There’s this warning they give you, that if you keep your shoes or hang your clothes outside, you should shake them off before putting them on.
Pfff, silly superstition.
What could happen? This is Nigeria, it’s not real African jungle. I’ve never seen a tarantula, or a snake, much less a real wild animal like a lion. I once saw a monkey, but it was only for a brief instant and when I think back, I can’t be sure of what I saw.
Now I’m outside the house, putting on shoes I left at the door, thinking about this stupid ‘shake shoes out’ myth and chuckling to myself. I’m telling my friend who is standing there about the myth and the relative lack of animals here. There are no gazelle gathering at a watering hole down the road, no liger stalking the plains, nothing.
My friend laughs.
I push my left foot into the shoe and feel a soft obstruction. I ignore it.
Still talking, I stand up, stomp on the ground to press my foot into the shoe, not paying attention.
The soft gives, and there is a squish sound. It’s not just that I hear the sound, but I feel it too. The squish happens at the tip of my big toe, I feel the sound crawl to my heel and up my leg to the back of my knee.
It is followed immediately by a warm feeling like someone just poured custard into my shoe. The custard runs between my toes, under my feet. It fills up all the empty spaces in the shoe.
I’m sure there is a good type of panic. The type that raises your pulse, sharpens your awareness and hones your mind to focus on what is important.
That is not the type of panic I had. The type I had is the wide-eyed, body frozen, hyper ventilating type. The type that comes just before you slap the person and tell them to get it together.
I scream, and it emanates from my closed lips as a high pitched squeal … eeeeee…
When I finally calm down, I pull my foot out of the shoe and it is covered with a reddish green ooze. I spread my toes, the ooze is slimy between them and it draws like good okra soup.
The only recognisable bit is at the tip of my big toe. An eye, the mangled eye of a toad, and it is looking at me like, “why couldn’t you just stop cracking jokes and shake your shoes out?”