Today, we welcome “Year of the Snake” by A. J. Bermudez to our New Voices catalog. A triptych following the zodiac calendar, “Year of the Snake” illustrates how much we can change—our goals, visions, definitions of success—and how much stays the same.
Chùsi dies on stage, grandly, then bows beneath a halo of lights, unfazed by the tenuous causality between a 400-year-old play and saving the animals. They will write checks, this sea of pocketbooks and suit jackets, and she will have been part of it, touched by the tumid thrill of casual largess. She, too, will save the elephants tonight.
Chùsi is ten today, double digits, an achievement marked by the coming-of-age sacrament of frybread with sprinkles and icing for breakfast. Cupcakes are scheduled for 3:00, but Chùsi got what she came for.
This is the year of the brick-by-brick dismantling of the Soviet Bloc, the ascent of Vaclav Havel, and Chùsi’s pronouncement, for the first and only time, of her aspiration to become a professional roller skater. The coming years will be rife with disillusionment regarding the prospects of a career in roller skating––to say nothing of the ideological affinity between East and West—but today these things are irrefutable.
Chùsi drapes herself over the rail of the penguin habitat, propped on the rubber toe stop of her size three, white Chicago Rollers like a pro. Her legs, precariously long, shiver with the chill of shipped-in ice, the glinting heat of an eternal San Diego June.
A few yards off, a khaki-slacked guide delivers a careful, sweeping monologue about the tundra biome to a coterie of tourists, none of whom has given any indication of understanding English. They peer from beneath sun visors in every direction, but primarily upward, where members of the zoo staff balance on ladders, winding streamers over the stumpy limbs of faux baobab trees. Chùsi watches, mesmerized, as though witnessing an act of suburban vandalism transpire in slow motion.
“Decorations for the annual gala,” the guide explains. He launches into a brief lecture on permafrost, and then, because no one is listening, he says, “The zoo, ladies and gentlemen. A shrine to anthropocentrism.”