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Sunday, December 01, 2013


We are going to Florida again this year, having booked the bookables that one needs to book.
I wonder if we shall see Lizard Breath again and his sister, Gecko Eyes, again.
So I reprinted this for anyone who is not familiar with them.

There are a lot on geckos in Florida. The place is infested by them. They should be the state animal, if they are not already so designated. It was in a discussion of geckos that I first met Lizard Breath, a young man possessing that uncanny ability so well and truly depicted in Jurassic Park of being able to imprint and bond with the first person of advanced years who cannot stand kids.
I mean, it was Spring Break and I had just come down in a flying sardine can filled with the germ-laden X-Box generation, had I not? And who said the economy was in the tank, for had not all of them had some sort of iDevice upon which they were playing Angry Birds or a form of Quidditch; the less athletically inclined formed large flash texting mobs in corner of the aircraft, and threatened to unbalanced the wretched thing, forcing the flight attendants to chase them back to their seats, and wake up their blissfully sleeping parents.

We were staying with friends at Johns Island. It was one of those places where, as our friends drove us around, everyone smiled and waved. Even in the morning the scads of people going early morning walk-about smiled and waved.
When I went walking in the morning, no one smiled and waved to me. I guessed they knew that I was just passing through. Perhaps it was my demeanor. One day as I waited for my friends outside the Publix supermarket, some people asked me if I were on my way back to the marina, indicating I resembled a yacht owner... or a swabby; I did not ask, so I remain in the dark. All I do know is that I had a Tommy Bahama on over a Del Boca Vista T-shirt, and I thought I looked more like Jack Klompus, and an inquiry about the astronaut ball point pen might have been in order, rather than the maritime connection.

I was sitting behind the 19th Hole, the small cafe off the 18th green of the Johns Island Golf Club, sipping a cup of tea, and watching the egrets standing about like statues. So was a woman in dark glasses accompanied by three children. She belonged; I knew it at once. Even without make-up early in the morning, I could see she belonged. She had that air of being able to summon the spirits and faeries of make-up and fashion at a moment's notice, if need be; but there was no need, for she had already sized me up and tossed me into that trash receptacle reserved for tiresome pedants. I think it was my sneakers that gave me away.
The children were of various ages: the oldest girl sipped her orange juice and intermittently did her daily dozen of lip-push-ups, consisting of a series of sucking in the cheeks and compressing the lips outward in emphatic moues, followed by a shrug that seemed to signal it was not really worth the effort.
The younger two, a boy and girl, were a brace of pestilences in training.

There followed a lengthy interlude of muted giggles and Indian burns and almost spilled OJs, interspersed by half serious remonstrations by the mother. It was a lot like sitting in the midst of an elementary school production of Waiting for Godot, only not as thrilling as the original.

Then the egret moved! He was not ten feet from us, and he thrust his beak into the bush, spearing a gecko, and then throwing it down his gullet! It was electric... rather like being a thorough tool and sitting through Warhol's Empire and spilling one's fourth bag of popcorn when startled by the sudden appearance of a sea gull flying by the lofty pile of bricks.
The mother did not move, and the eldest daughter moued at it all, but I positively goggled, and the other two were breathless.
"Wow!" said the boy.
"Shit!" said the young girl.
"Madison...," admonished the mother, leaving unspoken the coda that one should not use the S-word in front of people who had not been properly introduced.
I considered, then spoke, "That egret just ate that gecko!"
Gecko of the infraorder Gekkota I immediately learned from the Science Whiz Kids sitting next to me.
"That was just like school!", I said.
The younger ones of the crowd sort of turned half way to look at me.
"I used to have a nun like that who taught me in fifth grade..." I thought this might be about their age. "... and she would come down the aisles, tall and silent, then suddenly whack people with a ruler!"
They giggled.
The egret struck again. He apparently loved to be the center of attention.
"Thwack! Don't play video games in class!" the boy said. All three of us laughed.

This game of personifying our freedom and play as reptiles and our oppressors as thin, unemotional, goggle-eyed birds went on for a while, and then for a couple mornings thereafter.
And the boy became Lizard Breath, the girl was Gecko Eyes, and I was Pygopod. If you must know, it comes from Pygopodidae, a family of Gekkota, and it is pronounced "PIG-opod", with all the possible emphasis on the  "pig..."   part with a barely muttered  "...opod"  at the end. It often degenerated - in our subversive creole - into something like "piggy-pod".
However, I counted this a real feather in my cap, because just as the nicknames were being dealt out (in the manner of "he who dealt it, smelt it!"), there had been a vigorous show-and-tell about gecko defences and about how some throw feces at aggressors. That was not a good discussion to be in when names were being discovered and assigned.

And that is how I met Lizard Breath.

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