by Thomas Roberdeau

A character actor from a hit horror trilogy remembers how good his life used to be. 1,702 words. illustration by John Thomas Carlucci.

Are you ready? Start your tape recorder.

In the movies they used to call me Snake-Man. They did. I was the only one they ever called Snake-Man before or since. I was.

I made three movies, a trilogy. I made them five years ago in the City. Another time, another life. They weren’t bad. They were good action pictures. We made all three of them in about a year and a half. We first did Dawn Of The Snake-Man, then we followed that up with The Thing Called Snake-Man, and the last one was political so we called it Rabooba: Snake-Man’s Revenge. I carried a .44 Magnum in that one.

I don’t carry a gun no more, though. No more guns for me.

They called me Snake-Man because that’s exactly what I looked like, a Snake-Man. There weren’t too many actors who could have pulled it off, I know that. I used to play a lot of foreign spies, just small bit parts, before I got a chance to be Snake-Man in my own shows. Before I got to star.

Oh, I think just about everybody saw a Snake-Man picture. But I don’t go to the movies too much anymore, since I left the business.

Snake-Man was a special kind of character, very unique, you know. We created Snake-Man in the first picture from a muddy hole in a log. A log that was found floating down the river in the middle of the swamp. A little girl was fishing and she snagged it, hauled it up to shore. And she noticed a little egg embedded in the mud. It was the Snake-Man Embryo, or the Snake-Man Tadpole, that cracked out of the muddy egg and was to grow up and be the adult Snake-Man. So in the first part of the film, they shot me naked and curled up like a fetus, then processed the film in a special way so that I looked smaller than the little girl. So she took the tiny Snake-Man Baby home and put it in water. Her father didn’t like it. He was a state senator, mean and rigid and repressed, because his wife was having an affair with her tennis instructor. So the senator emptied the Snake-Man baby out into the garden, which turned out to be the best thing for Snake-Man because there was a lot to eat, good weeds and worms and flowers and potatoes. Snake-Man was able to grow up fast.

The little girl would come out sometimes and play her flute in the garden, not knowing exactly where Snake-Man Baby was but having faith, real true faith, that Snake-Man Baby would hear her flute music and know that she loved him and wished him well. The kid that played the little girl was pretty, but she couldn’t play the flute for shit, so we had to dub the sound of it in later. But she could really emote. Could really turn on the tears and scream her little heart out, all on cue. Really marvelous. We didn’t have to trick her or spank her or keep her lunch away from her, like you sometimes have to do to get these kid actors to cooperate. She was fine. A sweet dear little emotional kid with a good imagination.

She almost believed Snake-Man was real. I know she did. She would show me so in her eyes. Light grey eyes, like glass. Almost transparent, her eyes were, which was a good contrast because Snake-Man had big dark bulbous eyes. Eyes like black pits of swamp, which is why Snake-Man had to wear dark glasses when he went incognito among the humans.

I made plenty of money in those days. Sometimes people would stop me on the street and say, “Hey, you’re Snake-Man, aren’t you?” I was real happy being Snake-Man. They were “art” pictures, you know what I mean? Our cinematographer had great skill. We didn’t just pump out crap, no we didn’t! We carefully thought out every angle of plot.

I could do pretty much anything I wanted. I improvised a lot. I even wrote some scenes of my own. Like in Rabooba, I had Snake-Man burst through the tall glass windows of that Georgetown mansion, blazing away with his .44 Magnum at the spies pretending to be diplomats at that dinner party. Snake-Man had found out that some lobbyists had a plot brewing to privatize prisons and to sterilize all the radical thinkers who had been incarcerated. Poison their food. Give them chemicals in their coffee. So Snake-Man got so irate that he almost lost his mind, jumping through those tall windows, scattering shards of glass everywhere. And he started mowing down all those spies, lobbyists and politicians who he knew were part of the great conspiracy. He got one Russian terrorist right between the eyes.

But Snake-Man was outnumbered; he got caught in the dining room.

The men of the private security firm guarding the party all had automatic weapons. They clubbed Snake-Man and knocked him cold, then they threw him in the mansion’s wine cellar. He was unconscious for hours… until he got the secret note. That was my idea that a dark hand would slip the note to Snake-Man under the locked door of the cellar. Snake-Man heard the paper rustling so he woke up. He was chained to the wall and it was dark, but he could inch his foot over and pick at the tiny piece of paper with his claw. So he slid it over to himself and a tiny sliver of moonlight fell over the ink, so he could read what it said: “I know your plight. Your might is right. Keep courage, keep faith. I am coming! – Rabooba.”

Yeah, Rabooba! When everyone had left Snake-Man alone to die, even those who Snake-Man had helped to save from evil, only Rabooba came to his aid. Only Rabooba cared enough to try to help Snake-Man. That’s what the note meant, and it made tears come to Snake-Man’s big eyes. It did. For the first time in his life, Snake-Man was taken over by emotion. Real pure emotion… and hope.

But then, nothing. Nothing happened. That was the end of the picture.

We shot that scene last, with Snake-Man getting so emotional over Rabooba’s message. We ended the film there. We wanted to leave the audience hanging, you know? Leave them panting for more so they would all come back to the next sequel to see what happened. We were going to continue with the series and shoot the fourth movie, which would make the trilogy into a quartet. But things happened. Nasty things happened to all of us. Nasty things in all of our relationships.

You know what I mean? Maybe you don’t. But movie people can get greedy. We made so much money on the Snake-Man pictures that everyone wanted more and more. None of us had much money when we started out, but the movies were so successful that we all made out okay. (I bought this great Airstream that we’re sitting in with my share! I can drive it anywhere I want and park it like a king of the road, which I do. Living, sleeping where I want.)

But sadly, it soon became cut-throat for everybody. Everyone except me and the cinematographer began playing around, making it with everybody in sight, no matter who they were with, and buying things things like the cash would never stop.

Nobody but me and the DP seemed to take the movies we were making seriously anymore. He shot test footage of miles and miles of underground tunnels that we were going to use as a location for a big chase scene in the next film. The tunnels had natural gas seeping in, so you’d get these little flames jutting out that Snake-Man would be running through. Really beautiful. But we never shot it because sex and money was rubbing out art. Even my own wife! She and the director got together behind my back.

I found out about this when I was touring shopping malls doing publicity for our films. My wife and the director were shacked up in various motels, hidden away from daylight and making love like I didn’t exist anymore. She was our film editor, so they had spent many — so many — hours with each other in the dark editing room, cutting Snake-Man apart in celluloid. I guess it was inevitable, but I loved Andrea very much. I never wanted to lose her, especially like that. But you never know what is in someone’s heart, do you?

She had red flaming hair, just like her lips. We would take long walks around the City above the freeways. We would touch each other in secret places, and kiss each other in secret places, and we would try to discover the most unusual spots we could make love in. Once we even made love with great passion on top of that huge prehistoric elephant, that marble mammoth that stands in the tar pits. We got tar on us but didn’t care.

Andrea was so lovely, I always told her she could have been an actress because of her beauty and lively spirit. But she would just laugh at me and say I was teasing her. Now I hear she is in pictures in just that way. She acts as the star in our ex-director’s new films, doesn’t she?

I should go see the movies, I know, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Her face and body high up there on screen, larger than the life we had together…

You know what I mean?

You should try to see a Snake-Man picture someday. The last was the best. It was. Snake-Man was never better. He was clean and pure of heart. “Right was right, and wrong was wrong.” That was Snake-Man’s creed. Something he knew about the world from the first moment the egg burst. An instinct, you know. Almost a psychic thing. Almost mystical. Yes… almost mystical…

About The Author:
Thomas Roberdeau
Thomas Roberdeau is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. His short historical dramas for PBS and BBC have received 2 CINE Golden Eagle awards. He has written/produced hour-long documentaries for History Channel and scripted feature screenplays, one produced by Cinemax and another published as a book. He has received grants and fellowships from National Endowment For The Arts, California Arts Council and Djerassi Foundation.

About Thomas Roberdeau

Thomas Roberdeau is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. His short historical dramas for PBS and BBC have received 2 CINE Golden Eagle awards. He has written/produced hour-long documentaries for History Channel and scripted feature screenplays, one produced by Cinemax and another published as a book. He has received grants and fellowships from National Endowment For The Arts, California Arts Council and Djerassi Foundation.

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