marcel barang

Living among corpses

In English on 22/07/2010 at 12:00 am


Small ones. On a daily basis of wilful murder or due to the hazards of life. Midges, mites, moths. The occasional fly or bee. The terminally famished baby house lizard. The superannuated spider. Mosquitoes galore, now that the rainy season is on. All swept out of the way every other day or week. Termites in the parquet: they live and die in their self-made well upholstered grottoes soused with insecticide once a month or so. One day, I’ll switch to marble slabs.

Perhaps because of the termite poison, the weekly cockroach moseying out of the bathroom drain doesn’t stand a chance: within hours, here it is, or there, belly up, dead, or dying.

This evening, I went to look for a book in my office-cum-library-cum-bedroom on the mezzanine floor, didn’t find it and was about to switch off the light when I noticed a twisted piece of wire at the foot of the desk – something my neighbour must have left behind the other night when he worked on the desktop; he isn’t the tidiest of men.

I put my glasses back on: it was a snake, a baby snake, perhaps thirty centimetres long – lean, banded yellow and shiny black, the head like the nose of a bullet train. Beautiful. And mercifully dead.

Armed with dustpan and brush I collected the creature to show neighbours, who couldn’t tell me what kind of snake it was. I put it in a plastic bag to be conveyed to Siriraj Hospital, where a neighbour works as a nurse: I’ll know by tomorrow what mortal danger I have skirted.

But how did the fellow get in the place where I sleep? And why did it die there, of all places: I don’t spray the mezzanine room, don’t even smoke in it, and keep the sliding door usually closed? Is its family around somewhere? Perhaps I should turn over the mattress tonight and shine a light beneath and behind the bookshelves.

Of course, my castle outer walls being carpeted with vines front and back (to the anxiety of my neighbours), snakes are regular occurrences. Only last week, I found a bit of snake skin, just shed, hanging outside of the back window – as I do at least half a dozen times a year. This one was small. Come to think of it, about the size of today’s visitor.

Close encounters I’ve had on occasion – with a sizeable python a couple of years back: we both grinned at each other and beat a retreat; many years ago, a deft ‘two-headed snake’, as the Thais have it, that almost did me in; year in, year out, so many green snakes I got fed up killing them: as they are not venomous, they might as well be left in peace – so long, that is, as they don’t try to steal the eggs in the bird’s nest by the vent back of the kitchen, as one did only two weeks ago (I hosed it away, but the bird couple deserted the nest: I must’ve been too late; same thing happened last year, with the same result), or barge into the house: I once had a green snake crossing the kitchen corner under my nose to go and take a shower in the bathroom, and another I found in the third-floor bathroom toilet seat trying to escape through a window: it couldn’t get past the mosquito net. I killed those two.

Thai folks believe that if you kill a snake its companion will come around and bite you. In my experience, this is only true of mosquitoes.

And yes, I, an unrepentant serial killer, surround myself with their corpses, preferably before they suck my blood.


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