Adder

by Pierce Nahigyan

The honey badger had been staring at the puff adder for two minutes. In Africa, two minutes can be a very long time.

It had already been a rough day for the puff adder. The sun was very hot. And though its scales gleamed beautifully in the light, its cold blood was heated past the point of comfort. It wanted the shade. But the honey badger, and by the look of it an old nasty one, was transfixed.

The puff adder inflated its neck and swayed over its coils. He hissed. The honey badger scratched its nose and squinted at him.

The adder was poisonous. It could kill most things. It could probably kill the honey badger, given time, but honey badgers didn’t mind being bit and were more concerned with finishing an intended opponent and then eating it. Honey badgers killed and ate and were afterwards killed by a great deal of horrendous African predators. Honey badgers did this, the adder believed, due to a hiccup in evolution. Rather, Honey Badgers did not survive because they were the fittest, they survived merely because they had not found a way to kill and eat evolution.

Adaptation was a concept. And like any concept, the honey badger took it as an excuse to start a fight.

“Look,” said the adder, “you may eat me before my poison takes full effect, but you will die. If you go east and I continue west, we can pretend like we didn’t see each other. It’s been a very hot day and I’m just not in the mood to kill anything. Or be killed.”

The honey badger put its sharp claws in the dirt. It hunched forward. “Ad astra per aspera,” the honey badger said.

Most honey badgers spoke Latin. They did this, in the main, to piss off the other animals.

The adder tried to keep its temper. “Please,” it said. “If there is any reasonable part of you, indulge it, indulge me, and we’ll start fresh tomorrow.”

The honey badger did not give a fig for tomorrow. It bounded after the adder and the adder fled from its snorts and its slavering jaws and its repeated shouts of “Ad captandum vulgus!” The adder wasn’t sure which crowd it intended to catch or people to please, but as it was stabbing the creature with its fangs and being pummeled over the hot ground it considered that the honey badger was being sarcastic. It was a vicious beast.