Monday, April 11, 2016

When Ruth Is Stranger Than Fiction, Part 1: A Rain of Snakes


Fiction writers know what it means to trip the line between believable and unbelievable. While writers trust that readers will suspend their disbelief for the sake of the story, they also know that suspension of disbelief will only stretch so far. That's why although it seems counter-intuitive, writers cannot subject their characters to the same sort of sheer randomness we're subjected to in real life. Hence the famous quote about truth being stranger than fiction.

Life is absolutely stranger than fiction, and never more so than when it subjects us to complete randomness. I'm sure we've all experienced circumstances that, if they appeared in a story, would strain readers' credulity past the breaking point. I know I have.

Take, for example, the night the snake fell on my head. 

There was no warning, no context, and no foreshadowing. There were no lowering skies, no premonitions of danger, and no sudden, minor-keyed leitmotifs. I simply stepped out of my friend's front door when out of nowhere, a baby rattlesnake dropped down on my head. It then slithered onto my shoulder before bouncing onto the sidewalk below. 

Perhaps you'll be impressed to hear that I did not react in any way. I didn't gasp or faint or scream. I merely stood still in the doorway, goggling. 

"A snake just fell on my head," I said calmly. 

My non-reaction is due partly to the fact that I live in Florida, where events such as a rain of snakes are never totally off the table. Honestly, though, I just really didn't realize what was going on until it was over. My first thought was that it had been a frog, a lizard, or some other variety of non-alarming amphibian or reptile. These little creatures routinely plaster themselves to the fronts of our houses in the evenings to soak in the last dregs of warmth left behind by the sun; and when we open and shut our front doors, they occasionally fall off. 

But no. It wasn't a frog or a lizard or even a dreaded bufo toad. It was a snake. 

I'm now forced to live in a world in which a snake has fallen on my head. What's more, if it happened once, it could happen again; and if it happened to me, it could happen to you.

Truth stranger than fiction, indeed.

***

2 comments:

  1. Years ago, on my husband's family farm, I was taking a walk when I chanced to look up into the trees. Dangling from and slithering along the branches were huge black rat snakes. I'd been carefully watching where I stepped to avoid copperheads and rattlesnakes--it never occurred to me that snakes would be in trees! That's terribly unnatural and disconcerting. Of course, the old-timers assured me that rat snakes are "good" snakes and recalled how Great-Grandma always let them inhabit the root cellar where she kept her canned goods to keep the rodents down. Just for the record, when a severe thunderstorm popped up during a family reunion and a tornado was headed our direction, we all chose to remain in the house and let the snakes remain alone in safety in the cellar! (Kansas rat snakes grow over 75 inches long, and our farm snakes were fat and healthy.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm now imagining a tornado full of snakes! Snakenado!

      Delete