Li Li the lizard


Springtime signals the return of the alligator lizard. The glow from our kitchen window at night has brought them intimately into our life as we’ve watched and studied them over the years catching their nightly fare of moth and flying bug. One of M’s first phrases was an excited chant of “Li Li” when she spied a lizard hanging out on the window glass.

When our Siamese cat, Igor, caught one several days ago the girls rushed to save it from an early death. It was my first day back at work. It was a day of adjustment for all of us – Ami and M waking up earlier than usual, L adjusting to the bottle, Love jumping into the role of circus ringleader, and me feeling a dose of self pity and melancholy for having to return to the real world.

It wasn’t easy.

The lizard helped lighten the load for the girls, especially Ami.

She spent the afternoon coddling and caring for the lizard even making a home for it in our backyard. Her sister followed closely, always by her side.

I can imagine how the hens responded – heads cocked and intently watching with their one-eyed stare. While I was at home, the girls spent a lot of time with the chickens, chasing them, holding them, and digging up worms. Several times, Ami spoke in her sleep, talking to her sister about the chickens.

Used to their constant attention, perhaps, the hens felt a tinge of jealousy. With her sidekick sister, Ami paraded around the backyard with that lizard hoisted atop her index finger.

That night, she put the lizard away in the home she made. It consisted of a terra cotta planter, a metal saucepan, and some old wood. We told her the lizard was already gone, and if not she should set it free.

In the morning, the lizard was still there.

Both girls took to the lizard like a new pet. It spent most of the morning perched again on Ami’s finger. At some point,  it even nibbled the tip of her finger – a kiss.

I wasn’t there when it happened but Ami said it went something like this: she set the lizard down in the grass right next to her and M. The hens were watching from the distance and in an instant the lizard darted for its escape. Ami chased after it but was intercepted by the second chicken in command, a hen named Henny Penny.

She saw her lizard dangling from Henny Penny’s beak. She stood there paralyzed and let out a horrific, tearful “Nooooo!” The sound of little girl cries filled the backyard. Little M scurried after the chicken – also traumatized and howling between tears. She chased Henny Penny around the rose bush.

It was too late.

Like a quarterback on the run, Henny Penny skirted past the girls and the other hens, hastefully eating the lizard in several quick bites.