Forty Years, Forty Posts #12

If there’s a single memory that informs my new book, Mamba Point, it is my close encounter with an actual black mamba, one of the deadliest snakes you can find anywhere. It was my second black mamba sighting, but the first was from a safe distance. This one was much closer. Much too close, really.

It happened on the rocky shore of the Atlantic Ocean, just behind the American Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. I was with a friend (really a better friend of my brother’s) who was particularly fascinated and fearful of snakes. Like Linus, the hero of Mamba Point (and like him in that regard only), he was hyper-aware and paranoid about the snakes that lived in the grassy surroundings of the embassy in Mamba Point, our neighborhood in Monrovia, so it was particularly poignant to be with him when a mamba slithered across the rocks and across his boot-clad foot and maybe 18 inches from me. Mambas are long snakes, and it took a long time for that narrow fellow to pass on by. I held fast to the first rule of wildlife I learned in boy scouts: don’t bother it, it won’t bother you. That’s true for most animals, most of the time. I knew the dangers of mambas, but the snake didn’t harass us, and barely noticed us. My buddy was paralyzed, though, and took several minutes to recover.

The good thing about being with somebody was, we could corroborate each other’s story when we went back home and told everyone about our brush with “the shadow of death.”

black mamba

Picture is by mcwetboy on Flickr and is used under the Creative Commons license.

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