the stowaway

Yesterday I had to go perform the Running of the Errands. This happens frequently, modern city life being what it is, and most of the time it’s nothing particularly special or important. I don’t bother to write about those parts.

The rest of the time, though…. That’s when I find myself sitting in the car staring at a scuffling paper bag thinking, “this will be a good blog post.”

Yesterday I had two objectives: collect a rather large shipment of drugs from the pharmacy, and then collect a slightly smaller shipment of comestibles from the grocery store.The downside was that I decided to do this during rush hour, which in this part of town generally means gridlock and Mad Max driving and people being jackasses.

Hint: if your vehicle’s aggressively-styled chrome bumper is at a level with my skull, I strongly dislike you.

Back in my early days of having completely mentally gone ’round the twist, driving was very hard. Impossible. I think for about a year I couldn’t do it, which is ridiculous and tragic, because it used to be my escape. When I was in high school, I’d gotten the fast-track voucher for a license from having taken a driver’s ed course, so I went about things backwards: I got that and then perfected my skills. Late at night, usually, when the roads were empty, feeding my budding insomnia, when my mother was either asleep or didn’t give a damn. I’d load the dog in the car, set the radio to one of about six classic rock stations we had at the time, and devour asphalt at a buck-ten a gallon until calm had been achieved. I miss that.

Driving isn’t a scary torture anymore, it’s just another damn thing I wish I didn’t have to do (and why does this city not have any damn decent public transportation) which probably means only that I am getting older and more cantankerous. Though, if we did magically sprout subways in the limestone aquifer — aside from them being underwater, which might pose a problem — I’d have to deal with Other People. Which is also not appealing, especially when one has to tote a ton of groceries home.

Thus: off in the car I went, with Gogol Bordello loaded up on Игорь (Igor, my ipod) and not all that terribly far to go, but with about a thousand cars between me and everywhere I needed to be. It is, I have decided, perfectly acceptable, when driving still gives you a case of “ehhh I don’t wanna,” to plan your route so that it is entirely right turns, especially when it’s parking-lot rush hour in south Tampa.

First I went to the pharmacy, and I got a ridiculous quantity of drugs — legally! — and I opened the trunk and stowed them in there. I didn’t see anything then.

Then I took the long way around, and – what kind of soldier wears BDUs (not the dark green jungley type, but I don’t think the desert ones, something in between) and what appeared to be a black wool beret? Because without even thinking about what I was doing, I gave him the “STAY” gesture that I give the dog, out the window of the car, to prevent him from left-turning his SUV with bumpers as high as my skull into my path so I wouldn’t go smashing into him. He stayed, I went, and all was well.

After taking the long way around, and probably aggravating the fuck out of everybody behind me for allowing an old man in a motorized wheelchair to cross the street before I made a turn, I arrived at the store. I got the groceries, which is usually uneventful, except for the part where I had a list and a sonic screwdriver pen to mark off the list (it was that or a pen a friend sent that says: SPRINGFIELD SEXUAL ADDICTION CENTER / From PERV to PERFECT in as little as 10 days! -you see how I can never be taken seriously, ever) and I successfully stifled the urge to make my sonic ballpoint pen light up and make noise whenever people went by.

One girl, five years old or so, completely melted down in front of all the butter. Her mother looked agitated, her little brother looked like he did not give a damn, and one of the guys working at the shop had stepped in to try to calm her down — but being that he was the approximate size and shape of Enkidu it didn’t really work. I did not sonic the kid, either, though I was sorely tempted to either do that or shush her like Eleven does and see if that worked. It works on the dog. And on my mum. Not for long, though.

So – food being gotten, and paid for, and bagged up, I rolled the cart (with three wheels that want to go shopping and one wheel that wants me to go fuck myself, so at least my arms got some work in the process) out to the car. I opened up the trunk, started to put the bags in, and then, finally, I saw it.

the stowaway

See him? That’s a full-grown male anolis sagrei, looking somewhat worse for wear, being stuck in the weatherstripping of my car for Squamata knows how long, rumbling along with the stop and go and petroleum stink of rush-hour traffic.

There was only one thing to do. I carefully put the groceries in the trunk, watching the lizard: he didn’t move. Not a good sign. He was alive, but sluggish, shocky perhaps. I carefully extricated a big brown paper bag from the trunk – I always have a few in there, they’re very useful – and rolled the cart out of the way.

I tried to coax the lizard into the bag but he wouldn’t go, so I caught him by the slightly-less-dignified method of trapping him under a hand and sliding the other underneath, then dropping him into the bag. He scuttled around in there, but couldn’t get out – he was lethargic and confused, and the sides were smooth. I folded the top of the bag over, set it atop the closed trunk, rolled the cart away, then picked it up and brought it into the car.

in the bag

I did all of this because when I find a lizard clinging desperately to a crevice in my car, of course what I am going to do is capture it and bring it safely home to be set free in my back yard. What else could I do?

I opened the bag once I had loaded it and myself into the car and got the AC going: male, full-grown with a nice spinal ridge, rapidly panicking by the dark shades his skin was turning, and a survivor of a tail drop at some distant point: the new tail had nearly grown in, but not quite, and while the end of it seemed clipped off bluntly the rest was slightly smaller, as though it didn’t fit, which happens when they drop tails.

I folded the bag shut, stowed it carefully – taking a moment to listen to the scuttle of tiny reptile claws and limbs against brown paper – and then headed off. Back into traffic, with a consignment of controlled – but prescribed – substances in the trunk, and a load of groceries in there too, and Gogol Bordello on my ipod which is named in Cyrillic, and a sonic screwdriver pen in my purse, and a honking big anole in a brown paper bag on the passenger side.

Which is completely normal, if you’re me.

lizard transportI took him home and went inside, with purse and waterbottle (seen above) and lizard-in-a-bag, setting all three down and warning my mother to leave the bag alone.

“Why? What’s in there?”

“A lizard. Found it in the car.”

She did not so much as blink at that. She raised me; she knows how I am about these things.

I hauled all the groceries in, put them away, grabbed Vera II (the camera, yes, everything I own has a name) and the bag and the dog, then headed out to the back yard. I opened the bag carefully and tried to catch the lizard in my hand, thinking perhaps that I could hypnotize and calm it like the magnificent specimen in my header pics. This particular anole would not be having with that: he’d spent the day wedged into an uncomfortable spot in a car trunk, then had been caught and rudely dumped in a bag, then had to listen to the Trans-Continental Hustle all the way home, then was deposited — still in the bag — in a house smelling strongly of dog and cat, and now that he could see sky again that same interfering hominid was trying to catch him? Hell no.

“Look, I thought I was supposed to be getting a change of scenery. But so far, I’ve been in a train and a room, and a car and a room, and a room and a room. Well, maybe that’s all right for a bunch of powdered gee-gahs like yourselves, but I’m feeling decidedly strait-jacketed.”

He easily scaled the side of the bag, bounced across my lap, landed on the deck — I held out a hand to tell Dog “Back!” and she did — then lit off as quick as lightning to the relatively safe space under the deck. Not quite what I had in mind, but wild animals get to make their own decisions about these things.

I hadn’t gotten my post-rescue photo, so there was only one thing to do: carefully settle myself on my belly in the sun-warmed grass, fire up the camera, point it into the dark space under the deck, and get a shot of the stowaway back in the wild.

stowaway, released

I think he’ll be all right. He’s strong and large, clearly a survivor. Stay free, anole. Stay free.


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