South Sudan Two Step
Short Story Day 169 of 365
He would only be in country for six months, but for Bill Bronson, six months in the wild new country that was South Sudan, might as well have been six decades.
Everything was dangerous, the heat, the recently ended civil war, disease, snakes and crocodiles and spiders and other creepy crawlers, lack of clean water, and the list goes on. Every family he spoke with outside his seismology group had been affected by the war. Death had ravaged small villages as soldiers came into town, conscripted kids and young adults, and they were never heard from again.
Bronson’s camp was far enough from one of the Nile River tributaries, but close enough for a 20-minute trip each morning for exploration. It was a perfect place to drill and determine if investing more petrodollars into South Sudan was worth the effort. Camp for them was several steps up from village life a few miles away but several steps down from their life in the West.
Nothing was permanent. Large tents housed the men, plus one huge tent for the mess and kitchen. Even their toilet and shower areas had temporary tented coverings. Food was shipped in from the West, including quality meat. The company tried to take care of its workers so they’d stay a little longer than they wanted. After a hot and difficult day drilling into the earth, they could look forward to a nice hot meal as they prepared for the next day.
Bronson woke earlier than most because he wanted to meditate and mentally prepare for the day out in the sun.
He took his flashlight to the shower after waking one morning. The shower area was semi-private but mostly exposed to the elements. You’d never mistake it for a Western shower, but it was manageable.
Bronson hung his clothing on a tent post. He turned on the shower, knowing his hot water was limited to about 5 minutes at this time in the morning, an hour later and it was less than a minute as all the other workers would be using it at the same time.
As he reached for soap on a small tray near the shower handles, he froze because there in the folds of the curtain was a cobra clinging to the tent-like fabric. Bronson froze as the water continued to pour over him. Fast moves would excite the viper and it might lash out. Its head was already poised for a strike.
The general rule in camp was if you saw something as dangerous as a black mamba or a cobra to sound the alarm. Sounding the alarm meant making as much noise as humanly possible to let people in the camp know you were in danger. You may not know how to handle a cobra, but there was at least be one person in the camp who knew what to do. You might have to endure constant needling because of your unmanly yell, but you’d be alive to endure it. Bronson had no trouble sounding the alarm, and immediately seven men stumbled over to the shower area.
“Oh, this little bitty thing, Steven said, as he grabbed the cobra with a stick designed to go around the cobra’s belly. “Resume your shower, Bill. I’ll take care of ‘im.”
The other men filed out of the shower and shone their lights on Steven as he saw to it that this cobra would never flare its head at anyone ever again.
Bill turned off the shower.
Water was getting cold anyhow. He was clean enough.
Bill Bronson was now a changed man. From here on out, not a day would pass by without him first shaking the shower curtain before entering a shower stall, just to be sure.
Cobras in the shower with you just have that kind of effect.
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