Isn't it funny how children can put you down with one word, one sentence. They can halt the conversation with one full swoop and I don't mean with the usual 'where do babies come from?' question.
Your favourite for dinner!! Don't want it.
Can you tidy up please!? Why? Who's coming?
Tadaaaa! Wow! Mum's wearing make-up...
I love recounting tales of my childhood to my own children. Back in the day, memories viewed through rosy coloured specs when everything was good. We seemed to do so much more back then compared to kids nowadays, but that's a different story. One day after much harassment for another story, I decided to tell them about the night I met a jackal...
The night was moist... the rain had stopped and there was a low rumble of thunder in the background. I was about 15 years old, and my parents had (shock, horror) left me home alone while they did the monthly shop. I was quite happy though - house to myself and my beloved dog to protect me.
Although the thunder made me flinch, I was happy watching tv. The lamp cast a cosy glow over the room and the fire made everything so snug. Lovely, and I hoped that my parents took their time!
Quite out of the blue, something caught the dog's attention. Her ears pricked up, she sniffed the air and made a low growl as she looked towards the living room door. I stroked her and asked what was wrong, but my touch and words were ignored as she stalked towards the door. The lowly growl turned into panicked barks, she jumped, clawed the door and pranced around on all fours.
As this was happening, my curiosity was turning to all out fear. The hair on my arms was standing as the cold realisation hit me that someone could be standing on the other side of the door. And I was alone.
I paced, wringing my palms wondering what to do. And all the while, the dog was still prancing... still barking.. still growling. I looked longingly out of the window towards the drive, where my parents' car should have been. The drive was empty. The phone was in the hallway. I knew I had to open that door.
I grabbed the dog by the collar (I was so afraid that she would be hurt if someone was there) and gingerly turned the handle on the door. The glow from the room that was once so cosy spilled out into the long, dark hallway.
And there at my feet, right by the door stood what I can only describe as a jackal. It stood there defiantly in the shadows, it's ears pricked up and it held my shocked stare. I released the dog at that point and she chased the little creature along the hallway and into the kitchen. As I followed, I saw that the back door was lying wide open to the elements. I ran through the door and into the back garden.
The rain had stopped and left a damp blanket on everything. The thunder rumbled in the background and my beloved dog was running around in circles, whining and yelping. She was fine, unhurt but the jackal was nowhere to be seen. The back garden was 'dog-proof' to prevent our dog from getting out - and any dog from getting in. The gate was closed. There was absolutely no way out.
I called the dog back into the house, closed all the doors, put on all the lights and pushed the sofa against the living room door. I waited by the window for my parents to return. I was terrified.
I can't explain how the little creature entered our house, through closed gates and closed doors or where it went afterwards. But one thing's for sure, I'll never forget that night I came face to face with a jackal, and I'll never forget how my lovely dog protected me.
At this point I pause to tell the children that the story is finished, they are gazing at me... eyes agog and seriously spooked when No3 pipes up 'Mum, Mum tell us about the day you saw the pterodactyl....'