Lesedi awoke. It was still dark and something was moving across the floor. He had been having a dream. His aunt Matilda had arrived from the city and brought him a huge bag of sweets, a bag so big he could hardly carry it. He had dropped it in the sand, scattering sweets everywhere, and was frantically trying to retrieve them when the noise started. It was a slithering noise and Lesedi knew exactly what it was. He was ten years old now and had heard this sound before. It was a snake moving around the room. He also knew that he must not jump up or make any sudden moves that would frighten it and cause it to strike out at him or his half brother and sisters who were still sound asleep next to him. Lesedi remembered his grandfather’s words.
“If you are going to survive here and become old you must learn the ways of the other inhabitants of this place. You must learn the sounds they make and how to react if they are threatening you. If these creatures are dealt with carefully there will be no need to harm them and they will not harm you.”
This was a cobra and Lesedi suspected that it was trying to find a nice juicy mouse somewhere in the room. He felt cautiously along the floor next to him. He knew he had left the matches and candle somewhere there when he had fallen exhausted into bed that night. The candle was there, but where were the matches? The snake was close now and he was sure he felt its probing tongue touch his hand. He held his breath; he would have liked very much to scream for help but he knew that that was not the answer. He would have to be strong and deal with this situation to prove to his grandfather that he, Lesedi, was worthy to learn from him. Lorato, his grandfather, would be very proud if no one was hurt and the snake was let out of the room to go quietly off into the bush. Lesedi stretched along the floor still holding his breath. His fingers touched the matches but in his haste to grab them he moved them further away. He stretched out again, this time getting a good grip on the match box… Then he felt it! The snake was sliding along his leg and up his back. He froze—this could not be happening. This was a dream and the sweets in the sand were real. He tried to make himself wake up. Then he realized he was holding his breath and if he didn’t breathe soon he would probably suffocate. Lesedi concentrated hard and let his breath out very slowly. The snake glided up his back and over his head. He sat up, the matches clutched tightly in his hand, trying hard not to shake, and after three tries managed to get the candle lit. The room came flickering into view. Lesedi strained his eyes trying to find the snake. There was not much in the room. The mattress on the floor on which he, his two half sisters, and half brother slept. There was a table and underneath it four boxes in which each child kept their few very precious possessions. Maybe the snake had crawled into one of the boxes, which would mean he could close it and then get his grandfather to help him take it carefully outside. He was just about to go over to the boxes when something made him turn around and look at the children sleeping on the mattress behind him. What he saw literally made his heart stop. The snake had slithered in between them and was happily curled up with its head resting on Tshiamo’s plump little bottom.
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