I saw a snake. Not just any common garden, green, tree snake. This was a real, venomous, black-spitting cobra.
It wasn’t big, I will not exaggerate, perhaps the thickness of the big finger and about two feet long. But the thickness of cobras is a bit deceptive; it’s thin when it is relaxed, shooting the breeze.
When it is agitated, it stands on its tail, like a man, and inflates its head and neck to many times its usual size. Then it sprays venom.
This is the stuff of nightmares. My eye is trained to record for later description. I noticed that the colour was not actually black; it was a dense forest of black dots whose density decreased as you move from the back to the front and white ones increased.
And it didn’t so much slither as a flow like a jelly, frictionless, effortless, swift, all over the place.
My reaction was epic. What I experienced was not mere terror; it was a primaeval, primitive, mouldy graveyard, misty Dracula horror.
I screamed like an old woman who had discovered a bat under her bed: A skirt-lifting, feminine howl, followed by a series of expletives in fluent Kimbeere (or maybe it was a bit of speaking in tongues, out of long exposure to heavenly lingos).
I attended Siakago Boys at a young age. I curse in Kimbeere, instinctively though with the long experience of frequent embarrassment I have gradually with the first syllable, “Ki”, replaced the rest with “vici”. Kivici is still a curse, but not a very bad one.
I’d like to announce to the country that, after screaming the heavens down, I slipped into my sprint gait—I’m a runner, albeit not a very good one—and made it to the bush, where I had parked, in a world record that will stand unchallenged for decades to come.
I punched the car to life—but I had the presence of mind to run through the controls, Sport+ suspension, maximum elevation—and shot off like an arrow, left the farm, left Makandune Village, left bloody snake-infested Imenti Central Constituency, left Meru County and maintained a heavy foot until I was clear of the province and into the relative safety of central Kenya, somewhere in the general area of Difathas, where there is malice in the air but few snakes.
There were three risks in this serpent encounter. First, I could have been hurt—being blinded by the venom or being bitten. There was, of course, no chance of spitting; I’m not even sure the little bugger noticed me. It did not stand on its tail, it did not puff its head. As to biting, the calf-length military-grade hiking boots I wear to these bushes are designed for snake pits, to crush them.
Swallowed the phone
The second risk was that I could have swallowed the phone in the confusion of fear. When you are well and truly frightened, it is easy to eat your hat if you are not cautious.
The third, and in my now calm judgement worst, exposure is related to the two above: I was on phone. I was on phone with my teenage daughter.
And she heard my screams and my flight from the scene of the serpent. I have been in hiding. She plays hockey at daybreak this season, so I’m dead asleep until she is safely out of the compound and away at “meetings” until late in the night when she is safely asleep.
This is way worse than the gunslinger incident. We went target shooting in some places where guns are not as revolting as they are here. It was some toy contraption, anyway, shaped like a sniper rifle. Dead easy: All three got the bullseye.
I missed the target entirely. That was six or so years ago and I’m yet to live it down. I probably never will. It comes up in any number of ways: To win an argument, when people are bored and want a quick laugh and many times for no reason at all.
It’s probably as bad as the girlfriend event. I, in a moment of weakness, let slip the name of a childhood girlfriend (note the spacing). That has provided fodder for hysterical laughter on long drives and quiet moments. Nothing unites my brood like an opportunity to make fun of me. Being caught live, screaming for mama in terror and fleeing from a baby snake, this material is gold.
Occasionally, I write these funny stories to take our minds off the bad stuff around us. The peace and quiet we enjoyed since 2018 or thereabout looks like it might come to an end. There is likely to be some protesting and, perhaps, some overreaction by Kenya Kwanza which will escalate the drama.
But the one thing that really sends chills down my spine, not as much as the cobra but still scary, is the economy: Some companies are retaining freelancers to scour around for dollars. There is some hard currency in the system, for sure, but you might have to wait for a few days for it. And the rates, well, they are eye-popping.
Fixing our economy is not the exclusive responsibility of the government. All of us have to find a way to be part of the solution. All of us, without exception, the arrogance of people in government notwithstanding.