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Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Reptile House

Reptile House, London Zoo a la Harry Potter!

“I don’t want to alarm you,” said Scotto standing in the bedroom doorway at ten o’clock last Wednesday night, “but there’s a snake in the house.”

If he’d said, “I don't want to alarm you, but there’s a snake in my pants,” I would have laughed. 

But he said, ‘in the house’ so I knew he wasn’t joking or making a silly euphemism.

“You mean, a proper snake?” I gasped, pulling the chihuahua up around my neck as a sort of shield.

“Yes Pinky,” he said, “A proper snake. I just saw its tail slither under some newspaper in the hallway. You stay here and I’ll deal with it.”

“What are you waiting for? Go, go, go,” I shouted, “And bring the cat in here to sit with me and the dogs.”

God forbid any of our animals be attacked by a vicious snake, even though Celine is a fox terrier and is allegedly bred to catch snakes, the only thing she catches on a regular basis is gastro-enteritis.

My animals are peace-makers, not assassins.

As I perched on the bed, television muted, I listened to the sounds emanating from the hallway. 

The same hallway I’d tottered down minutes before after cleaning my teeth. 

The same hallway my baby sausage dog had chased a ball a few seconds prior. 

The same hallway I’d previously felt safe to enter without turning on a light when nicking down to the loo.

I listened closely and kept my peeled eyes on the space under the door lest the snake decided to make a run for it.

The sounds of a heavy, thudding wooden flute, playing hypnotic music, wafted into the bedroom. 

Good. It seemed that Scotto had located the serpent and was placing it into a trance. Soon he would mesmerise the reptilian creature and compel it to perform the chicken dance or something and hopefully persuade it to vacate the premises.

After twenty minutes of spectacular flute playing, the bang of the front door slamming a few times, and ejaculations of some swear words I’ve never heard him use before, 
Scotto appeared at the door

“Is the snake gone?” I asked, eyes bulging like saucers.

He nodded, cool and collected except for the sweat dripping from his ear lobes.

“What sort of snake was it?”

“Brown,” he replied, his bottom lip quivering.

“Brown-brown or brownish-brown?” I queried.


“Brown tree snake brown, or brown murderous killy-killy, bitey snake brown?” I asked tremulously.

“It wasn't a tree snake,” he replied, still panting and eyelids blinking rapidly.

My mind instantly sought out someone to blame for this near-fatal invasion. How did the vicious viper get in the house in the first place? Who left a door open?

The frightening reality is that we still don’t know.

There could be an entire nest of King Browns curled up in my linen cupboard pretending to be the vacuum cleaner hose. 

I’ll never vacuum or change the sheets again.

And how long had it been living in the house? Did it come out for a little wander every night after lights out for a forage?

My feet have barely touched the floor for three days. Every time a piece of fluff touches my foot I leap in the air and scream blue murder.

I can’t wait for winter when the snakes all go off and sleep under logs in the outdoors where they belong.

In the meantime… our house is for sale. Fully stocked linen closet included.