Where to start? Maybe with a disclaimer. You know the sort. The not-my-problem, not-my-fault, sloping shoulders kind of sentence, but whilst none of the above – termites, pipes, and the crapaud – are technically of my doing, the way I’ve handled them is.
Can I say a couple of words in my defense before I continue? I am, for the most part, a competent woman – if not always calm. Many of my more than forty years of marriage have been spent as a part-time wife – due to my husband’s work. Many of those years have been spent in countries not my own, though I’m never entirely sure which that is. What I’m trying to say is that I can handle most things from sick kids to attempted coups d’état to snakes in the house, but this last month I seem to have lost my élan, my mojo. And I don’t like it.
We still own a property in Houston – a funky loft in an old warehouse that is currently under eminent domain which means we are not really able to sell. It is therefore often a luxury storage unit used either singly or in unison, should John and I be traveling together.
Upon my arrival, a flying solo visit to Houston for health checks – all good, thanks for asking – the ’T’ appeared. Beam and sheetrock-munching termites met my entry to the bathroom, the laundry and closet. My revulsion swallowed, I sprayed the bejesus out of every wriggling mass and watched their death throes with delight. Then I cried and phoned my husband.
It was a busy couple of weeks. Sorting, packing and attempting to make our once fabulous loft look presentable should the eminent domain status become imminent and the men in City Hall finally decide to purchase then demolish our building. It was a sad and stomach-churning couple of weeks watching our bathroom be ripped apart as termite nests were excavated and evacuated and poison poured into cracks and crevices.
The trade winds met my tired return to St Croix, along with John, Bonnie and Stan and for two days I revelled in my island home – the scent of jasmine lingering over us as we enjoyed sundowners on the patio and watched hummingbirds flit into and around firecracker and duranta as the the cat and dog looked on with resignation.
Then a scratchy throat followed by a teeth-rattling, cheek-throbbing, eye-stabbing sinusitis became the prequel to a cough that defies coughs and laid me low, but not enough to let me allow my husband cancel his busman’s holiday to England to help our son build a pergola.
Remember, I am a competent woman. Then the ‘P’.
It was Stan, the dog-who-chose-to-live-with-us, who alerted me to the issue by lapping from the bathroom floor. A puddle hunt found more water. Enough to soak cardboard boxes in a cupboard. Enough to seep into the hall from somewhere behind the wall. I emptied the cupboard, muttered, mopped, coughed and cried. Then I phoned my husband.
Get Mingo was his advice. Mingo, one of the men who helped turn a crumbling house into our island home arrived with his usual grace and agreed with John’s over-the-phone assessment. A burst pipe. Another wall to be jackhammered. More destruction. It is, in America, a long weekend celebrating independence so nothing will happen until Tuesday. Meanwhile I mop.
The Virgin Islands have been in desperate need of water. The earth has been gasping for rain. And we got it. Not as much as we wanted but enough that leaves lost their limp disinterest and blooms lifted their wilting heads.
And still I coughed and mopped.
The deluge presaged a power outage. It is an expected occurrence – storms or not, a periodic happening, a few hours here and there. But after the fans began to idle and lights flickered on, the only water to be seen came from behind the walls, not the taps. No matter. We are fortunate to have both city and cistern water. An easy switch over. But no gurgle, no pump pressure, no water. I turned stopcocks on pipes this way and that. Still no gurgle, no pressure, no water. And no phone call. Even I could not phone my poor husband, asleep in England at one in the morning, because I’d somehow screwed up the easy switch over!
I coughed, I cried, I mopped. I had a bourbon.
Then I heard it. The ‘C’. A crapaud, French for toad and the name by which the cane toad is known here. They are ugly. They are dangerous. They emit poison that can kill a curious cat and playful pup. Flashlight, long tongs and a bucket – empty of mopped water – in hand I went searching. Not to kill but to relocate. Stan and Bonnie watched my efforts from the patio.
Crapaud croak. Not the joyful ribbit of a frog after rain, rather a guttural snort that suggests phlegm and all manner of nastiness. But, having announced his presence, silence ensued. I gave up, coughed, and we all went to bed.
This morning I mopped, I coughed and town water once again flowed. I phoned my husband to admit my incompetence and get instruction on how to turn all the stopcocks back to the correct position on the pipes.
Water still seeps, Stan has chewed the furniture, the crapaud still lurks and I still cough.
A litany of minor woes that have left me a gibbering wreck, damn it! So, please, if anyone sees my mojo, send it back!