We arrive home after an evening out and I am standing in the kitchen farewelling my mum who has been babysitting our youngest. It’s one of those gorgeous, balmy spring evenings, so the doors are open to the deck and the moonlight is lighting up the backyard.
All of a sudden there are blood curdling screams piercing the night and my eldest two children are sprinting up the hill towards home as fast as their legs will carry them. They cross the lawn in five-seconds-flat and fall in through the sliding doors, slamming them closed behind them.
My daughter is doubled over semi-hyperventilating and crying at the same time, my son looks confused and is out of breath.
Mum and I look at each other wide eyed and I ask, “What the hell is going on?”
It’s bin night.
Now no-one likes bin night, but this reaction is a little full-on even for this household.
Bin night when you live in the bush means a long haul down the driveway to the gate to leave the wheelie bins out for collection. It’s a job no-one wants to do, especially the heavy recycling bin. There is usually all manner of rock-paper-scissors action between the kids to try and determine whose turn it is, and tonight the eldest two are on the job.
Given we got home late and it’s dark, they both headed off into the night dragging the bins behind them and using their phones as a flash light.
And that’s when things turned pear shaped.
The story goes like this…
Charlee is walking ahead, she is wandering along using her phone light to check on the possums who have taken up residence in the trees along our drive, and occasionally she flashes the light onto the track to check for pot holes.
Charlee flicks the light onto the path because she thinks she can see a big stick lying across the track.
Only, as she goes to step over the stick she realises…
It isn’t a stick.
The stick is moving.
The stick has beady yellow eyes and big white fangs (actually I added the fang bit, but sounds dramatic right?).
Charlee lets out an almighty scream, drops her bin, swings around and starts sprinting for home.
She whizzes passed her brother who has been bringing up the rear, her hair is flying behind her and her screams are all but indecipherable.
Bodhi is shouting, “What’s wrong????”
He later explained she was moving so fast she was just a blur. She had suddenly discovered super human speed and was doing an excellent Usain Bolt impersonation as she flew passed him all the while screaming….
Bodhi is all like… “What is she saying?”
Charlee is moving so fast there are sparks flying off her heels. There is nothing but sand and dust in her wake as she is burning up the track towards home.
Bodhi said he suddenly registered what she was saying and in the darkness and confusion couldn’t understand why she was so freaked out (we see snakes all the time here) so thought (somewhat irrationally) the snake must have been chasing her.
So he drops his bin, and starts sprinting after her up the hill.
Which brings me back to my kitchen farewelling mum.
The kids have just fallen all over themselves trying to get in the door and Charlee is a picture of hysteria.
“What the hell happened?” I ask.
For a few seconds I can’t get any sense out of either of them and then I realise in between sobs Charlee is saying, “Snake.”
Now as I’ve mentioned, snakes aren’t too much of a big deal around here – they are part and parcel of living in rural Australia, and our kids know just to move away quietly if they see a snake.
So given the state the pair of them are in I immediately think one of them has been bitten.
I start freaking out and checking Charlee’s legs for bite marks.
Sob. Gasp. Hiccup. Sob.
“What are you doing Mum?”
Sob. Gasp. Sob.
“Where’s the bite?” I ask, trying to hide my fear.
“What bite?” she asks.
“Where the snake bit you?”
“The snake didn’t bite me,” she says looking at me like I’ve gone crazy.
I straighten up. “It didn’t bite you?”
“NO,” she says
“But it was chasing her Mum,” says Bodhi.
“No it wasn’t,” she says looking at him like he’s gone mad, “snakes don’t chase you.”
“I know that,” he says, “so why were you screaming like a lunatic and running for home?”
“Because I got a fright,” she says pouting, followed by more sobbing.
By this stage I start to get the giggles. It could be part relief and part realisation the whole scene is slightly ludicrous.
Charlee still has a slight look of terror in her eyes and Bodhi is trying to catch his breath from the physical exertion of the sprint up the hill.
My hubby enters the room at this stage to find out what all the commotion is about and starts asking the important questions.
“How big was the snake?”
“I don’t know,” Charlee snaps, “I didn’t exactly stick around to ask it how it’s day was.”
My giggle now moves from a little chuckle to the bent over holding-your-sides kind.
Charlee is still not seeing the funny side and gives me a dirty look.
By this stage even mum is starting to chuckle.
Pretty soon Charlee’s mouth starts to twitch.
“Well, I suppose there could be one benefit out of all this,” she says.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“I think I just broke my 100m land speed record, and in a pair of Kmart sandals.”
By now we are all rolling around the kitchen and in typical Aussie fashion, the story of how big the snake was is getting bigger by the second. I distinctly recall her using the term ‘python’ and saying she hopes the snake doesn’t make it over to the neighbours place to eat their five year old for breakfast (for those of you who don’t live in Australia – snakes DO NOT eat small children for breakfast and are not comparable in size to a python).
As the conversation is winding up Charlee heads off down the hallway and I call out to her in my best concerned mum voice, “You going to be alright kiddo? Where you off to?”
And she throws back over her shoulder…
“I’m going to check my undies for skid marks.”
So much for my tough Aussie farm kids.
Image by @platydracus