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Member Spotlight - Jun 25, 2021

A few years ago, in the middle of the night, I woke up thinking that I needed to do something about my backyard.

“The Snake Path” is a sparkling gem of a story, from its diamondback rattlesnake pattern to its baseball diamonds. Resplendent with shimmering metaphors and imagery, it embodies the five Cs of storytelling: it’s captivating, comic, clear, clever and creative. Reading it is like walking along a winding path with a close friend, taking moments to recount a shared memory or laugh.
Lori B. leads you into a dusty backyard world in Tucson, Arizona, which “looks like the set of Lawrence of Arabia.” We can feel the intense heat of the sun, as we take in the “ugly, barren landscape that filled up with weeds once in a while.” Fed up with her “dull, dusty, annoying life,” our narrator decides to revitalize her yard, hoping to solve both her internal and external conflict.
Contrary to typical gardening advice, it turns out this arid environment is the perfect place to plant a seed, one that “began to grow like a mushroom in the dark, fertile night” of her mind. But what will it grow into? Hint: it’s not roses or a tomato plant—or a beanstalk, although there is a dusting of magic to come.
Try not to laugh
Every now and then, this short story is laugh-out-loud funny. Often formulated parenthetically, these light-hearted turns pierce through heavier emotional themes with welcome moments of relief. In one example, after mentioning that the previous homeowners left behind some bricks, she remarks:

I'd been wondering how to get rid of them (the bricks, not the owners).

These interspersed witty lines aren’t only funny, though. They bridge the gap between us and this narrator, providing immediacy that offers insight into her life. At one point we get a joke at her own expense: “Like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's rendering, my snake was long and skinny, and it bulged out in the middle. (And no, it was not a self-portrait, although there are certain similarities.)” There’s a bit of playful self-deprecation here, offering a glimpse into how she views herself.
Overall, this humor acts as a vehicle for the narrator's strong voice and wry tone. She speaks casually, in a way that is both relatable and accessible, letting us in on her the thoughts as they happen. It doesn’t feel like we're reading a stranger’s story; it feels like we're hearing it from a close friend.
Alliteration abounds
As we discussed in our blog, earlier this week, alliteration can be more than funny. By linking words together through a shared initial letter, Lori prompts the reader to take them together. In this sentence, she highlights how the dreary backyard parallels the drab life of the speaker:

Truth be told, I was tired of my dull, dusty, annoying life.

An alliterative phrase also has the power to emphasize a non-alliterative phrase that follows. In the phrase “Setting my glass on the single ceramic tile that served as a coaster, I was reminded again of Jack,” we hear a string of “s” sounds in the dependent clause, fitting for a story about a snake. Then, in the latter half of the sentence, the repeated sound pattern is broken, making “I was reminded again of Jack” (her lost brother) all the starker.
Snakes: evil no more
From the serpent in the Garden of Eden to the Basilisk in Harry Potter, when we come across snakes in stories, they most often symbolize evil. Sometimes they’re bad omens, foreshadowing an incredible misfortune, or maybe just enough to send a protagonist running for the hills.
In “The Snake Path,” Lori flips that idea on its head.
Beyond the title, we first come across a snake with a “dream about a mushroom that turned into a tree, and then into a giant snake.” The speaker suggests it could be a symbol of transition as stated by her therapist, like an unconventional caterpillar: but she isn’t yet sure of its meaning. It isn’t until she connects her dream snake to the one in The Little Prince , which swallows an elephant, that she realizes it could be more than a transitional path, and even harbor magical potential. She decides:

It would be a magic path, one that an elephant might come and walk upon. It had better be a strong one.

The magic here is twofold. The path itself ends up being a way for her to reconnect with her brother. As she builds it, she fondly recalls many memories, from the time they tried to dig a hole to China to Jack rounding home plate in a childhood baseball game. Then, he literally becomes a part of the path, as the ceramic tile he gifted her is precisely the right size and shape to fill the one missing spot. Talk about kismet! With its many twists and turns, the path comes to represent the continuity of life. It goes on, but Jack has a special place within it.
As for the elephant, the speaker says in the last paragraph that she’s “still waiting for [it] to show up.” Since she dreamed of the snake and brought it to life, and is now dreaming of the elephant, we can only imagine it’s not far off. Like in The Little Prince, we’re reminded that creativity can be transformational. In fact, I think I can hear the distant trumpet bellow of that elephant right now.
Try this: Take another common symbol from literature: rain corresponding with sorrow. As Lori does with the snake, flip this common symbolism on its head, and write a few lines where a character radiates joy on a stormy day. Be sure you send us your paragraph so we can feature it in our next blog!
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