Elementary Novels

Arlo’s War by Frank Brennan

The world of snakes is a quiet place. The world of this snake was a box with glass instead of one side. The food froze at the wall – it was a frightened rat. The snake looked at the food. Her fangs had enough poison to kill ten adult men. She was more than two meters long. The snake started eating, and Arlo was looking at her through the glass. The man has recently discovered that snakes are completely deaf. He admires these reptiles: their patterns on the skin, their swift movements and deafness. They have a well-developed sense of smell, and they can also see the heat generated by living bodies. The snakes live in a cozy world without annoying sounds. They have enough vision to be deadly and don’t need to hear any sounds. Arlo would like to live in such a world too. He is jealous of snakes.

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Arlo’s War by Frank Brennan

The snake’s world was a silent one. Its world was a box with a glass front. It was staring at its next meal. Its meal, a rat, was staring back.

The rat sat frozen with fear in the corner of the large box. It heard a soft shaking sound and answered with a few high sounds of terror. The snake was hungry and moved quickly. It was a big North American diamond-backed rattlesnake, almost two meters long with enough poison in its bite to kill several men. The rat was soon dead and the snake stretched its jaws to begin the business of swallowing its meal.

Arlo's War by Frank Brennan

Arlo Penton sat and watched through the glass as Susie ate her rat. The sight made him feel a little uncomfortable – it always did – but that, he thought, was the way of Nature. And he did admire snakes. He admired their smooth beauty and their beautiful patterned skins. But most of all he admired their deafness.

Arlo had discovered some years before that snakes were completely deaf. They depended mostly on their highly developed sense of smell, and their tongues could actually taste smells from the air. As well as this, their expressionless eyes could see the heat given off by the bodies of other animals. Arlo watched with feelings of deep respect as the rat slowly disappeared down Susie’s throat.

The snake lived in a world without annoying continuous noise. A silent world. To Arlo, snakes stood for beauty and perfection. He loved to watch them and admire them. If only his own world could be as silent as theirs! That was why he had caught Susie. More correctly, he had Chico – a local gardener – catch her for him. Susie had been caught in the rocky dry land that bordered Tucson, Arizona, where Arlo lived. Chico was most casual in the way he touched dangerous snakes. Sometimes he would even eat them. ‘They’re good to eat and they’re free,’ he would say. This disgusted Arlo, not because he didn’t like the idea of snakes being used as food, but because he thought it failed to give the snake enough respect. Nevertheless, he was glad Chico had found Susie. She was a beauty…

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