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3 o' clock is always too late or too early for whatever it is you want to do.

I rode the bus home, sitting behind a young Mexican man talking to a young Ecuadorian woman. He was wearing too much cologne and she was wearing too much eye make-up, but they both seemed to be lit from the inside. I've seen them before. Always when it rains, and always on the bus. Under the cologne was the smell of cigarettes and bodies that always permeates a city bus, riding on a wave of gas fumes. The storm clouds were dark, and tearing at each other in the frenzy to envelope the sky. It was a stampede of steel grey buffalo tumbling end over end. No one on the bus ever knows where to look, especially me because I can be terribly shy at times, so I just stared up at the clouds.

I looked for so long that I almost missed my stop, but managed to pull the cable just in time. The grass outside seemed electric green in the dim afternoon light, and it glistened with the fine mist that was blowing everywhere around me. I walked slowly up the long road to my house, dodging cars dodging me. A tired mother type of woman was pushing a wheel barrow full of plants through her yard, wearing a t-shirt and dark green sweatpants. I smiled at her and she nodded, breathing heavily, a strand of dark brown hair dangling in front of her left eye. Up ahead a road crew had dug trenches alongside the street, for whatever their secret purpose. One of them sprinted down the road to their van, hardhat in hand, mission unknown. I noticed that the dirt was a deep rich red, almost pulsating. Burnt Sienna bordering on crimson.

The streets were slick but the mist had abated temporarily. I crossed the first intersection, walking past the house that I fear. It is stark white, never dirty, with a perfectly manicured lawn. No furniture on the porch or cars in the drive. Metal awnings hang over all the windows so that you can tell light never enters the house from the outside. Something always just feels evil about that house, and I hate that I walk past it. It was then that I noticed the snake on the ground. It was on its back, still, but perfectly intact. I picked it up to examine it, and saw a tiny spot of blood near its eye. It looked as though it could have still been alive. And there I was, a lone scrawny kid, oversized grey hooded sweatshirt, standing by the side of the road holding a small dead garter snake.

That was when the hail began. The first piece hit my hand with a smack, and was big enough to not melt once it smashed into the ground. Smaller pieces began to catch me in the shoulders and head. I walked across the street with the snake and placed it in the grass. I'll be damned if I'm going to leave it in the yard of that dead metal monster of a house. The hail stung me all ovee, making an unimaginable racket as it fell onto the rooves and cars all down the street. I pulled my hood up and finished the rest of the walk. I sat on the porch swing at the house and pulled my wet shoes off. I could barely breathe from the surreality of the whole thing.


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