The Lizard King
By Patricia Darak
Skritch skritch shuffle. Skritch skritch shuffle.
I lifted my hands from the keyboard and swiveled my head toward the blanket that I keep in the corner of the kitchen, fully expecting to see our cat rolling around. Since it was after the children’s bedtime and my husband was asleep, I was surprised when, instead of our Beast, I had instant eye contact with a lizard peeking over one of the folds of the blanket.
That’s right. A lizard. Not just any little lizard, either. If this lizard had been green, it would have been the size of a young iguana.
A big lizard staring at me is not, in my opinion, the most creatively conducive situation. I wasn’t scared. I was, well, quietly startled. The lizard continued to steadily gaze at me, so I did what came naturally. I went back to my typing.
After about ten minutes, the lizard was still watching me intently. That’s when I realized that we weren’t alone; the Beast was making his approach. Sure enough, I saw his shadow as it slid along the wall, perfectly blended in with his ebony feline coat.
The cat had slowly circled around behind his prey, preparing to pounce. My attention was riveted on the lizard’s face. I knew what was coming and I, for whatever reason, held as still as the intended victim.
Slowly, as its doom approached, the lizard began to flex its muscular legs in anticipation of escape. Moving its feet incrementally while lifting its nose at the sudden scent of danger, the lizard began to turn around. The cat, frozen in place, lowered his tail and head. Their eyes met.
I couldn’t move.
Suddenly, both animals made their moves. At the same time that the lizard sprinted, the cat sprang forward with his claws extended.
It was no contest. The cat’s claws reached down and scooped up the lizard by its soft underbelly, flipping it over and over like a toy. The lizard was frantically scrabbling to get away, but too much damage had been inflicted, and it could only lie there panting. Instead of killing it immediately, the cat took his time with the injured reptile, batting it left and right, forward and back. My stillness belied the growing dismay at the realization that our cat had no intention of killing the lizard at all.
Of course, the time had passed for courageous intervention on my part. The lizard’s well-being had been compromised, and dare I say, lost, by my inaction. Yet, the cat was only doing what it had probably done thousands of times outside of my view. I was the bigger ‘animal’ who did not deign to protect the weak. I had failed.
While I took those few moments to reproach myself, the lizard had gotten away. Apparently, it had feigned great injury in order to put our cat off its guard; it worked. I mentally urged the lizard to flee before death could, on four furry paws, attain victory. Run, lizard, run!
Almost before it had really begun, the battle was over. Try as he might, our cat never again came close to capturing the interloping reptile.
Two days later, after numerous sightings by our children, the lizard was apprehended. By me. Of course.
I commandeered the use of a small empty box and an old, yet sturdy, magazine. Creeping up slowly, I lowered the inverted box down over the unaware lizard until it was completely covered. Then, I slid the box over onto the magazine and inverted the whole design. I made sure that the lizard couldn’t get out, then picked up the box and walked outside. The kids were excited at the thought of having a lizard for a pet, but I assured them that the poor thing would be better off outside so that it could find its family. They agreed, and we released the lizard – now seemingly fully recovered – back into the wild. After watching it scurry beneath the shrubbery, we turned away and made our way back inside the house.
It was a good day.