They pay us before we catch the first snake. Our reputation has spread for this kind of work, and now the villages we approach trust us enough to pay us before our work is done, however much we look like gypsies. I think they would rather not see us after the job is done anyway. They call me a witch, my husband a conjuror. They let us into the village to deal with their ‘problem’, but they wouldn’t be so quick to let us stay the night. Or help us if we were in trouble.

I know this only too well from long experience.

The snakes, they tell us, infest the canyon just short of the river. There are so many of them they come up through the tall grass three or four times a day. A few children have died already, and more than a few of their livestock. Snakes, especially poisonous ones, are a danger to nearly every community.

My husband and I make our living off of making them disappear, although I’ve never yet had to kill one. We’re charmers, not butchers.

We go down to the canyons, and I light a fire, scattering the herbs in the ashes. The aromatic smoke drifts through the trees, smelling of woodbine and yellow windflower. The smell doesn’t do much more than convince the villagers we’re working. They like to think our trade is all witchcraft and conjuring. It isn’t, but we get paid more for their superstition, so we never try to explain.

My husband sits down on a rock at the edge of our camp, pulls his flute out, and begins to play. His melodies echo through the canyons, among the rocks, cool and sweet and soothing to the soul.

A dry rustling flits through the tall grass, and the snakes begin to gather.

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