I have a home in Africa in the heart of the sprawling metropolis that is Johannesburg. In my Africa it is not the hungry growl of the predator stalking her prey through the savannah that has me screaming like a baby and needing therapy for PTSD.
It is my nemesis.
It is the Parktown Prawn.
They were not created by the hand of God. I could imagine them crawling out of the wreckage of Hiroshima. And along with their comparatively innocuous cousin, the cockroach, they will inherit the earth. And they are anything but meek.
I am no longer the child who found one in her shoe, or the teenager who woke with one in her nightie. I am a mother. I cannot show weakness. Children will exploit it.
So, when nature’s abnormality jumped on my thigh, did I scream? Did I run? Oh no. I grabbed an empty lunchbox and trapped the freak. Then I put the laundry basket on top of the Tupperware. Then I put a brick on top of the laundry basket. Then I left it to my husband.
As a little girl I imagined my future husband. A knight on a charger who would slay dragons for me left, right and centre. Fearless. Courageous. And so on.
Then I grew up and embraced female equality. I can change my own car tire and am more than happy to slay most of my own dragons. But I still believe that it is a man’s role in the household to dispose of creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night.
I’ll quote a close relative here who told me that the worst part of divorce was having to handle her own bug removal.
Two days later the bug was still in situ. My husband says that I should have put bug removal in our pre-nup and he is not touching the emissary of Satan still living in the lunchbox.
It is karma. My mother and I once trapped an unwelcome housepest, the son of a friend of my father’s fresh from Eton, in a room with two of them. Then we hid outside the door and waited until his screams of terror had become the sobs of the broken. Then we handed him the Tupperware while not even bothering to wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes. Served him right.
To be fair, you have to know about Parktown Prawns to truly understand their intrinsic horror. They are not more scared of you, they attack first then expel a noxious black goo that can render you senseless. They are between 5 and 10 cm long. They can jump a metre in the air without breaking a sweat. They are immune to bug spray, brute force and torture. Waterboarding is like water of a duck’s back to these guys.
My father used to flush them down the loo. Not his loo mind, but my loo. There is nothing that can sum up the horror of sitting down on the throne as a Parktown Prawn escapes the watery depths.
Wikipedia seems to think that some of us revere the prawn. We don’t. We loathe them. We only out up with the raucous noise of the Hadeda Ibis and their desecration of our automobiles because they seem to be the only thing that can kill the little b@$s#*!s.
It was for good reason they were apparently used as the basis of District’s 9’s alien prawns.
A Parktown Prawn is a fearsome beast
Not afraid of your wrath in the very least
He laughs in the face of poisoned gas
There is naught that can make him breathe his last
He lies in wait in your pair of shoes
In order his family and friends to amuse
As you dream of ice creams and sunny days
He’s plotting over a million ways
To make you run naked through the streets of town
Screaming and stripping off your dressing gown
He will not rest until the day
The men in white put you away