The snake charmer

Nothing like a reptile in your office to give you the jitters

In Summary

• Sgt Makini drives a hard bargain with a glib trader but his next challenge humbles him

I’m at our resident Indian chemist Dr Selitol’s shop. Finally, he has the bedbug pesticide I need for my boss Inspector Tembo.

“How much is it?” I ask.

“Only Sh800, yaar.”


“What? It says 150 right here on the packet.”

Aare yaar, have you seen economy? That is Nairobi price. Jiji price, you add transport, security, corona surcharge…”

“Corona what?”

“This is not China medicine. China full of corona. So, I hear Chinaman move factory to India. You know how much transport to move whole factory to India?”

“I see. But still, not 800.”

“Okay. For you, three hundred. Only because you are good police person, yaar.”

“By the way, I haven’t checked your Poison Control Board Licence lately, have I?”


“My poison what?”

“You know. The licence to sell all this dangerous stuff.”

Dr Selitol is startled. “You mean I need licence?”

I walk to the door. “Just don’t open tomorrow until you show me the licence.”

“Wait! Mr Police Person, how about I do good price for you, yaar. Two hundred. Final price.”

I give him 200 and leave.

Back at the police post, I find Inspector Tembo and another man outside. They look totally flustered.

“Inspector,” I say. “What’s going on, sir?”

“Finally, the best sign I shouldn’t be here, son,” says Tembo. “There’s a snake in the office. Big snake.”

I have to see for myself. I walk into the office, my legs shaking like twigs. I hate snakes with a passion. I look up and sure enough, there is a large snake on the rafters. I run out of there as if the building were on fire.

“Yap,” I announce when I get out. “Saw it.”

“You know what that means?” the Inspector asks.

“That we’ve encroached on their habitat?”

He grabs my shoulders. Shakes me.

“No, son. It’s Adam and Eve all over. It’s temptation. That snake is here to tempt me. To make me do something else that will have me transferred. Again.”

“I’m confused, Inspector. What is it you did to get transferred here?”

“Temptation, son, temptation. What are you going to do about the snake?”

The man I had found with the Inspector comes back, accompanied by a young boy. Ten years old, maybe less. I had not event noticed he had left.

“I hear you have a snake problem,” the boy says.

“Shoo,” says the inspector, ushering the boy away. “This is no place for kids.” He turns to the man. “Why would you bring a kid here at this time?”

“He’ll take care of it,” the man says.

“Him?” I ask. Bewildered.

The boy rushes to the large tree outside the office. Breaks off a branch and springs to the ground easy as pie. He prunes off some branches, leaving something that resembles a capital “Y”.

“What are you going to do with that?” Tembo asks.

The boy smiles and skips joyfully into the building.

The inspector turns to me. “Why did you let that happen?”


“You know what will happen? That boy is going to get his head swallowed up by that snake. His whole head, son.

“You know what anaconda is? That’s what’s in that office. They swallow people like you and me for a snack. That boy will get his head chewed off and it’s going to be on us.”


“Yes. It’s going to be on me. I’m supposed to be the boss.”


“I won’t be Inspector anymore. I'll be…”

I grab him. Turn him around. The small boy is at the door. The snake wrapped around his neck.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’m Charlie. The snake charmer.”

The man who had brought the boy takes off. So does the Inspector. My legs start shaking again. But someone has to save face.

“Charlie, I have another snake you can charm. You know an Indian called Dr Selitol?”