When Bebe and Kumar Met Halloween Night at the Lizard Lounge in Vegas by Kathryn Silver-Hajo

She was dressed as a belly dancer—all fake-silver coins and gauzy material—cheesy for sure, especially given her Afghani heritage, but she had the outfit already so what the hell? Kumar, clad head to toe in body-fitting snakeskin, had slithered around drunken revelers to reach her, looked into her green-hazel eyes with his flaring amber ones with such confidence her knees buckled. He coiled his arm around her bare waist, led her to the bar, ordered two Green Lizards. She favored gin over tequila, but Kumar made her feel wildly adventurous. His sibilant manner of speaking and agile hips made her want to try new things.

Even their names resonated, reminding her of an ancient Afghan fable. She wouldn’t tell Kumar for days that Khastakhumar was an actual snake who married a thorn-gatherer’s daughter named Bibinagar, that the story got really complicated, involving him turning into a gorgeous human in her bed, jealous sisters who burned his shed skin, ruining everything, not to mention rivers of pus and blood, and other weird shit. She didn’t want him thinking she was contemplating marriage or getting him into her bed, which she totally was.

But when she recounted the story, he was mesmerized, said his parents were Indian, not Afghan, but still. Once again, he was snakeskin-swathed, though she was in jeans and a tie-dye t-shirt. They’d both had too many Grasshoppers when Kumar hissed in her ear, Say, sexy, let’s slip this saloon and sleep under the stars in the sandy desert! Bebe replied that she was up for nearly anything with him, but the one traditional thing about her was the no-sex-before-marriage thing. Simple, said he, It’s Vegas, Let’s say some vows together! She teased back, Such a silly ceremony, sir, but sure!

So it came to pass that Bebe and Kumar wed and set out to consummate their love beneath the gibbous moon. He wound around her by a sheltering dune, but before her horrified eyes he sprouted fangs, forked tongue darting towards her parted lips. She recoiled from the snake-formerly-known-as-Kumar, wailing, No! This isn’t how it’s supposed to end!

Bebe ran through the night, the wind whispering that the star-crossed lovers had got it all wrong and the curses in the original story were happening in reverse and she’d best flee this place on fleet feet, forget that snake of a man.

Kathryn Silver-Hajo’s work was selected for the 2023 Wigleaf Top 50 Longlist and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, Best Small Fictions, and Best American Food Writing. Kathryn’s work appears in Atticus Review, CRAFT, Emerge Literary, Ghost Parachute, New Flash Fiction Review, Pithead Chapel, Ruby Literary, The Phare, and other lovely journals. Her flash collection Wolfsong and novel Roots of The Banyan Tree were both published in 2023. More at: kathrynsilverhajo.com; facebook.com/kathryn.silverhajo; twitter.com/KSilverHajo; instagram.com/kathrynsilverhajo

vintage photo of a belly dancer
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