The Rain of Snakes
Sometimes Ruth is stranger than fiction.
Fiction writers constantly trip the line between believable and unbelievable.
Readers want a departure from their real lives but will accept nothing so unreal that it seems unbelievable.
Take, for example, the night the snake fell on my head. If I were to write this scene in a book, you might find it unbelievable.
But it happened.
Oh yes—it happened.
There was no warning, no context, and no foreshadowing. No lowering skies, no premonitions of danger, and no minor-keyed leitmotifs.
I simply stepped out of my friend's front door when out of nowhere, a small rattlesnake dropped onto my head. It bounced off my shoulder to the sidewalk below.
I did not react in any way. I didn't gasp or faint or scream. I merely stood in the doorway, processing.
I turned to my friend. "A snake just fell on my head.”
Saying it out loud didn’t help it feel any more real.
My non-reaction was due partly to the fact that I lived in Florida at the time. Events such as a rain of snakes were never totally off the table.
Honestly, though, I’d missed my chance to react. I 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 plaster themselves to the fronts of houses in the evenings to soak in the last dregs of warmth left behind by the sun.
It wasn't a frog or a lizard or even a dreaded bufo toad.
It was a snake.
A snake that had fallen on my head.
As they do.
I'm now forced to navigate life with the awareness that a snake could fall on my head at any time.
After all, it happened once. It could happen again.
That’s the thing about the truth: it’s not just stranger than fiction.
It’s scarier than fiction.
And that’s a knowledge we all have to live with.
As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I’m constantly exploring the relationship between art and life. The relationship between fiction and nonfiction.
I’d love to hear about a real scenario from your life that—if you wrote it in a book—might seem over-the-top or unbelievable.
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