Noises in the night
AS I walked towards the kitchen, I stopped dead. What was that? It was Friday evening and I was starving. I’d got home from work at around 6 pm and was in need of supper. Now. I’d switched on the light as I made my way towards the kitchen and my heart sank as my ears — very sensitive to any sounds — perceived the noise.
What I’d heard was a sinister scuffling sort of sound, but it stopped as soon as it started. I brushed it off and went into the kitchen to riffle through the fridge, looking for nourishment in the form of some left over pizza from the night before. The guy in the house joined me there. I think he had his eye on the pizza, but there was only enough for one and I claimed it first. Fast. He’d have to get a ready meal from the freezer. He didn’t
mind. He found one that required a quick defrost and reheat so got busy with that.
While we were chatting and deciding on the evening’s beverage of choice and televisual feast, we heard it again.
“Did you hear that?” I asked wideeyed.
“Yes, what was it?” he asked all nonchalant-like. “I dunno. But it wants to get in.” The scuffling had morphed into a persistent scratching and we turned towards the patio door where it seemed to be coming from. Or was it? It seemed to stop every time we made a noise, but it definitely moved mysteriously towards what sounded like right above us.
It had to be a rat, we thought. “It wants the bird seed,” I said, helpfully pointing out that we should put the wild bird seed into a hard container so the rats can’t get to it. But searched as we could inside the house around the emanation point of the sound, gingerly and ready to run a mile if ratty presented itself, we found nothing.
The sounds got louder every time we stopped to listen. I investigated from some other windows, peering out into the dark, to see if I could find the source of the noise. He shrugged and carried on looking for the beverages.
When I returned to the kitchen, my mission incomplete, the noise had stopped. We carried on the important task of preparing dinner and exchanging the news of the day.
But then, doof! came a loud noise, on the tin roof near the braai area outside.
“Shhhhh!” I said to him. We looked at each other with big eyes as the doof, doof, doof continued. “Maybe it’s someone walking on the roof,” one of us said. I thought it must have been a giant it was so loud. I feared the thin tin could buckle under its weight.
I leaped into action and ran upstairs, to gain a better vantage point to spot the intruder, ready to yell at him and to chase him off. But, as I peered into the dark outside, there was no sign of anyone. But the loud bangs kept coming.
Puzzled and now very hangry (hungry + angry), I grabbed the keys to open the door so we could chase the intruder away and settle down to enjoy our supper.
My mind was also flooded with thoughts of robberies and home invasions. We cover these stories all the time. I know the score.
I know these things happen in neighbourhoods like mine, to people like us.
I switched the outside light on to illuminate the area in which we were going into mortal combat. Rather die in the light, I always think.
Then, as we opened the door, I spotted him. He was lying on his back, legs and arms waving in the air. This was our intruder. This was our nemesis …
A huge dung beetle had been attracted by the light from our window. The scratching and scuffling sounds came from his prickly legs on the wooden winWRITE TO US AT LET[email protected]NESS.CO.ZA dowsill and the glass of the window.
The thumps had been the result of him trying to fly up and hitting his armoured body on the tin roof awning above him. To my great joy, he seemed uninjured by his assault on our house. I thought he just seemed pretty hacked off about having landed upside down.
The guy bent over and carefully scooped him up and set him gently on the oregano in the nearby herb garden where there is no roof to stop his passage to the sky.
Our intruder thanked us by showing us his bottom so we walked away and left him to his sulking, back to our respective suppers, a televisual feast and a glass of something nice.
Isn’t it nice that sometimes, the scary robber in your head is, in reality, just a big, beautiful, glossy brown, and very cross, dung beetle.
Enjoy your Saturday and Sunday, weekend warriors! • Stephanie Saville is the deputy editor of The Witness.