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Things That Go Bump in the Night
Yesterday morning (Wednesday) I got up early, as I usually do, to get on the computer and read my mail, look at the news/weather on "My.Yahoo.Com", and browse the web. I stumbled (through the pre-dawn darkness) over some unfamiliar objects on the floor. Upon closer examination, I recognized them to be a candle, candle-holder and figurines from the sideboard standing nearby. Something had knocked them over, and I thought 'Earthquake!'.

However, there was generally no other indication of disturbance in the room - I noticed a vase near the sideboard which had been tipped over, and then figured 'a cat must have jumped up on the sideboard, knocked over the candle and figures, gotten startled and hit the vase on the way down, and...' but I knew this doesn't make sense - cats just don't make mistakes like that! I restored the figures and candle to their place on the sideboard, and stood the vase upright. Then I headed upstairs to the computer room.

It was early in the day and still pretty dark, but the light was strengthening as I entered the computer room and I noticed there were objects strewn on the floor at the side of the roll-top desk, objects which belonged on top of the narrow roll-top portion of the desk. I reached over and pressed the light switch on the desktop lamp while at the same time bent down to recover the glass paperweight, picture, and souvenir cannon which had fallen from that same narrow desktop.

When I stood back up with my hands full, I halted in the act of reaching to replace the items on the roll-top... There, along the wall between the lamp and the wall, and stretching approximately three feet long, was the greenest lizard I have ever seen! Its head was bigger than my fist, and at first I thought 'A toy. Someone has placed a stuffed lizard on the desk.' - and then it blinked!

I froze and thought 'Think, John. What is this? Is it poisonous? Where might it have come from? Look closely now, while its not moving, so you can describe its length, thickness, color, and any other characteristics which might be needed later.' Right. Cold sweat was breaking out on my forehead, I was afraid to move, and I wondered 'What now? Phone someone? Who? Who can possibly help me at 5:15 in the morning while I'm standing here petrified, in my undershorts, afraid to make a move?'

The phone on the desk was within reach, but I was afraid to move thinking I would startle the beast and it would do something (?) which I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle. (?) Moments passed.... Blink.

I remembered that my immediate neighbor manages a pet store - more of a dog pet store, really, but a pet store. And that they have two sons, Carl and Lee Jr., and that perhaps either of the boys might have experience with a lizard like this and perhaps one of those boys might be able to slip in here and pick up the lizard for me... I cautiously reached over, picked up the phone, and called 411.... the phone rang and rang and rang and I waited and watched the lizard watching me and the phone rang and rang... finally, I hung up and dialed 411 again. 'What city, please?' I found out that the neighbor had an unlisted number and thought 'I really, really need to put a phone book up here!' and I watched the lizard watching me some more as I carefully placed the phone back on the hook.

By now, some time had passed. Probably ten minutes. The lizard was still where I had first seen it, and I thought 'Perhaps the light startled it, and its still getting adjusted to seeing me and the light and all'. Right. And I'm still getting adjusted to seeing him in the light and all. I looked around the room in an effort to see if any of the windows were open, or there were some sign of possible egress for the lizard. Seeing no way for the beast to escape, I cautiously slid to my right and, keeping an eye on the green thing while doing so, I exited the room closing the door behind me. I listened for a moment, at the door, but heard no sound of scurry or slither or scrabble or whatever sound a lizard makes when a lizard makes sound - bump? then turned and went downstairs to figure out what to do next.

While I showered, shaved, dressed, made the bed, and generally tried to let time pass so I could call someone at a reasonable hour, I wondered about the fact that an animal could find its way into a house like this. We have an atrium, central to the house, with a door we keep ajar so the dog can get out during the day or night in order to 'visit nature'. Although a cat might consider coming into a house through the door it would have access to, a cat would also not risk having an encounter with the dog. However, a dumb lizard probably never gives a dog a thought. So of course you should expect every lizard in the world to just waltz right in, and from now on that's what we'll call the atrium door - our lizard trap! Anyway...

I decided to walk around the neighborhood and watch for signs of the neighbor waking up. After all, they have a business to run, and here it is 06:45 in the morning! They'll be getting up soon, and I can get one of the boys to help with the capture of the thing and be done with it! So I put the dog on a leash, and set out to watch for signs of life in the adjoining windows.

No sign of life. The dog and I walked up and down the street, and still no sign that would encourage me to go home and call (we have their number from the condo-association phone list). So Pepe and I walked back up the block and took a turn down the next street - waiting. Another neighbor and good friend, Marty Back, was sitting at the breakfast table as we walked by and he hurried out.

"John", he called, "what's the matter?" (I never walk the dog in the morning - I'm always on the computer. So Marty knew something was up...)

"Nothing", I replied, "except this darned green lizard that came into our place."

Marty knew that Mary wasn't home, that she was visiting her sister Jayne in Oklahoma. "Want some help?", he asked, then said "I've got just the thing - a fishing net!" Then he reached up into his garage rafters and produced a handsome big fishnet on a 3-foot handle. "I've got to go to jury duty right away, which is why I'm up early, but if you need me to, I can come by and help", he said.

"That's OK, Marty - I was waiting to see signs of life over at Lee Mitchell's place. I was going to ask one of the boys to help me catch the lizard."

"Then what would he do with it?", Marty asked. "You need to call the Humane Society or 911 and have the Police come and take it away."

"No, Marty", I replied, "I don't want the thing destroyed - just out of my place."

So I took the net, bid Marty a happy day trying to get on a jury, and walked the dog back home. Pepe stopped at the Mitchell's and sniffed the cold scent of the Mitchell's dog, but no-one was up and so we went back inside to wait. I looked at the net, studied the stairway leading upstairs as I pondered what had to happen next, and waited as the outside sky slowly got brighter and the Mitchells stayed out of sight. Finally, at about a quarter to seven, I decided to call the Michells; they HAD to be awake by now.... I dialed the number.

"'lo?", Lee's voice said.

"Lee, this is your neighbor. I'm sorry to bother you, but there's a lizard in my computer room, and I thought perhaps you or one of your boys might be able to help me catch it. Did I wake you? I'm sorry..."

"No, I'm awake. Lizard, you say?"

"Yes, Lee, a great big one. Any idea as to how I can catch him?"

"Ummm. No, not really..."

"I don't have any idea of what to do, but Marty loaned me his fishing net..."

"Ummm - fishing net is a good idea...."

"Marty also suggested calling the Humane Society..."

"Uh hummm, Humane Society is a good idea..."

I got the idea that the boys were not such a good idea after all, or at least that it felt a little uncomfortable when it came right down to it, asking for their help. I heard Lee say that he'd like to come over and see the beast - but didn't hear an offer to help catch it, in the closing moments of the conversation.

"I'll do that, I'll give them a call", I said as I hung up. I didn't want to consign the beast to death, or whatever fate the Humane Society called the terminal act, but I certainly couldn't leave the thing in the computer room. I called the Humane Society.

"You live where? And you have a what?"

"I am in La Crescenta, and I have a large lizard about two and a half feet long" I replied. I was put on hold for several minutes. Finally, the phone was picked up at the other end...

"Sorry. You're not in our area. You need to call Baldwin Park. Want the number?"

"Yes, of course. But you guys are so close, and Baldwin Park is so far away - can't you just come up and get it?"

"Sorry. Out of our jurisdiction. Just call that number..." and he hung up.

Baldwin Park Humane Society answered right away. "Animal Control!" a male voice announced in crisp tones.

I repeated my situation, and asked for help. "A what? You have a what?"

"A rather large lizard." (This story was getting old, at least in my ears. I'll spare you the repetitious details while I explain that the Baldwin Park Humane Society does not pick up lizards. I choked back my frustration as the man crisply told me to let the lizard go.)

"I can't do that", I cried! "I can't expect others around here to experience what I went through this morning, and what if it came back?"

"Well, if you want to keep it, I suggest that you get a cage for it" the man said.

"I understand your position", I told him, and hung up. What a deal this was! I was wondering what to do next when all of a sudden Pepe began barking and looking up the Lane I saw Marty sauntering towards my front door. I rushed to open it...

"Marty, thought you were off to jury duty!", I exclaimed.

Marty smiled, then said he was wondering what I had done with the lizard. After I filled him in on the details, I asked him if he wanted to see the green giant.

"No, that's not necessary", he replied.

"Right! Of course you want to see it!", I said as we opened the door and headed up the stairs. I had his net in my hand as I approached the bedroom door listening for sounds. Hearing nothing, I said "Let's go!" and cautiously pushed the door open while at the same time holding the fish net ready to plop it over the thing quickly, if I had to move fast. As the door swung wider and nothing happened, I peered expectantly around the door. There he was, exactly as I had left him over an hour earlier! It seemed that he hadn't moved an inch! But he was as ugly, and as large, as ever!

The net was a great idea, but the lizard could climb out of the 2-foot net as though it were an ideal walking track. When the attempt began, Marty was telling me to hold the net one way, stand to this side, turn the net that way, and all the time he was using a book to help guide the thing into the net. I was in fact juggling the lizard so that as he attempted to climb out of the net (he had fallen in with the assist of a timely Marty-guided book thrust) I kept jiggling the net, turning it so that as the lizard climbed out I inverted the net, swooped it, and snared him again. Over and over this gymnastic was repeated, until finally the lizard put his head through one of the seines in the net and was caught - it had spines up its back that prevented it from extricating itself easily from the net.

But the net had to remain suspended in air - if it were placed on the ground, the lizard would regain its footing and be very likely able to pull itself out of the seine it had gotten itself stuck in... Marty and I went back downstairs, out to the garage, and placed the net over the top of the empty garbage can so that the lizard was suspended in the can and definitely LOOKED caught! Marty had to go serve justice to his fellow man, and I had to figure out what to do with the thing swinging in my garbage can! The time was now about 7:30...

I called several numbers, not really believing I would have any luck, when a voice said "We're closed now!" in sort of a final manner - you know, like there's no more to be said.

"Wait! I need help!", I cried. I explained the situation to the guy who had inadvertently answered the phone in a local pet store, one that advertised they handled fish, dogs, cats, and - reptiles! "Can you help me?"

"Now you know, I'd like to", he replied, "but the problem is, your neighbor is going to waltz in here and say "That's my lizard!", and then I'd be stuck and have to give it to him", and this sounded like I had more of a chance than I thought, so I said "No problem!"

"How can you be so sure?", he asked.

"Because I'm not going to tell anybody where I took him!", I announced! "Are you open?"

"No, but if you come by I'll let you in", he replied. I got the directions, then hung up and studied my problem. The net was large - the net could not be laid down in the car, and I certainly wasn't going to place that green tornado in my trunk! (Marty said later that that is exactly what I should have done, and have the guy at the store get him out, but hey, that's hindsight talking, you know?)

So I got the net in my right hand, the keys in my left, and I cautiously opened the door and, holding the net in a piercing motion I got it past the steering wheel and was able to hold it close to the roof with my right hand while my left hand fumbled to get the key into the ignition. Finally, I got the car started, the car door closed, and I eased out into the Lane with the lizard swinging free over the passenger seat. My right arm was beginning to cramp up as I reached the first stoplight, and I used both hands to steady the net while we waited and I tried to ease the cramps in my right arm.

A mile and a half of city streets, traffic lights (I had to stop at most of them) and people gawking to see me holding this green monster in a swinging net... a cop passed me, looked over his shoulder at me, and I thought he was going to turn around. 'Come on', I thought, 'come and stop me!' But he kept on going and I had to keep going, too. My hand and arm was really undergoing major strain by this time, and the thing tried some tentative climbing moves that caused me to shout 'STOP IT!!' and it did! I pulled up in front of the pet store, and climbed out as carefully as I had climbed in. The clerk in the store saw me, and yelled "Customer!" to someone, then spoke loud enough for me to hear through the closed door that I was to go around to the side door. It was ajar, and I stepped in. "Hello?", I called.

"Oh", a voice said as a man followed it into the room I was standing in, "you have an Iguana. A rather netted one, from the looks of it", and with that he reached casually into the net and extricated the green lizard. He held it with two hands, almost lovingly I thought, then made as though to offer it to me. I stepped back, aghast. "You don't like lizards, it seems", he suggested.

"Ah, no, not especially", I admitted, and smiled just a little. "But I am curious, just what do these things cost?"

"Oh, as a baby we sell them for fourteen dollars", he smiled, then added "and this one is rather good sized - he's been well taken care of!" I nodded and again said that I didn't know where I had taken the beast and we all smiled and I walked back into a normal early morning, got into my car, and drove home to close the garage door, lock the front door, and make sure the dog was OK for the day (water dish full, Iguana trap-door open).

At work, when I explained why I was late for the eight o'clock meeting, I was told "Well, John, that's a pretty good story, but it doesn't beat Tony's excuse for being late to work!" Well, I wasn't in a contest or anything for best excuse for being late to work, but I said "What excuse was that?"

"Plane hit his roof!", and it was explained how Tony used to live near the airport and how his life was disrupted one day several years back by an airplane not quite making it back to the runway.... but that was Tony, and years ago, and another story.

I'm only sorry that I didn't somehow get attached to this Iguana - after all, it was someone's pet and, when handled correctly, seemed perfectly docile! I wonder what they eat - Poodles? I doubt it. Pepe seemed perfectly oblivious of it - maybe they are old friends, because that atrium door's been open for years!

John B. Moss
© 09/12/1996 - 2008


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