by DAN WALLACE
King of the coquina by Jill Bazeley | Flickr
There’s a lizard in my fire pit that I’m on a first-name basis with. Archie’s his name and he’s one of those that has a red disc in his throat that inflates when he’s coming on to a chick lizard. Sometimes he flashes it at me, but I’m straight so he’s wasting his time. Most days we’ll just stare at each other and occasionally bob our heads in a kind of dance move. Not sure what that’s about but I think he’s just showing attitude.
My youngest granddaughter was visiting and wanted to make s'mores. And putting one on a fork over a stove burner won’t do. She wants the full experience, including a fire in the fire pit. Archie and I have never officially declared our friendship but we’re close enough that I don’t want to set him on fire. But she’s one of those kids that’ll have her way either before or after the pouting. So I tell her that if we light the fire, her momma will die. Don’t smirk at me; drastic times call for drastic measures. But she told on me and her mom threatens my life if I don’t comply
I kicked the side of the pit several times and even called him out. “There’s a lady lizard out here that’s really digging your red throat. She wants to meet and maybe hook up to make some little Archie’s,” I say. He doesn’t even stick his head out to see if I’m lying. I give him a final warning then pour the lighter fluid on.
Still no Archie. Maybe he’s out with one of his chicks or hunting bugs. Meanwhile, I’ve got an unhappy granddaughter on my hands and can’t wait any longer. I put a match to it. It flames up gloriously, getting ohs and ahs from everyone. Out of the corner of my eye, I see what looks like a tiny comet streak by my feet. Whatever it was, it was on fire. I think no more of it and enjoy half a dozen s'mores before we finally call it a night.
I’ll admit that I worried a little about the guy. But I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. He’s a lizard, not my flesh and blood. So I take my fist full of pills and call it a night. I’m soon dragged out of a deep slumber with something sitting on my chest, breathing in my face. It’s Archie, and his hair’s smoking. Or at least where his hair would be if he had any.
This is just another one of those weird dreams, I tell myself. In a minute he’ll turn into a purple giraffe and scamper off into the nearby jungle.
“You set me on fire,” he says angrily.
Where’s Leo when I need him. He’s supposed to protect me from nightmares. I’m going to trade him in for a parrot.
“Sorry man. But I gave you a warning,” I say in my defense.
“I was occupied if you know what I mean,” he says.
“That red flashy thing in your throat finally worked, huh?”
“They can’t resist it. I can have any chick I want. Nobodies is as red as mine,” he boasts.
“What are you doing in my room Archie? I don’t wake you up in the middle of the night.”
“I’m just here to tell you that I know where you live. So keep the matches in your pocket from now on,” he says
I wake up to the smell of burnt hair, but no Archie. First, it was Uncle Vinnie now it’s a burned-up lizard. If it’s a sign from above He’ll have to spell it out. All I’m getting is dead critters invading my space.
I avoided the pit for a few days just in case he’s got revenge on his mind. But I had to see if there’s a charred Archie in the ruins. So the next morning I get a spatula and walk slowly up to the pit. I’m not sure if lizards bite but I’m taking no chances. I’ve got on a heavy winter coat with the hood tied up tight, leather gloves, and an old catcher’s mask. And it’s July. If he intends to do me harm he’ll have to chew through three inches of goose down first.
“Hey Archie, you in there?” I ask from about ten paces away.
There’s no answer, not even a moan. I sift slowly through the ashes half praying he’s in there and half that he’s only a figment of my imagination. He’s not there. I hear something behind me and jump like the guilty dog I am. It’s Bosco, my neighbor’s Pyrenees. Doesn’t he ever keep that mutt at home? And Archie’s perched on his back. He looks none too happy either.
“Did you come to finish the job?” he asked.
“I’m so ashamed right now. I don’t even know who you are. How could you?” Bosco adds.
They didn’t say it out loud but you don’t have to be a mind reader to know that’s what they’re thinking.
“Don’t look at me like that. I’m at the top of the food chain. I’ll cook you both and eat you if I want,” I threaten.
Bosco retreats to his master’s yard and pouts. Archie’s a little more persistent; he climbs to the top of the pit and signals me to lean in so I’ll hear him.
“I noticed you didn’t burn down your grapevines to get rid of the garter snakes. You got something against lizards?” he asks.
“What? No. Not especially. You’re about the same to me with that forked tongue. Why do y’all do that? Is that a chick thing too?” I ask.
“I’ve got a good mind to report you for this. We lizards have a little pull in Washington. I could have the FBI here tomorrow if I wanted to,” he says.
How was I to know he knew J. Edgar? This could be a problem. None of my relatives will bail me out, and I’m too pretty for jail, so I seek an amicable solution to the matter.
“I told you that I’m sorry. What have I got to do to make it up to you?”
“You can’t buy your way out of this. The chicks don’t want a lizard with his scalp burned off. I’m damaged for life.”
He starts bobbing his body up and down, then just the head and then he lunges at me. I run like a six-year-old girl seeing her first spider. Then I remember he got into my room once so I’d better try a little harder.
“How about if I build you a special place in the fire pit? I’ll put a bed of grass down, cover it with little sticks, and then cover the whole thing so you won’t get wet,” I offer. He stops perusing me while he considers my offer.
“You’ll have to leave a little slit for me to come and go through. And I want a tall stick that I can climb and display my majesty to the ladies from,” he counters.
“Done. And I’ll go by the bait shop and pick up some crickets. You like them don’t you,” I ask.
“I prefer the nightcrawlers, but crickets have less cholesterol. I’m not getting any younger so I’ve got to pay attention to those things.”
We seal the deal with the head dance and I retreat to the house before he calls in an airstrike on me. We have no more trouble and I occasionally bring him crickets by. He’s been a busy little guy, I see females coming and going at all hours of the day. I guess the combination of the reddest throat in my backyard and nice digs is working for him.
After my harrowing experience with the Lizard Godfather, I pay better attention to the little things around me. Things like stuffing a towel under my bedroom door at night to keep Archie out and not assuming too much. Just because he’s three inches long doesn’t mean he doesn’t hate getting burned up as much as the next guy. And for some reason, my ex doesn’t seem so bad anymore. I’ve decided to be nicer to her, maybe even kind, whatever that is. We’re going to the graveyard this morning to clean up her burial plot. It’s next to mine.
“Does what’s his name care if you’re buried by me?” I ask.
“I still haven’t told him I’m dying. I want you to tell him."
“Me, I don’t even know the guy's name, why do you want me to?”
“Because he hates you. I only told him about the bad stuff so he’ll expect bad news from you.”
“You mean there were some good things.”
“Not good, just not as bad as the other stuff. There were times when I didn’t dream of killing you in your sleep,” she said.
“Maybe I should introduce you to Archie, he feels the same way.”
“He lives outback. Tell me more about the not so bad stuff.”
“You’ll need to be supportive of the kids when I go. That’s never been your strong suit. Think you can put them before yourself just once in your life?”
Either the dying or old age has tempered her patience with me. Normally she’ll just point out that I’m an ass and not waste her time suggesting how to correct it. Now she wants me to do better. Will this self-improvement ever end?
“What do you want me to do?”
“Joel’s meeting me for lunch. I want you to go with me.”
“We’re not going to the graveyard are we?”
“You’re not as dumb as you look. No. We’re meeting at Mom’s Diner.”
What’s his name is standing in front of the diner when we arrive. That big dumb smile on his face turns immediately to a frown when he sees me in the passenger’s seat.
“Hello, Danny. You couldn’t get your kids to drive you around?” he asks.
“No. They’re too busy making a shrine to me as father of the year. And I’m not picking up the tab, so you’d better have your card on you,” I reply.
“You two behave or I’ll have lunch alone,” Judy threatens.
We’re taken to our seats where I scooch in real close to Judy. Not to be outdone, what’s his name is almost in her lap. She pushes us both back to a respectable distance.
“Danny has something to tell you,” she announces.
“Yea, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say. Judy thinks I’m better looking than you.”
Judy elbows me in the side and gives me that look of desperation I’ve only seen when I came home drunk. What I’d give for a shot of Tequila right now.
“Okay. What’s your name by the way?”
I get another elbow.
“Okay, Joel. Judy has terminal cancer. She’s didn’t know how to tell you so, just like when we were married, I do her dirty work.”
This time I block her elbow and go for his jugular.
“She’s leaving you to come back to me because I’m a better person than you. She wanted me to be the one to tell you so it would hurt even more,” I say while blocking a right cross to the jaw. He gets up to leave, but she takes him by the arm and sits him back down.
“This is the way it’s going to be. I’m going to be cremated and you two are going to take the kids to the beach and spread my ashes. And you’re going to do it like two civilized human beings.”
“Maybe he will but nobody expects me to,” I say.
“That’s the end of it. Now shake hands.”
I can’t think of anything more distasteful, but I grip his extended hand just the same. I guess I owe her a little something for all those years she didn’t kill me in my sleep. What’s his name has tears rolling down his cheek. That’s why she likes him better than me.
He has feelings.
Dan Wallace is an aspiring Humor/Satire writer. His biggest influence is Bugs Bunny with Joseph Heller a close second. After living way too long he’s spending his remaining time making fun of everything and everybody, especially himself. He’s not traditionally published but once he gets the hang of this, watch out…he’ll be on every bookshelf. You can read more of his nonsense on Kindle. Look for Other People’s Dogs.