Chapter 12 - Antidote Actress
Lilly caught her breath and relief washed over her. Now that Shakira had decided not to squeeze her till her eyes popped out and not only that but had decided to talk to her too, Lilly, being very smart, as secret agents have to be, had time to consider the importance of the TV. Although a TV in an animal’s enclosure in a zoo was unusual, Lilly was grateful that Shakira had one; it would give Lilly a way to talk to the snake about something the snake obviously felt passionate about. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet had really captured Shakira’s attention and gave Lilly the chance to persuade the boa that she was not just chatty food. Shakira had looked back at the screen as Romeo discovers Juliet, apparently dead, and for Romeo, unable to live without her, to drink poison. Shakira watched, her brow furrowed and a lump in her throat. “So sad,” she whispered hoarsely. The closing scene of this most famous of tragedies had Shakira on the edge of tears. Lilly eased herself a little more out of the slowly loosening coils, pleased that she was as yet, not the lump in the boa’s throat. And hoped that when Juliet woke from her potion induced sleep to find her lover dead, to dramatically take a dagger and plunge it into her chest, it would push Shakira over the edge, and if it did Lilly must be ready to catch the tear! Shakira looked emotional enough to cry as she spoke Juliet’s final lines along with her. "Yea, noise? Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger, this is thy sheath, there rust and let me die". It certainly put a tear in Lilly’s eye watching Shakira so engrossed in the play, showing all the signs of sadness Romeo and Juliet induces, all except that one golden tear. As Juliet slumped lifeless against her lover, Shakira looks back down at Lilly, who had managed to free herself from the boa’s grip and was holding a small glass vial that she had put in her pouch just for the purpose of catching a precious tear. Lilly smiled back sadly, wiped a tear way and complimented Shakira on her words, “You said that beautifully”.
Lilly’s compliment only seemed to make Shakira sadder as she sniffed tearlessly and croaked, “I’m a famous actress, you know”. “You are?” Lilly responded and racked her brains to think of a film she might have seen Shakira in. Conversation was good, conversation meant she was less likely to be eaten, and if she could keep Shakira in her sad state then she might even avoid being squeezed again. The only squeezing she wanted was for Shakira to squeeze out a medicinal tear and soon! Lilly really couldn’t think of anything that Shakira had been in, but perhaps that was a good thing; If Lilly didn’t recognize the snake as a famous actress, then perhaps Shakira would feel hurt? And that might bring forth a tear. “I’m sorry but I don’t think I have seen any of your films”, Lilly continued. Shakira gave Lilly a miserable smile. “That’s okay my little munchie morsel, I don’t suppose you would have. I have to do horror films. You know, Snakes on Planes, Boa Constrictor, Firewalker. Always the baddie! I did get a part in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; my first chance at not being a baddie. They had given me the part being as it is a boa in the book that Harry releases, and then for some unknown reason they change it in the film and gave MY part to a python.” Shakira said in a disgusted hiss.
It seemed that Shakira would talk for ever if Lilly let her and with little chance of a tear. She needed to take control, guide the conversation and she had an idea, but first she had to stop Shakira thinking of her as food! It was Lilly’s turn to put on a hurt face. “I will thank you for not referring to me as ‘little munchie morsel’. I am NOT your dinner, I am a teddy bear and most unappetising. I am Lilly, fluff and stuffing and most certainly NOT edible.” Lilly looked determinedly at the snake and tried to gauge her reaction. Shakira for her part, studied Lilly a little more, and then poked Lilly with her tail. “Hmm” she said and tasted the air with her tongue once more, “So if you’re not a munchie morsel why did you come through my food hatch, and why are you here?” Lilly told Shakira as quickly as she could about Rex and Mary, who was now to be called Harry, the monkeys and crocotearalitis. Shakira looked alarmed when Lilly explained about the zoo being closed and how she had to get a tear from Shakira to save the day. The snake sighed and looked very glum indeed. “Oh to be able to cry!” she wailed dryly. I could be Juliet if I could just cry, who wants a leading lady that cannot weep tears? Believe me little munch….believe me Lilly, if I could cry I would be world famous and you could have all the tears you need.” Shakira bowed her head in despair. “I haven’t shed a tear for years!”
Lilly watched the boa crumple into a sad pile, that looked more like an over cooked strand of spaghetti than a majestic snake. Lilly’s heart ached for Shakira, who so wanted to cry, but she had no time to dwell on Shakira’s inability to end her sadness by shedding a tear. Lilly climbed out from the down hearted snakes limp coils, and seated herself back on the branch she had been whisked off of previously, when Shakira has imagined her as a snack. Lilly cleared her voice and clapped her hands. “Excuse me Sinorita”. Shakira eyed Lilly from within her own crumpled heap suspiciously. Lilly continued enthusiastically, trying to lift the boa’s mood. “How about giving me a demonstration of your acting ability? I’d love to see you act, I really would: something really moving.” Shakira regained her composure a little once again becoming more snake and less spaghetti. “You would, really? You want so see me act, even though I cannot cry and you won’t be able to save the children from the crocodile tears?” Lilly nodded eagerly, and Shakira rose higher still, as if lifting herself out of her doldrums, the ledge she had been sprawled out on becoming her stage. “What shall I do? Shall I be Juliet?” Lilly shook her head. “You would need a Romeo.” How about Esmeralda?” Lilly once again, shook her head. “No hunchbacks round here. No it needs to be something really difficult, something that will show your acting at its best.” Lilly already knew what she wanted Shakira to do; she had right from the beginning, when she had realized that Shakira was approaching the tear thing from completely the wrong direction. Lilly struck her forehead with her paw, as if she had been hit by a sudden idea. “Got it!” She said triumphantly. “Imagine we are at the Oscars, and you have just won, after all if you’re as good as you say you are it will be good practise. Give me your acceptance speech.” Lilly had thrown down a challenge and a challenge that she knew Shakira could not resist. After all, it is what every aspiring actress dreams of: winning and Oscar and making THE speech.
Shakira gave Lilly a nonchalant grin; she was really beginning to like this funny bag of fluff. Do her acceptance speech for an Oscar, of course she could, goodness she had watched enough of them. Shakira smiled a wide crooked smile at Lilly. “Okay you’re on, I’ll do that then. You’ll have to cue me in with an introduction. I’ll nod when I am ready.” With that Shakira closed her eyes, became very still and took long slow breaths to compose herself for the part. Lilly checked her watch, ten minutes until the busses would be drawing up and the children were still stuck behind the gate and Miss Sharp was still teaching the Monkeys algebra. Slowly Shakira opened her eyes and nodded at Lilly to cue her in. Lilly did her best to sound like a compare at the Oscars, and pretended to read the back of an envelope. “And the nominees for best female are; Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn; Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady; Shakira as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. And the winner is.” Lilly opened the invisible envelope and after a long pause, said. “Shakira!” Leaned forward with a rounded block of wood that had been lying nearby on the ‘stage’ and presented it to the snake as if it were the little gold statue Shakira had always dreamed of.
As quickly as Shakira had grabbed Lilly, Shakira grasped the makeshift Oscar with her tail and pulled it close to her chest, her expressions running from surprise to shock to joy. “Meeeee, really, nooo! Oh my god! My goodness, I never….gosh, me, I can’t believe it!” Shakira spoke in a semi breathless gushes at first then slowed her speech a little as if she was bringing herself under control. “Goodness…really, I never expected this.” Shakira looked at her Oscar and back at the audience, Lilly, repeatedly. “My word, what can I say. I’m quite overcome!” And she did most certainly look overcome. Lilly wasn’t sure at first but it appeared the snakes eyes looked watery as Shakira began to thank a long list of people, including her mother, father, her voice coach and her therapist. As Shakira continued to reel off the unbelievably long list, from fellow actors to the janitor, her voice became croaky as if fighting back the tears. And that when it happened! Just as Shakira blubbed her thanks to imaginary audience that was made up by Lilly, a tear pooled in the corner of Shakira’s eye and rolled down her cheek, soaking into the stone floor and disappeared. Lilly had leaped forward with the small glass vial to catch the tear but alas, she was not quick enough. Though Lilly really didn’t need to worry, Lilly had been right. Shakira had spent all this time trying to feel sad so she could induce a tear. And had ignored the fact that tears can fall for joy too, and the single tear of joy that ran down Shakira’s cheek triggered real joy as the boa realized this fact too. Whilst it was true a Boa can only cry one tear a year. It is truer to say that it is one sad tear a year. However there was no restriction on tears of joy, and Shakira wept! She wept so many tears of joy that Lilly easily filled her vial, which she capped off with a cork and hastily said her goodbyes to a most grateful and tearful snake.
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