Bill got home later than usual last night. He’d worked all day and then met with a flute player to rehearse for a couple of upcoming concerts. So he arrived here around seven thirty and I reheated some dinner for him, and after Alex showed off the tooth in the zip loc bag and the gap in his mouth, Alex went back to watch Max and Ruby on Noggin and Bill and I sat in the living room and rehashed events from our respective days.
Bill sat in the oversized chair and I was on the loveseat by the window. Bill had finished the risotto I made and had taken his brown socks off and draped them over his shoulder. Quite the fashion statement. The lizard tank and the betta tank are over in the corner to the right of Bill’s chair, and during one lull in the conversation he glanced over at the tank and asked "Do we still have two lizards?"
See…we have two anoles (Beth – that aNole, not that other spelling. heh heh), and the second one that joined the family started out roughly the same size as the first, but over time he has grown.
I’ve been calling him Brutus lately.
Ever since that one morning when the kids were at school/daycare, Bill was at work, and I had a couple hours of absolute peace and quiet to myself. I was sitting on the loveseat (my home office), probably typing up a post, when all of a sudden there was a lot of rustling and commotion in the lizard tank. I saw what looked like something falling or rolling, and then the motion stopped. I figured one of the lizards had gone after a cricket they’d missed when Bill fed them earlier (if he had – I wasn’t sure), but no…as I peered intently at the tank from my spot halfway across the room, I realized that something disturbing was going on.
Big lizard guy had little lizard guy in a head lock. In other words, big lizard guy had little lizard guy’s head in his mouth. They were frozen like that, like something you might encounter on Animal Planet right before a commercial break.
I hurried to the tank and tapped rapidly on the glass, but big lizard guy did nothing. So I grabbed the spray bottle we use to "rain" on the plants in the tank, and sent a tsunami at the little lizard tableau.
That worked – they separated and went to neutral corners. Well, little lizard guy scurried away and hid somewhere and big lizard guy sullenly ambled up to a leaf near the top of the tank and glared at me. I dumped a few crickets into the tank to keep him busy and immediately told my sister about the drama. She’d had a similar experience with the two anoles at her house and had to separate them WITH HER BARE HANDS and now that tank is divided into two chambers by a tight-fitting piece of cardboard.
Eventually my heart stopped racing that day. But ever since then, there has been a look in big lizard guy’s eye….
So back to last night.
"Do we still have two lizards?" Bill asked casually, looking over at the tank. Sometimes it’s hard to find the lizards, as they blend in with the leaves, or sometimes with the chunk of bark glued to the back of the tank.
"Yeah, I saw the little guy earlier…" I said, squinting and trying to find his tail somewhere in there.
And then I could see the shape of little lizard guy – it looked like he was moving up the side of the bark, maybe to sit on top of it.
"There he is," I said, and before the words were entirely out of my mouth, Bill was out of his chair, brown socks in his hands like sidearms pulled from hidden holsters. "Hey!" he yelled at the tank, and attacked the tank with his socks. Next minute, the socks were on the floor and he was taking the heat lamp off the top of the tank and pulling up the screen top.
"Well," he said grimly, "now we only have one."
What I’d thought was the little guy going up the bark was actually big lizard guy dragging little lizard guy (who was now dead little lizard guy) up the bark – most likely to eat him.
We have small children. We don’t need THAT much reality going on. So Bill removed the still-intact corpse of little lizard guy from the tank. Little lizard guy – also known as Dinoraptosaurus – was still green and fortunately not in bad condition. Big guy hadn’t done anything to him yet. One of the little guy’s legs was bent under his body at an unnatural angle, but otherwise he could have been sleeping. Bill placed him on a tissue and called for Alex.
I thought – oh, let it wait til tomorrow, he’s had such a good day with the tooth falling out and all…. But it was too late. Alex came upstairs. Bill told him, without preamble, that Dinoraptosaurus had died. And he held out the tissue so Alex could view the body.
Alex, naturally, burst into tears. He bawled. And just when he seemed to finish and collect himself, he would start in again. It was the first time he really and truly felt that kind of loss. We’ve had a couple of deaths in the family (people, I mean) in 2007, and he knew the people who passed away, but this was different. This was a pet he’d had as long as he could remember. And now it was dead. And that’s a sad, sad thing.
Bill started to bring the lizard into the kitchen, and Alex hollered out frantically, through tears and drool, "I don’t want you to throw him in the garbage!!!" Bill assured him he would not. He was just putting him in a plastic bag in the fridge, and I told Alex we would bury him in the morning.
What got to Bill and me the most was when Alex (who was not a witness to the ugly drama earlier and will not know anything about it until he’s, oh, in his thirties, if I have my way) went over to the tank and spoke to big lizard guy.
"I’m sorry your friend died…" Alex said. "I’m sad, too – " and then he started crying again.
It wasn’t the first time a lizard pet has died, but the other one (Razzcake – we let Alex name that one too, and Alex was probably two at the time) died when Alex was younger and it just didn’t hit him the same way. Julia, for instance, did not cry last night. She’s just not at that age yet. It didn’t hurt.
Bedtime went later than usual last night. Alex took his stuffed animal lizard to bed with him "So I’ll always remember Dinoraptosaurus" and tried to settle down but the tears kept resurfacing. I let him come downstairs to hang out with us a bit longer, but then Julia came down too, so they didn’t get to bed until eight thirty.
Finally, they were asleep, Alex’s tooth in a ziploc bag under his pillow.
This morning, Alex found the dollar that the tooth fairy left for him, and he was a bit more…comfortable…with the fact that Dinoraptosaurus had gone to that great tank in the sky.
But a little while ago, after Bill left for work, I was sitting on the loveseat, checking email on my laptop, and Alex was about to go downstairs and hang out with Julia for a bit, but then he stopped, and I looked up. His lower lip was trembling, and he said, in a shaky voice, "I wish there was no such thing as the "die" word. ‘Cuz then Dinoraptosaurus would still be here." He started to cry a little bit. Not much, but some. Because even in the morning, when the day is new, the sadness does not just disappear. Not when you love something, or someone, and they are gone.
"Come here," I said to him, and patted the cushion next to me. He sat down and snuggled up next to me. I put my arm around him and rested my cheek on his head.
"I know, honey. I know." I said.