I killed a lizard this week.
Unlike my encounter with Mr. Centipede (from which I still have not recovered, thank you for asking) this killing was accidental, violent and senseless. I have no memory of the killing itself… the victim, on the other hand, is imprinted on my hippocampus.
I have been adjusting to my lizard roommates since I moved in. I still startle easily when they are unexpectedly at eye level when I close a door or open a curtain, but I have grown cautiously fond of them. (Especially now that I realize that the thing scuttling across the wall through my peripheral vision could just as easily be a centipede hell bent on my destruction rather than a gentle ally who enjoys eating the bugs I am scared of.)
Early in the transitioning process, my dad suggested that I name them. He felt it would help me see them as my pets, since they weren’t going anywhere and (thanks to a contract that is surprisingly iron-clad for a mere 45 page document) neither am I.
First up was Gus. Gus was a pretty hefty thing for a gecko. Where his other smaller comrades would slink at the edge of the shadows, testing the waters, respecting my dominance, Gus strutted across the walls as if he owned the place. He was an intimidating first lizard to encounter, but I made my peace with him and ultimately came to see him as a friend. Unlike his smaller kinsmen, he wouldn't randomly burst into a sprint for no apparent reason. He lived life at a slower pace and just seemed generally okay with whatever life threw at him.
I think I killed Gus.
His John-Goodman-in-a-western-movie stroll was not readily apparent in his not alive state, but the body habitus certainly fit. John Doe lizard was a chunk.
Being pregnant has given me the worst superhero sense enhancement possible – I’m practically a Bassett hound. Unfortunately, since I’m not an adorable dog used in the olden days for hunting and tracking, it is not an especially useful superpower. My new ability allows me to detect smells that others can’t and then get nauseated from them, all while the normal mortals around me have yet to notice the hint of garlic (seriously, why is garlic EVERYWHERE lately) or fried fish (yeah, yeah it’s Hawaii, but there are so many other less disgusting food options without offensive smells). So delightful.
I mention this random tidbit about pregnancy because it is relevant to the storyline of Gus's demise. Also, I live to educate. There is your fun fact for the day.
On Thursday, I woke up and noticed while getting ready that my kitchen smelled rather... weird. I began to hunt for the scent while mostly focusing on preparing breakfast. The fruit basket on the counter looked intact. There were some dishes on the counter, but none individually gave off the pugnacious scent. My garbage disposal is temperamental and requires a little convincing when it isn’t used as often as it feels it deserves to be, however, despite refusing to turn on, it did not offer any further offenses. I take my garbage out nightly out of a “healthy” fear of roaches and the centipedes that hunt them. Nothing seemed to be giving off this intolerable scent.
Chalk it up to crazy pregnancy smell. Must be a scent outside that was wafting in through my eternally open windows.
I was convinced of this until trusty dog woke up. For some reason trusty dog does not sleep past 6 on weekends and begins thrusting her wet nose into my face to demand playtime far too early for my comfort. On weekdays, when I wake up just before 6, she looks at me like I’m crazy and lays in bed for just a few more minutes and then drags her exhausted little self out of bed and staggers down the stairs like an adorable 4-legged, bleary-eyed, fur-covered zombie. Let’s just say it takes her awhile to become herself.
On Thursday, however, by the time her feet hit the kitchen floor, her nose was glued to the edge of the counter. She made four laps around the kitchen dragging her wet snout along the bottom of my pretty granite counter like I had rubbed it with her disgusting dog version of bacon.
Can dogs get sympathy pregnancy symptoms? I have always operated under the assumption that they don’t. Until the past couple of months, I honestly haven’t given it much thought.
The most logical conclusion is that with the least assumptions. Option 1: 2 assumptions: I am going crazy and smelling things that aren’t there due to pregnancy hormones AND so is trusty dog. Option 2: 1 assumption: The smell actually exists and we can both actually smell it.
Option 2 was the more disconcerting option because it meant that there was something in the kitchen exuding that smell. Something that I had not been able to deduce in my cursory, half-asleep search.
I subconsciously enacted my protocol for what to do when presented with disconcerting things… I convinced myself it wasn’t really a problem and distracted myself with unrelated matters. Trusty Dog needed her morning walk! Boy… what a pretty morning! Maybe it really does smell weird outside and there’s something wrong with the whole world! Do the mountains always look that tall?!
The smell wasn’t as noticeable when I got home from work that afternoon. I decided it was probably just time to do the dishes… plus I was out of tiny spoons and the big ones just deliver too much cereal in each bite.
The previous night had been largely sleepless. It started torrentially raining around midnight, which used to be a soothing sound. It now triggers PTSD to learning that “centipedes come inside when it rains” and all I can hear is the millions of tiny feet marching to war… to me… to my certain annihilation. It makes it hard to return to a restful sleep.
I crashed early, was busy Friday, which brings us to Saturday.
My day of fun began with trusty dog vomiting onto my cream-colored shag carpet. I actually saw it coming and was able to intercept the first stomach-full by getting her to vomit into her toy Frisbee. Is this what it is to be a parent… feeling proud that I was able to catch a disgusting yellow liquid because it meant not having to spend my Saturday morning scrubbing bile out of a high pile rug? (If only IKEA were on this island, I could have just sacrificed the rug!) My internal parade was rained on rather quickly because, unfortunately, there was more than one stomach-full of and after heaving into a plastic toy, trusty dog got annoyed when I continued to hold that collection of stinking fluid directly under her face. She began to panic and fought wildly to get away. I set it down more carefully than if it were the holy grail and tried to coax her onto the wood floor that makes up approximately 97% of my home… literally everywhere besides this rug and bathroom mats. She was immune to my coaxing… and my pulling… and my pushing. I started to lift her and she splayed her legs in her best paperweight impression and it occurred to me that now the best case scenario is that she vomits onto me. I conceded defeat and petted her ears as she hacked stomach full #2 onto my rug.
Sorry if that was too much biological detail for any non-medical readers. This post will get worse before it gets better. – [IF YOU WOULD LIKE, YOU CAN SKIP AHEAD TO WHERE YOU SEE ALL CAPS AGAIN AND YOU’LL MISS THE WORST OF IT]
I donned my trusty pink dishwashing gloves that saw me through the disposal of the centipede and scrubbed the rug like an adult who lives on an isolated island and can’t afford any of the rugs that have to be shipped here… I’ll be replacing those gloves ASAP.
Undeterred by the morning’s events, trusty dog and I set off for the beach. She needed a pick me up and it was a beautiful sunny morning.
She spent the entire ride making hysterical whining noises as though she thought we were never going to stop the car and she was never going to have fun again. Finally we made it to the beach, parked the car and she leaped from her backseat prison directly into the middle of the street in one motion. Luckily, it’s not super busy in Kailua on a Saturday morning.
Our time at the beach was mostly typical – she got extremely excited upon the moment her paw hit sand and sprinted as fast as she could in any direction (which, because she is on a leash, always ends up being in a circle). The cycle is broken when she sees me (in the eye of her hurricane – holding on for dear life), remembers that she loves me and runs / leaps directly at me. It’s terrifying for me, not because I think she intends to hurt me, but because, like Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men, she simply does not know her own strength and I’m likely to be a casualty. I yell loudly in order to convey how displeased I am, and then she immediately cowers because even when half-crazy she still wants to please. Then everyone on the beach looks at me all judgmental for yelling at my poor dog who is clearly just excited and then they look lovingly back at Fido or Scruffy or Bandit who would never be subjected to such poor parenting practices. Why do they let people like her have dogs?!
After about five rounds of this madness, I'd received all the judgment I could take, so we retreated to my towel to sit pleasantly on the beach. Cue hysterical whining noises like she is never going to have fun again... Until I give up and decide we will try walking on the beach… except she begins to do her poop dance.
She is weirdly picky. Like even after she has picked the spot, it takes her another 3 minutes of positioning to determine the final positioning, angle and best view for herself.
Her poop dance was interrupted suddenly as pure liquid shot out.
Modern day dog owners are expected to remove all evidence that their dog has a colon from the landscape. Bags are marketed and sold specifically for this purpose. I play along because it is social convention, but can we all just agree it is disgusting to have to pick up your dog’s poop? And is it really that terrible for the environment if I leave it behind?? Worse than wrapping it in a non-biodegradable plastic bag and shipping it off to a landfill?
Regardless, even I have my limits. Pure liquid colon contents was beyond those limits.
But I couldn’t just leave it there… cause the judgment! So I dug a hole and scooped it in (using a bag as a glove… the dishwashing gloves were not subjected to this lowly state) and fled the scene of the crime, as quickly as I could convince her to go.
Rapid escape was not the best plan… she had several more ‘episodes’ en route to the car. But the ride home was luckily without incident.
I thought I had already met my quota of disgusting experiences and bodily functions for the day… and then I smelled my kitchen. It could not be ignored while I distracted myself with more pleasant things. The threat level was now at midnight.
The smell, now significantly more powerful was easily localized to the cabinet above the produce basket. In fact, it got noticeably worse when the cabinet was opened… Could a mouse have died on one of the shelves right beside my well organized and aesthetically displayed barware?!
Of course I needed a stepladder to complete a full visual search of the shelves because I am still the same height I reached in 7th grade and kitchen cabinets are designed for normally sized adults. (I blame the coffee I started drinking wayyy too early – no regrets.) All shelves were free of rodent remains, thankfully. I was about to climb down when I happened to look at the cabinet door and there, at eye level, was Gus.
Well, he used to be Gus. Now he was just a green fat-bodied lizard with a crushed skull that 20-30 small bugs crawled in and out of. He also had no more eyes… the windows to his soul were wide open. His scent made it clear that his soul had been gone for at least a couple days. Whatever fluids were seeping from his decomposing body had adhered him to the door of the cabinet. There he hung, head up, body dangling, fully intact from the neck down.
Apparently he had happened to be crawling with his head right in the pinch point when I closed the door. Apparently I closed it with enough force to crush his skull. Apparently, his slow speed was not an evolutionary advantage.
I’m a murderer.
Overcome by emotion (and nausea) I nearly fell off the stepladder.
Sound the cavalry and bring in the trusty pink gloves. And bleach. Lots of bleach.
[ATTENTION WEAK-STOMACHED READERS, YOU MAY NOW TUNE BACK IN. Synopsis: sick dog and dead lizard located high up.]
It took several pep talks to convince myself to ascend the ladder – one of these included reminding myself that I have spent a much longer time with a much larger corpse and even ultimately “enjoyed” the experience (read: it did not kill me and I did ultimately learn things). RIP Winston, you were a good cadaver.
This was a triple grocery bag level of scent. It also merited another immediate trip to the dumpster, but thankfully this time I had the foresight to remove the pink gloves (seriously those are getting thrown out now) and put on a normal pair of athletic shorts. Once again me and 65 pounds of enthusiastic (although subdued slightly due to her dehydration and already eventful day) pit bull trekked to the dumpster. Maybe this will become a weekly adventure. Thankfully the lizard funeral and processional occurred at a much less social time of day and I encountered no one along the way.
Much as I would have preferred to eat nothing ever again, the tiny human who lives inside of me mandated that eating dinner was non-optional. So I began to cook dinner and prepared the strongest drink I could drink… a non-alcoholic mimosa. The bubbles did not have the calming effect that I was seeking.
Instead, they felt almost celebratory.
I lit a candle and decided that we were going to have a vigil in celebration of the life of Gus. He may have been tiny and inconsequential, but he made my life slightly less unpleasant by consuming bugs that I might otherwise have encountered.
Life is short. You never know when you are going to be happily crawling along only to have a cabinet door swing closed on you and crush your skull. Take chances, live each day to the fullest. I like to think he was near my barware on purpose and that just maybe he was trying to go out with a martini. I like your style, Gus.