Neighbours

Neighbours

The adder reared its head and poised to strike. Its eyes were vicious and its tongue flickered out menacingly, possibly to try to get a taste of its victim. Behind it, the copperhead swayed lazily, having just been woken from slumber by the irritating sound of the rattlesnake’s tail shaking.

The victim didn’t show a bit of fear. The adder’s tongue flickered out and in once more, but she paid that no heed. Instead, raising her hand to signal that the copperhead and rattlesnake should quit quarrelling and pay her attention.

Carefully sweeping her mousy brown hair away from her forehead, she picked up her flute – and in that second, the adder decided it was tired of waiting to make its move. It darted to the side, almost brushing the woman’s left shoulder, then, as if having thought better of its decision, swiftly zapped itself back.

The flute player sighed, wondering again why she had given the adder the lead role in this dance. It was so much more wilful than the other snakes, and she supposed that was what had appealed to her initially, but she felt the adder was somewhat…unpredictable. Though it had always performed its role without flaw, one could not exactly tell when or whether it would spontaneously decide that routine wouldn’t suit it anymore.

But the key was to remain calm, as her Hindu teacher had always told her, during the time she spent in India training under him. “If the snake senses your fear, he knows he has won,” he told her. “If you stand your ground, he will doubt his strength.”

So she had continued, nevertheless. She played her flute, and even she was tempted to dance to the seductively hypnotic music emanating from it. Of course, the tune was very Indian. Sometimes Indian music was the only kind the snakes wanted to obey…

The snake-tamer became lost in her own world, oblivious to the trivialities of her environment, pleased that she had managed to come this far. But still, it was not far enough. Heavens knew she hadn’t spent so much time with these dreadfully beautiful creatures just to have them dance for her! Oh no! Very soon, they would need to perform a far more elaborate series of movements as an integral part of a very powerful ritualistic curse. She laughed to herself, “Ha! The Africans think they are the only ones with real magic.”

Her thoughts were interrupted by a sound far too mechanical to have come from her flute. Jolted from her daze, she played her most practiced bar of music – a seven-second finale – and the snakes all lay down. Then, with a few more tunes, she cajoled them into a box, and hypnotised them to sleep.

The doorbell rang again. Oh, these impatient Ghanaians! Ceaselessly demanding to be minded, they were.

She made her way to the gate and opened it. Standing there was a short, skinny, chocolate-skinned girl, with her long, permed hair pulled back into a ponytail, to reveal the full swell of an overlarge forehead. She was only about six or seven years old, averagely the same age as her daughter, Hannah.

“Hannah!” the snake-tamer called. “Ivana is here to see you!”

Soon enough, feet were pattering down the stairs, and a little Caucasian girl with blond hair appeared.

“Hi, Ivana,” she said. “Come on, let’s go play Barbie!”

Then, pulling Ivana along behind her, Hannah went into the attic, where all her toys were, and they played for hours.

The snake-tamer sighed when they were finally out of view. She wished her dear next door neighbours, the Oforis, would stop insisting so much on forming bonds with everyone who lived on their street. This façade was bothersome. Who said neighbours had to be friends anyway? But no matter; she wouldn’t have to put up with it for much longer anyhow…

………………………..

Later that night, she opened her gate to see a Hindu man in a turban looking expectantly at her. “Are you ready to embark on your final, most important journey?” he asked. “It will be very dangerous. The Volta region won’t be as docile and easily manipulated as Accra has been.”

“I am ready to face the Ewes,” she said with unconvincing bravado. Then, to hide her betraying eyes from his scrutiny, she turned her back to him. “Hannnah!” she called. “We’re leaving!”

Apart from her voice, there wasn’t a sound in the air. Of course – her master had frozen time.

Hannah appeared, looking forlorn. “Can’t we say goodbye to the Oforis?” she asked.

“I’m afraid they would be better off not knowing where or why we’ve gone,” her mother responded. “Now, help me get my snakes into the truck.”

Hannah was mad. They moved so much that she hardly had any friends. And whenever she did find one or two, she would eventually leave without saying goodbye, always on mother’s orders. Well, this time, she would deliberately do something to spite her for it.

When there were only two snake crates remaining, she picked one up, and made her way to the truck. Her mother met her on her way out.

“Is that the last one?” she asked Hannah.

Sweetly, Hannah replied, “Yes. It is.”

****

I mean, just look at the house. Doesn't it look creepy to you?
I mean, just look at the house. Doesn’t it look creepy to you?

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: For the irregular readers of my blog, or the very forgetful ones, let me re-explain the inspiration for this story. As I said in Cats and Dogs, my grandfather bought two identical cats, Melinda and Belinda to chase rodents and snakes away from our house. They were always coming in from the abandoned house next door to us, which has been left untended to for so long there’s a jungle growing in there big enough for snakes to reside in.

I have only fuzzy memories of our Caucasian neighbours who once lived there, although they didn’t own it. The owner is some woman who has never physically visited the house; at least, according to my parents, and not in my lifetime. She lives abroad. But I thought the weird snake-house would make a good story, hence the senseless imaginings you just read…

Maybe, soon, I’ll write about one of my own real-life encounters with one of these snakes…

And remember, guys, you can make a story out of anything.

Your favourite iconoclast,

Ivana

 

 

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