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October 27, 2023

I'm terrified of snakes

When I was a child in Caplan, we’d swim in the Baie des Chaleurs. I was terrified of eels. With my small feet sinking into the red sand, I was scared silly. “Chicken!” my brother would yell. “Run and jump in the water!” Easily said, the waters of Gaspésie are icy even in the middle of July. Sometimes Dad would take us to the pier to fish. Disgusting! The eels in the sea and the hermaphrodite worms wriggling in the tin can at my feet. Yuck!

I remember my friend Diane from the time we lived in Quebec city. Every morning, we’d wait for each other to go to school together. Our path took us across a large field. I’ll never forget that dreadful Wednesday when Diane was absent. Her parents were putting her grandmother to rest and I had to walk the long path to school by myself. Halfway back, a snake lay immobile in front of me and my heart suddenly stopped beating. It was my first time seeing one live on land. It was about as long as my 12-inch ruler. I froze. I was certain it was staring at me and that it would, at any moment, lunge in my direction, coil itself around my leg and crawl up to my neck. Instead, the limbless reptile started to undulate and move in small twisting movements. It wiggled its way from the beaten earth path, escaping into the tall grass. Creepy!

Later, as a married mother of three children, I was about to vacuum my sons’ bedroom when I opened the closet and discovered a big brown grocery bag that seemed to be moving. I plucked up my courage and hoped to heaven I would find a kitten, wild rabbit, captive mouse or a bird’s nest. I opened the bag and my heart stopped. Four or five, maybe six snakes were twisted together in a type of living, threatening mass. I was 26 and still had an incredible fear of snakes.

Some 50 years later, I was with a good friend visiting her daughter who had just bought a new house. It was a very modern one, located in a prosperous suburb. Caroline, a well-regarded psychotherapist, proudly showed me around her home. Wow! The grand living room, a dream kitchen, well-equipped gym, indoor pool and so on. We went upstairs to find a room for her mother, a guest room and a vast master bedroom.
— “Wow, Caroline! Everything is just amazing!”
— “Go into my bedroom,” she tells me. “You still haven’t seen the best.”

She’s right. From where I stand, all I can see is the huge candy pink wool carpet. How comfortable it would feel under my weathered feet I think! Caroline insists on taking me to the huge panoramic window to show me her prized possession. I take my eyes away from the scenic view and lower my eyes to a fairly large glass terrarium in which three large snakes are having fun climbing on top of each other. I almost keel over.

— “These are my babies! Royal pythons as soft as lambs! They’re almost 4. Would you like to hold one and stroke it a bit? It’s therapeutic.”

My legs weaken, my body sways and I am seconds away from fainting. I picture the snakes crawling on my stomach, circling my neck or sliding down my back. Lying flat out on the candy pink carpet, bits of wool stuffed in my nostrils, I feel like I’m suffocating! My body burns with fear.

Perched high on her heels, the psychotherapist attempts to diagnose my distress. I yell out that I am simply terrified of snakes, an uncontrollable fear I’ve had since childhood!


Brace yourselves, dear readers. On October 31, snakes will climb high into trees! Swim in roof gutters, dance on railings and perhaps slither down chimneys?

To keep snakes as far away as possible from me, I’ll dress up as an invincible soldier, a malevolent witch with long bony fingers and the beak of a falcon-like bird.