sis.” She ran off, shouting the names of her siblings. She obviously couldn't wait to share her discovery with them.
“Dad,” Avi called. He stepped through the back door of the house, calling once more. It was a modest cabin some ancestors had helped his father had build. The wood was rubbed shiny, where he let his hand slide over the open door frame. A squeak from the noisy floor announced his entrance.
Into the open-air cabin spilled shafts of amber sun. He reached for the light switch out of habit, even though the room was bright. “Dad?” He passed through the length of the house. Avi paused only a moment to listen.
“Dad,” he called as he walked through the frame of the front door.
“Over here, Avi,” His dad called. He heard his voice before he saw him. Glancing toward the small fruit orchard, he stepped over the threshold with a smile. It could have been a painting.
“Oh, did I miss the fun?” Avi asked. He had been around for many of his siblings’ births.
“The fun is just beginning,” his dad said. “Your mother did great.”
“It was a wonderful birth,” Avi’s mother said. She was leaning against a trunk in the orchard. She had the radiant glow that the ecstatic bliss of giving birth brought. She held in her arms, a brand new baby boy. Avi’s father knelt next to her and took the baby in his arms.
“What’s his name?” Avi asked.
“That’s a nice name,” Avi said.
“Avi, Honey, could you hold Galiun for a moment while I go get cleaned up?” his mother asked.
Taking his new brother in his arms, he knelt. The warmth, the rose-colored cheeks, the soft touch, it made Avi wonder if he would have his own sons and daughters one day. Inevitably the thought led to Amoli Patel, the prettiest girl he knew. He was careful not to let the thought linger long.
“I’m going to check on your mother.”
“Hey, Dad,” Avi said. “Could we talk in a bit?”
"Sure, son,” his dad said as he walked out of the orchard and into the house.
Avi was alone with the baby, cradling him gently. Warmth surrounded his body like a blanket as he stared into the cooing boy’s face. Avi glanced about to make sure no one else was around.
When he confirmed he and his baby brother were alone, he swayed. Music bubbled up from deep inside. With the baby's smile, he felt the river of song rumbling upward from deep waters. Music gushed from him like a valley flood after mountain rains. He hummed–whimsical, and free. The lyric dripped from the sweet melody. The song vibrated through his body like wet thunder.