I have a lizard friend.  He lives in the corner and eats my mosquitoes.

I’ve taken to leaving the light on at night.  It lures his food to him.

He leaps from wall to wall, snapping up insects.

He’s looking very healthy of late.

I do not fear him–he fears me.

I hope he does not starve while I’m gone.

I’ve lived in a lot of different places around the world, each with its own critters.  Growing up in Maine, we had to watch an educational film in Drivers’ Ed about the hazards of moose on the road.  Man, oh man, can a moose do a number on your car.

When we lived on Brookside Drive, aside the titular brook, we had a small family of woodchucks who lived under our porch.  They drove our dog mad by sunning themselves just outside the glass door where she could see them.  Also by chewing on our house.

I’ve lived in DC with it’s odd black squirrels.  I’ve lived in Baltimore with plentiful rabbits bouncing around.  I’ve lived in Georgia, where I gave poor Achiko the Mouse a heart attach and then threw him in a dumpster.  And now I live in the Virgin Islands.

The main difference I’ve found between St. Thomas and the other places I’ve lived is its curious dearth of mammals.  We don’t seem to have any major rodent problems.  I’ve heard tell of deer hanging around and I’ve met the odd dog and cat here or there. The main critters that hang out, though, are the creepy-crawly type.

This island is full of lizards.  Maybe they just catch my eye because they’re new and different to me.  But I swear, lizards are everywhere.  I see them at work, at home, at the beach, in parking lots, smooshed on the road, and even in my apartment!  There’re big ones, small ones, some as big as your head!

Just look at this little guy, doing his best Pride Rock as he sunbathes by the pier!
Just look at this little guy, doing his best Pride Rock as he sunbathes by the pier!

There’s a lot of Iguanas around.  I’ve come up with an awesome business plan, too.  It’s sustainable, green, and profitable!  I’m going to sell roasted Iguana tails out of, like, a food truck.  It’s sustainable because Iguanas can grow their tails back.  It’s green because Iguanas are green.  It’s profitable because who wouldn’t love unlimited roasted iguana tails?

Okay, this guy wouldn't like it too much, but look at all that tail meat!
Okay, this guy wouldn’t like it too much, but look at all that tail meat!

Iguanas are funny creatures, though.  They seem very slow and lethargic.  They have the faces of old men and the bodies of a small dinosaur, and yet when they need to get moving they can really kick it into overdrive.  The best part?  A running iguana looks like something straight out of an episode of Scooby Doo.

They sort of pinwheel their legs and take off sprinting to get out of your way.  They dart out of the sun and into the shadows as you approach, kicking up sand and leaves as they zoom away.

These guys were chillin' by the pool.  I looked away for one second and they had taken off, nowhere to be seen.
These guys were chillin’ by the pool. I looked away for one second and they had taken off, nowhere to be seen.

One afternoon, in my apartment, I heard a scampering and snapping as something crashed about in the leaves.  I went to my window, imagining that I might see a squirrel at long last.  Nope!  I looked out in time to see an iguana launch himself downward, spread eagle, and catch himself on a leafy branch–barely.  They’re a funny bunch, those iguanas.

This one paid me a visit one fine weekend morning, basking outside my screen door, unable to see me within.
This one paid me a visit one fine weekend morning, basking outside my screen door, unable to see me within.

There are also landcrabs that skulk about, disguising themselves as stones on the path.  More than once I’ve casually kicked at a rock, sending it rolling into the grass only to notice its wriggling legs contract into its shell a moment too late.  I always feel bad and try to put these big hermits back on their feet.

My favorites, though, are the little tiny lizards.  They creep in under my screen door, small enough for their little bodies to just slide right in.  These ones are adorable and cool.  My first few nights/weeks/months living here was a hellish mess of mosquito bites and experimentation with a variety of strategies for repelling the suckers.  Only recently did I discover the best and greatest strategy: Hosting an adorable lizard in my living room.

Where's the reptilian solution?  In the top right!  hiding at the edge of the light, waiting for his moment to strike.
Where’s the reptilian solution? In the top right! hiding at the edge of the light, waiting for his moment to strike.

It’s fun to watch this little lizard as he zips about the wall, running, climbing and leaping.  Making dashes at the bugs that buzz about the lamp.  Sometimes they fly circles around him.  Eventually, though, he hits his mark, snatching a mosquito out of the air or springing upon one that has landed on the wall.  He chews eagerly in little snapping motions.  It will be a good night.

Little Lizard Friend
Little Lizard Friend

There’s a risk and a tragedy involved in farming tiny lizards in my apartment.  If they cannot find their way to the lamp, they have a short and tough existence.  Before I hit upon my lamp strategy, I did my best to shepherd lizards back out the door.  They were too afraid and often retreated deeper into the apartment, hiding under chairs or along window sills.  Daniel and I rescued one by lifting a dining chair and carrying it outside, letting the terrified lizard leap to his freedom.  Others are not so lucky.

A tragic casualty and unexpected hassle of living in the tropics.
A tragic casualty and unexpected hassle of living in the tropics.

But my Lizard Friend thrives and I sleep each night a little more mosquito free than the night before.

It’s a good, strange thing to live among so many lizards.

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