his wife and young son
"You're the one who wants to sit in a cage full of deadly snakes. Can you tell me why?"
"Because I'm going for the record," Orest said.
"Why would you want to get killed going for a record?"
"What killed? Who said anything about killed?"
"You'll be surrounded by rare and deadly reptiles."
"They're the best at what they do. I want to be the best at what I do."
"What do you do?"
"I sit in a cage for sixty-seven days. That's what it takes to break the record."
"Do you understand that you are risking death for a couple of lines in a paperback book?"
He looked searchingly at Heinrich, obviously holding the boy responsible for this idiotic line of questioning.
"They will bite you," I went on.
"They won't bite me."
"How do you know?"
"Because I know."
"These are real snakes, Orest. One bite, that's it."
"One bite if they bite. But they won't bite."
"They are real. You are real. People get bitten all the time. The venom is deadly."
"People get bitten. But I won't."
I found myself saying, "You will, you will. These snakes don't know you find death inconceivable. They don't know you're young and strong and you think death applies to everyone but you. They will bite and you will die."
I paused, shamed by the passion of my argument. I was surprised to see him look at me with a certain interest, a certain grudging respect. Perhaps the unbecoming force of my outburst brought home to him the gravity of his task, filled him with intimations of an unwieldy fate.
"They want to bite, they bite," he said. "At least I go right away. These snakes are the best, the quickest. A puff adder bites me, I die in seconds."
"What's your hurry? You're nineteen years old. You'll find hundreds of ways to die that are better than snakes."
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