It was a quite a Christmas what with three of the five being teenagers. Teenagers are dreadful, full stop. Rather like grizzly bears, when woken in daylight, they wander out all grumpy and sleepy and highly unpredictable.
Then there are the other animals. The five love birds that have started multiplying, the cat Gloria and the kitten Skunk, the potcake dog Samson, three legged Banger and the tortoise Vincent, except that Vincent strolled off around September time and has been MIA ever since.
Then strangely, just after Christmas, as I was coming back from an early morning run I looked down the beach path to see Vincent gently ambling towards me. He seemed in rather good spirits and had grown tremendously in the three months since his last appearance. I picked him up, stroked his outstretched neck and took him home. I felt it was a good omen, a lovely ending to the year.
That night though David and I were woken by an unusual crying from the bird cages below our terrace. David went to investigate and a few minutes later shouted up to me for help. A gigantic snake had some how slithered between the tiny bars and wrapped him self around the bird’s perch, disgorged his mouth and was devouring one of the chicks.
Peering in through the black of night all we could make out were tail feathers and tiny feet pointing out from the snakes horrific mouth. “Grab a flashlight” David shouted, as he ran to get the garden shears. All the other birds clung to the sides of the cage, screaming in fear as the scene unfolded before us.
Shears in hand and flash light pointed at the crime scene David reached into the cage and jolted the snake, who, clearly annoyed at being interrupted mid-meal reared up reaching for David’s arm but by now had also wrapped himself on the shears. David quickly leaned back out from the cage and jogged out onto the terrace where the baby bird was spat out but the angry hissing snake. David went further down the garden, flinging the snake back into the jungley undergrowth from where he had come. I knelt down to look at the bird, smothered in snake spit, but it was too late, the little thing had been suffocated to death.
As I climbed back into bed I wondered if this was now a bad omen.
New Year’s Day arrived and someone suddenly noticed Skunk was missing. When we thought about it no one had seen him all day. “He’s a teenager” David said, “he’s probably off in town looking for action. He’ll be back.” Never-the-less several exhaustive searches took place, endless calling, driving around town, asking neighbors but still there was no sign. Two more days past and we began to fear the worst. I printed reward signs, with the word REWARD in BIG RED LETTERS. We pinned them up in obvious places and went to bed with a pit in our stomachs.
In the morning an email dropped in from a friend in Uruguay: “Place a glass upside down and don’t move it until the thing that is missing returns.” I did it, just in case. A glass upside down, in the spot where Skunk would sleep.
An hour later Top Banana walked into my office with a rather dusty Skunk in her arms, someone called out of the blue to say they had him . We will never know what happened to Skunk and we will never know weather the Uruguayan custom or the red reward sign brought him home, but which ever it was this must be a good omen for the beginning of the year, no?