Saint Burma

Nikki HoSang


Plottoists brought it all back home last week for our final round of THE MASTER CONTEST OF ALL PLOTS, and the judges phoned in from their respective Thanksgiving locations to fight it out for the winning story. Congratulations to winner Nikki HoSang, whose clever “Saint Burma” delivers a homecoming we never expected.


Jo was fluffing the vermiculite bedding around the snake eggs when Mary, the kid who cleaned cages and answered the phone, stuck her head in the door.

“I know you’re getting ready to put the eggs in the incubator,” she whispered, “but there’s a guy on the phone? He says he has your snake?”

“Did he say what kind?”

“He said it’s a Burmese python.”

It was her python. Just bigger, older, slower. The guy who called said he’d traded a Vietnamese blue beauty snake and a couple of cat geckos for it. Normally, he said, he wouldn’t have let that little blue beauty go for nothing, but once he saw the markings on the Burm’s head, he was a goner, a dead man, in love. And then, he said, and then! He remembered reading Jo’s article in SCALES! and put two and two together: his new giant girl had to be her old childhood pet, her old buddy Saint Burma.

“It’s not every day you see a snake with a cross on its head,” he said. “Something special like that, you know the owner’s missing that animal bad. And besides, she just seems like a little saint.”


They worked out a deal. Saint Burma would stay where she was for a few days more, just until Jo got a cage set up at her place. Just a few days more, that’s all.


Homecoming day and Saint Burma smelled like roses! Had the guy given her a bath or something? He swore he hadn’t bathed her at all, swore she was just freakishly clean.

“Her shit don’t stink, either,” he said.

“Oh, come on,” Jo said.

“Seriously,” he said. “If anything, it smells like burnt sugar.”

“Like caramel? Right,” Jo said. She locked Burma in her cage and looked around,

suddenly ashamed. The guy patted her on the shoulder, one awkward pat, and then another, and then a little sentimental squeeze. He let himself out.


Size. Eleven feet? Twelve? She’d been barely six feet when Jo had driven her out to the wildest park she could find, slung her around her neck and walked and walked until she found a big, sunny rock to lay her down on. It wasn’t meant to be cruel. She was just too big, too vast, too patient. Who could trust a gentle snake?


Now she was beatific beyond reason. She stared into some unseen mystery just beyond the kitchen counter when she wanted Jo to let her out, she slithered up on the couch and nosed the remote until Jo came and turned the TV on. She liked to curve herself around Jo’s shoulders, and she liked to thump the floor with her tail. Jo stopped channel surfing when she stopped thumping. Another wholesome Dolly Parton movie.

What was she this time, an angel?


Nikki HoSang lives in California, where she works for a public library.

Here’s the prompt that inspired Nikki’s story: {B}, for many years mysteriously absent from her home, seeks a happy renewal of old ties by returning suddenly and unheralded to her native place.

Next up: our five winners go pen-to-pen for the Grand Prize, a long weekend writer’s retreat at the Tin House studio in Portland. Stay tuned to hear the winning stories (read by their authors) and a live announcement of the Plotto Writer In Residence December 10 on Oregon Public Broadcasting. And revisit the winning stories from Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4!

PLOTTO: THE MASTER BOOK OF ALL PLOTSIn the 1920s, dime store novelist William Wallace Cook painstakingly diagrammed and cataloged his personal writing method—“Purpose, opposed by Obstacle, yields Conflict”—for the instruction and illumination of his fellow authors. His efforts resulted in 1,462 plot scenarios and Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots was born. A how-to manual for plot, Plotto offers endless amalgamations to inspire limitless narratives. Open the book to any page to find plots you may never have known existed, from morose cannibals to gun-wielding preachers to phantom automobiles. Equal parts reference guide and historical oddity, Plotto is sure to amaze and delight writers for another century.