A collective shriek of terror echoed off the walls and had me hurtling into the bathroom at a gallop that wasn’t bad for seven thirty in the morning. My daughter was crouched on the edge of the bath, gripping the edges and swaying as she tried to stop herself from tumbling backwards into the tub. My son was stood on his little blue chair, on tiptoes clutching his toothbrush in one hand and the rim of the sink with the other. All eyes were rooted to the floor.
I looked at the object that was causing so much alarm. Despite constant nagging, my daughter still leaves her clothes lying around and this time the offending garment was a yellow t-shirt.
I bent down and using two fingertips I gingerly picked it up off the tiles. My son began making small, strangled noises and started looking at the plughole, as though considering whether it would provide a suitable route of escape. My daughter, from the safety of her perch looked on with the fascinated interest of a spectator watching an unarmed man face down a lion in the arena; secretly knowing that it was going to be brutal, but unable to look away.
The creature was hiding underneath the right sleeve and I barely managed to contain a sigh of relief. It was a relatively small scorpion instead of one of the award-winning Daddy sized ones that we occasionally find. Rolled up with its black tail curled over its back, it looked like an innocuous, shiny black beetle. For a moment the children stared at it and time stood still.
Then all hell broke loose as the scorpion made a break for it. Unrolling itself, it belted for the hole under the bath, the one that we’ve never taken the time to tile over. Pincers outstretched, legs and ribbed body scuttling over the floor with tail poised, it shot out from under the t-shirt at lightening speed, before finding sanctuary in the dark safety beneath the tub.
Not that it could have felt itself to be in any danger. At the first sign of movement, the kids had leapt from their perches and had fled hollering into the corridor. I was just behind them.
When I spoke to my husband about the clamour caused by yet another appearance of wildlife, he shrugged and said: “c’est une bonne maison”. Maybe that explains why we all have this obsessive habit about banging our shoes before putting them on.