Now you mustn't imagine that I enter into such liaisons lightly.
But there's only so long that one can go unwashed in order to avoid unsavoury company.
Maybe I should start at the beginning...
About a week ago, I woke at 3 am to the sound of screaming.
Never a good sign.
The dogs, Wobbly Cat and I hurtled out of bed, in a tangle of blankets, flailing limbs and stepped-on paws, and blundered to the bathroom; source of the shrieks. What we found was grisly.
Now I want you to imagine the shower scene from Psycho. Not the bloody bit (which, by the way, was actually the chocolate saucy bit, because Hitchcock thought stage-blood looked wishy-washy in black and white) but the suspenseful build-up. OK, you need to tweak things a little; make the victim rather short and dumpy, and she's snoozing in the cubicle rather than actually showering, but otherwise everything is bona fide horror movie.
The assailant's stealthy approach, the victim blithely unaware... the weapon silently raised, ready to strike... And then AAAAHH!
Well we stumbled in at the AAAH part to find the killer dangling from the light fitting with the terrified victim struggling in his jaws. This was disturbing because the victim was a friend; she'd lived in my house for more than a year. OK, I admit she was a frog, but foam nest frogs are endearing creatures. Creamy coloured with huge jewel eyes and suction-pad toes, she'd munch any mealworm tossed her way, and - along with her gentlemen friend - had faithfully guarded the entry to my shower for the last two months; one atop each door post like a pair of animated gargoyles.
And now here she was scrabbling frantically in mid air, squawking in distress, with the killer's jaws clamped over her back and her huge hind feet wind-milling.
|My dearly departed southern foam nest frog (Chiromantis xerampelina). R.I.P.|
You can read about this critter's idiosyncrasies here.
And the perpetrator? Still only half-emerged from a small hole in the ceiling, the assassin was slicked out in glistening brown. He was, of course, legless (what else would a snake-phobic expect to find in their bathroom at 3 am). Not large enough to send me into a full-scale panic attack (at a bit less than a metre long (2' 6") and 2 cm (0.8'') thick), the murderer glared down at me with the eyes of a cat: bright gold with a vertical pupil.
'The Beast, I presume', I thought grimly.
Those of you imprudent enough to follow this blog will know I live in fear of The Predatory Beast that haunts my ceiling. Since I've never had the courage to climb up and identify The Beast (you can read of my ongoing cowardice here and here) I guess it's inevitable that he would eventually come to me. But at 3 am, identifying him was beyond me (actually that's an excuse; it's beyond me at anytime).
Was this snake venomous? Was it dangerous?
The frog's shrieks and cries were so heart-rending I considered launching a rescue mission. After all, how in Heaven was this snake going to gobble down an amphibian four times wider than his own head? Yet something in the snake's bitterly determined, clamp-jawed expression ("All I have to do is keep my mouth shut and wait") suggested my shower accessory was already doomed. The pets and I trudged sadly back to bed and lay trying not to hear the pitiful – and now weakening - shrieks.
By 6 am, I knew I had a problem. The snake was still hanging from the bathroom light, his head and throat bizarrely distended to accommodate the first inch of limp, dangling frog. And to me, it was appallingly clear that - like Pooh Bear after a honey binge – this snake, post breakfast, was not going to fit back through the hole from whence it came. Oh God!
|The killer - a marbled tree snake (Dipsaloboa aulica) - was identified, from a mug shot, by the folk at SA Reptile Forum. (I guess I'm now honour-bound to stop suggesting they're a little bit barmy). The bulge on the perp's right side is my friend's hind feet, and the rest of her is contained within the swelling on the left.|
I didn't photograph the whole frog-swallowing thing (sorry) for fear that any intervention by the paparazzi might induce vomiting, and my friend would then have died in vain. Marbled tree snakes hang out in lush riverside forest in the lowveld (a strip of low-altitude, bushy savannah edging South Africa's eastern border). They specialise in hunting tree frogs and geckos by night and, although venomous, they aren't considered dangerous to people (fingers crossed). I suppose it's fitting that my resident tree frog should die at the hands fangs of an arch nemesis.
By 7 am, breakfast was consumed (miraculously) and The Beast retreated to my shower cubicle, coiling up neatly in the grooves of the aluminium frame over the doorway.
He's been there ever since.
Initially I abstained from showering (hoping to wait out the digestion period), but the creature's shown no inclination to leave even now he's svelte. Bathing is tense for us both: he tightens up into a bundle, with just his snout peeping out over his coils, and I edge nervously into the cubicle and press myself against the far wall. We then try to avoid making eye contact more than, oh, forty times per shower. He's an awesome water saving device though.
Figuring that he was pretty harmless, I'd resigned myself to his winter-long presence (snakes have to hibernate somewhere I suppose), but then one of my resident toads came hopping into the bathroom. Instant serpent action! Arrgh! I didn't know snakes could move that fast. Fortunately, I managed to shove the toad out the door before tooth-contact was made, but my fumbling attempts at snake removal (unravelling coils from the light/toilet/tap/shower-head/sink using a broom handle) were laughable (yes, I know snakes don't laugh, but he was doing his best).
|Making light of murder. My resident snake (I go cold just writing those words) enthusiastically making dinner plans.|
|My squatter expressing his feelings toward the landlord.|