With ears on stalks and now thoroughly wide-awake, I sensed that I was not alone. Something had disturbed me: not the continuous high-pitched peep-pip of the tree-frogs, a sound that twinkled in the still, sultry night; not the gentle, methodical whirr of the electric fan cutting through the room’s humidity. No, it was something else. I’d just been dropping off nicely when I thought I’d heard a noise. Not a loud noise – just a sort of slither-slip … pause … slither-slip …
Imagination. Had to be imagination … didn’t it? I switched on the lamp.
Nothing there. Definitely imagination.
I rolled over and … slither-slip … pause … slither-slip …
I switched the lamp back on, peered tentatively over the end of the bed – and met the unblinking gaze of a toad.
As toads go, he was fairly unremarkable: medium-sized, khaki-brown, warty-skinned, grumpy looking – his down-turned mouth and downward-slanting bony ‘eyebrows’ definitely gave the appearance of a frown. But animals don’t do facial expressions. He was probably just waiting to see what happened next, debating his (or my) next move.
Being of a certain age, I didn’t think he’d turn into a handsome prince if I gave him a kiss. Besides, he was a toad, not a frog. However, I wasn’t sure exactly how high he could jump; at some point in the evening he’d managed a flight of ten steps to the front door – and I didn’t fancy him as a bed-fellow. One of us had to go.
I’m not a wimp. We-ell, not really. As a child in Bermuda I’d catch lizards with a noose fashioned from a long stalk. I’d tease land crabs from their holes by tickling their claws with a feathery grass frond. Tiny tree-frogs? Adorable creatures. But that was then. Since then I’d grown up and moved to England, where there was very little wildlife in my every day. Now I was back on the island for a month to visit family. Chase a toad round the room and catch him in my bare hands to lob him out the door? No chance!
My ‘bedroom’ was the front verandah – the coolest place to sleep, with screened windows all round – and of course, the door to the outside world, usually left open during the day to let in a bit more air. Letting in a toad definitely wasn’t part of the plan. I closed the door to the rest of the house, reckoning that if Mr Toad made it as far as my elderly mother’s room and woke her up … well, she’d be knocking on the Pearly Gates before he could say, ‘Croak!’
I armed myself with a rolled up magazine to use to steer him in the right direction – which wasn’t as easy as it might sound. It wasn’t so much the speed at which he moved (not particularly fast) but the unpredictableness of which way he’d leap at any given moment – not to mention his preference for scrabbling into the darkest, least accessible hiding places. After blocking off various avenues of escape and with only a few stifled squeaks (mine), I managed to persuade Mr Toad out from under the bed … out from under a bookcase … out from behind the door … out into the night.
His problem how he got back down those ten steps.