Size / / /

He has now worked himself up

to seven live doses,

but continues to align the punctures

so that

when he swabs the bite marks

with a poultice

derived from freshly-caught cuttlefish,

the ink remains

behind in a pattern. Supposedly,

the practice is Persian —

the tolerance-building, not the tattooing;

Olympus knows

there are enough ink-stained sailors

in any blue-water port —

and the story is told how some ancient

king acclimated

himself to a deadly poison by imbibing

ever increasing amounts

of the anticipated toxin. So he has done

with the snakes,

starting with one barely dry from its eggy

release, then

continuing on up until a veritable brood

of adult vipers

was employed. The poison sickened him,

of course —

especially in the beginning, and even

with his

Semideid heritage; but gradually he grew

less ill

with each new administration of sharp-

toothed virulence.

Six long months of fever and vomit

later, he

believes himself ready, and with

the firebolt

of his father, the Thunderer, now

completely etched

along his arm like a sinew of

black flame,

he will burn this last batch of snakes

in the temple.

On the morrow he leaves for Lerna,

to slay

the multi-headed monster of

the swamps.

And if it chooses to bite him in

any of its

adderish complicity, he will laugh

in defiance,

like the son of a god he has always

been. Better

still, if for breakfast today, he dines on

roast snake,

it will be, for once, with true relish.

Robert Borski works for a consortium of elves repairing shoes in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. You can read more of his work in our archives.
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8 Aug 2022

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