Friday, April 18, 2008

The Lizard Challenge

For those who have never been to tropical climates like Florida or the Caribbean Islands, there are little gecko-like ground lizards EVERYWHERE. The St. Croix Ground LizardThey provide a great service for us people by eating mosquitoes and other small bugs, and by keeping our cats endlessly entertained as they crawl up the screen, perch on the window louvers, and skitter from place to place. They rapidly become a pretty benign factor of life, and are, as the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy describes the Earth, mostly harmless. Annoying, especially when they manage to get into the house, but mostly harmless.

Today, however, the HipHubby (HH) ran into a lizard with a major attitude problem, and a suicidal disregard for the odds.

After doing some routine yard maintenance -- mowing, whacking the weeds, and beating back the infiltration of tan-tan trees (garbage trees that are the scourge of the island) -- my HH sat down on one of the chairs on our front porch for a few minutes before coming in to shower. As always, there were dozens of lizards sharing the porch with him, including one teenage male sitting on the rail directly across from where HH had plopped.

Something about this particular lizard caught my Hubby’s attention, and their eyes locked. His brilliant orange throat pouch started to flare (the lizard’s, not the HH, who doesn’t have a brilliant orange anything), and the little guy started to engage in what we call the humpy dance, a combination of lizard push ups and head thrusts, with the occasional tail flick tossed in or good measure.

Not wishing to be rude, or perhaps suffering from a bit of heat stroke, the HH responded in kind -- bopping up and down in his chair in perfect time with the lizard, and never breaking eye contact.

And then something in this lizard’s tiny little brain snapped. Even though he was only about four inches long from the tip of his snout to the tip of his tail, he jumped down off the rail and, once at ground level, closed the distance between himself and my Hubby by half. His beady little gaze never wavered. Once in position, he started to dance again, this time bouncing a little more aggressively. The little guy’s throat pouch kept time with his bopping, and my HH kept time with them both.

Apparently this just pissed the lizard off. He again narrowed the distance by half and resumed his little war dance, this time keeping eye contact by craning his neck back so far the white of his chest was visible each time his orange pouch deflated.

This, of course, cracked my HH up. After regaining his composure (it would have been rude to laugh out loud at this gutsy -- not to mention foolhardy -- challenge), my HH leaned forward and asked the lizard, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

As if to answer, the lizard stopped dancing just long enough to run forward and take up a new position, directly between my HipHubby’s heavy work boots. The little guy may have a tiny brain, but you gotta give him credit for having the cajones of an iguana.

The HipHubby’s amusement at the situation was wearing thin at about the same rate that his concern over having a lizard run up his pant leg was growing. It was time, the HH decided, to put this arrogant little guy in his place. With his big blue eyes still firmly locked on the lizard’s little black ones, the HH picked up his right boot and brought it down with soft thud, quickly and firmly, right next to where the little reptile stood, still doing the humpy dance.

It didn’t so much as flinch, let alone move. It just stood there, doing little lizard pushups and puffing out its colorful throat balloon, now dwarfed by the large grass-stained leather boot only inches from the tips of its gangly little toes.

After complimenting the lizard on his chutzpah, the HH decided to have a little chat with the little guy about what was and was not a good thing for a reptile of that size to do when it came to interacting with humans. After firmly grabbing the lizard around his midsection and lifting him up to eye level, my HH raised the index finger to wag while he lectured, and the little pocket-critter bit him!

That was the end of the HH’s patience. After prying Gordon Gecko’s jaws off of his throbbing index finger (these tiny beasts could give a ferret a run for its money when it comes to jaw strength and sheer determination), the HH calmly informed the lizard of his “one strike, you’re outta here” policy. Incredibly, the lizard was still attempting to humpy dance and assume an offensive posture -- not at all easy to do when one in suspended in mid-air, but you’ve got to admire the effort, right up until the moment of his departure.

You’ve heard of the Highland Fling? We’ll down here we do what’s known as the “Island Fling” -- which basically involves turning lizards into unwilling Frisbees. Points are awarded for style, altitude achieved, and of course, distance. Although I wasn’t there to see this particular Fling, the HH assures me he scored straight tens for his success in lobbing this little ground lizard clear into our neighbor’s yard, easily clearing the eight foot fence along the property border

The score for this Lizard Challenge: HipHubby wins by a fling out.

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