From The Threepenny Review:
We meet a fat diamondback five minutes down the trail. He is stretched across the path, dozing in the shade of a juniper bush. I’m an adult, so I want to act like one, but I’m crying so hard I can’t inhale and snot is dribbling into my mouth. It takes me twenty minutes to inch past the viper, while his tongue whips the air. After that, I search out a long, heavy stick to thump on the ground and jostle the creosote scrub before passing. My husband, Kevin, and our two friends are sympathetic, but my pace is agonizingly slow, and they drift ahead. I hear them chattering, always around the next bend, while blood bangs through my head like a Taiko drum.
The whole park is rattlesnake color, and it’s breeding season. We camp among the mating snakes for three nights. We hear no rattles, receive no death threats. Exhaustion renders my terror quiet and viscous. “Snake,” I breathe, as we ease past yet another languid viper looped beside the trail. They’re draped everywhere, as in my dreams.
The last one we cross is pasted to the frontage road. It must have bitten an oncoming tire; its mouth is spread open like a flower, the tiny yellow points of its teeth splayed. The pink flesh of its throat is turning to leather in the desert sun.