It’s ten pm. The lights are off. I’m sitting on the bed watching Mad Men. Beside me Alula splays in sleep, indifferent to the charms of Donald Draper.
All of a sudden the soft sound of Jenga blocks tumbling over startles me. I hit the pause button on my laptop. It was probably a mouse, I think to myself. Maybe a big cockroach. Four years ago this would have roused me to action or screams but now I’m seasoned to the tropics. And besides, Donald Draper is on the telly. I hit play.
But then it comes again – more Jenga blocks tumble. Alula has been building Jenga block houses in our bedroom. Something is knocking them over. Would a cockroach even be able to do that? Tentatively I creep from the bed and reach for the light switch.
I’m expecting to see a mouse. What I am not expecting to see is a two-meter long snake.
I always imagined I’d be like Katniss or Buffy in the face of danger. When I imagine the zombie apocolypse or myself in the lead role of any TV show from Falling Skies to The Walking Dead to The 100 I am always the kickass girl who can hit a moving alien vampire target at 500 paces, who can stitch an arterial bleed one handed, all while making ironic yet brilliantly self-deprecating quips and flirting with the hot but haunted hero with the cheekbones you could grate cheese on. And while also looking suitably hot in skinny jeans and a leather jacket, my hair glossy yet artfully mussed. (Oh my god, I have spent way too much time in my head and writing YA fiction).
Anyway… the reality is I freeze. I cannot move. I am paralysed. It is a snake. An actual snake. And it is slithering over Alula’s Jenga house, has crushed her Jenga house into oblivion, and is now sliding behind my book case.
Hyperventilating, still unable to move a muscle, I manage to yell John’s name.
He ambles into the bedroom rolling his eyes. He knows this scream. It is my ‘John there is a cockroach, can you come and kill it’ scream.
He looks at me, irritated. I have brain freeze. I still can’t move. My hand is still resting on the light switch. All I can do is lift my other arm and point, shakily.
Hah! John’s look of mild irritation gives way to total ‘holy shitballs’ shock. Take that! I think. I am not crying wolf (for once!)
John springs immediately into action in a manner that I think would make Bear Grylls jealous. ‘Move Alula!’ he barks at me.
‘Move Alula!’ he tells me again.
I blink at him. Oh shit. Not only are my wilderness skills utterly appalling but my mothering skills are clearly under par also. I’m happily standing on the far side of the room. Between me and the snake lies the bed. The bed with my daughter on it. A fact I’ve only just realised.
John has to repeat himself another six times before I leap into action. I rush to the bed and pick the still sleeping Alula up and carry her through to the other room.
‘Find the number for the snake guy,’ John orders me next.
Snake guy. Snake guy. Right. The Snake guy. With shaking hands I turn off Donald Draper and Google the snake guy who lives in Bali. It takes him an hour to arrive. A whole hour in which John and I don’t take our eyes off the snake that is half hidden behind the book case in case it decides to slither somewhere, like inside our mattress. Or, you know, into the other room to eat Alula.
The snake guy has barely walked in the house before he starts admonishing us over the state of our garden – a veritable snake utopia.
He tells us he is surprised that deadly pit vipers and venomous craits aren’t leaping out at us on a nightly basis. Are we insane? Why have we let our foliage grow so thick? There is no anti-venom he warns. We would be dead in minutes.
‘Can you just please catch the snake?’ I ask him, feebly.
He whips out a stick and a sack and within seconds he is wrestling, literally tussling, with a very angry snake that is taller than he is. I scream. I admit it. I scream and leap onto the bed, heart thumping. He manages to get a grip on the snake’s head and calmly shows us the rows and rows of fangs. The deadly poisonous fangs. It’s like the Basilisk from Harry Potter. Maybe a bit thinner. But every bit as scary, I promise.
Heart attack. I’m having a heart attack.
The snake craps all over the floor. ‘It’s stressed,’ the snake man tells us, staring in awe at the fangs.
‘IT is stressed?’ I think to myself. ‘It’s a miracle I’ve not crapped all over the floor.’
He drops it into a sack. ‘What will you do with it now?’ I ask him.
‘I’ll release it into the wild.’
My eyes widen. Aren’t you supposed to drive the sword of Gryffindor through its skull or something? I realise though, that this isn’t a movie and I should not suggest this out loud. I should be showing some compassion. I mean, the poor snake didn’t mean to wander in here in its search for food. It just got hungry.
‘Into the wild, far, far from here?’ I ask.
‘Yes,’ the man says. Then he glances at Alula, sleeping next door. ‘I have a dozen baby cobras at home, do you think she might like one as a pet?’