Living in a sub-tropical climate certainly has its benefits  - and its drawbacks.  Chief amongst the drawbacks are the assorted beetles, spiders, snakes & lizards one must constantly contend with.   Even more terrifying than an actual encounter with a bug, snake or lizard are the horror stories everyone shares about these creatures inhabiting homes, cars,  food, or bodies (that’s another blog post, my friends).  Any casual social gathering where a pest story is recounted can quickly move the evening’s atmosphere from festive to group therapy session.

“We once had a snake loose in the bathroom for 2 months while my husband was away on duty,” one friend told me in response to someone else’s spider encounter.

“Oh my god! What did you do? Did you trap it?” I asked in horror.

“Eff that! I moved out and lived with my sister in law until he got back and took care of it,” she replied.

We all nodded our heads in agreement with her remedy to the problem; a logical solution to a terrifying problem if you ask me.

“Well, if you think that’s bad,” our other friend chimed in, “let me tell you about the time I had to kill a bat that was trapped in my A/C unit.  Let’s just say it required a new $1500 condenser coil and the smell of rotting meat emanating from every air vent in my house made you want to vomit.  Truly, I still have nightmares, it was so awful.”

A hush fell over the group at the thought of bat rot permeating our own homes. 

Someone said, “Jesus, bats? I’d never even thought of those.  Now how am I going to sleep tonight…”

I chimed in with my own horror story.

“Well when I was in my early twenties, I was leaving for work one morning and as I backed out of the driveway, I felt a bump.  When I got out to see what I’d run over, it was a lizard.  Except, I’d only squished his back half and the front half of him was still alive, trying to crawl away.”

My friends eyes widened. “Ew!  What did you do?”

“I was crying and I called Dick at work and asked him to come home.  He was super pissed that I called him over an injured lizard and he talked me into backing over the lizard again to end its suffering.”

“Did you do it?” they asked, leaning forward ever so slightly.

“I tried, but I couldn’t.  So I stood there sobbing for a few minutes and then walked two doors down to my in-law’s house and asked my 16-year old future sister-in-law to kill him for me.  She didn’t want to do it either so I bribed her. I told her I’d let her drive my car to her boyfriend’s house if she’d finish off the lizard for me.  But by the time we’d worked out a deal and she came over to kill him, he was already dead. I felt awful and there was a horrible, bloody stain all over my driveway.”

“How awful…,” everyone agreed.

My friends and I completed our therapeutic sharing by engaging in a silent group hug.  We knew each other’s pain all too well – the lingering jumpiness at every little movement out of the corner of your eye; the hesitancy to turn the light on in a darkened room for fear you’ll hear or see something scurry into the shadows; the imagined presence of beady eyes encased in impact-resistant exoskeletons lurking around every corner.  We may be moving on, but we will never, ever forget.


This year’s sub-tropical Florida summer has been long and brutal, producing ideal conditions for our plant beds to flourish with vibrantly green-hued flora & fauna.  Apparently all that extra vegetation has created an ideal breeding ground for lizards, frogs and other assorted uglies.  Every walk to our front door is like running a gauntlet through a reptile exhibit – lizards on the walls and the door and tiny frogs jumping over your feet with every other step.

As the children hold the front door open each morning, I usually have them pause to perform what I call the “critter check” to make sure no creepy-crawlies are clinging to it as it swings inward.  In my haste to leave one morning I neglected to do an adequate check of the door and a baby lizard, no longer than 2 or 3 inches, scampered inside and promptly disappeared under a table in my foyer.   As my eyes were distracted trying to follow the zipping lizard in my foyer, a second baby lizard slipped in through the open door and scurried up the wall adjacent to a planter.  I screamed.

The kids began to squeal in response to my screams of “NO..NO…NO…NO!” as I flailed my arms in disgust.

Dick responded to the commotion, remaining un-phased as the children recounted the terrible events leading up to two baby lizards being on the loose in our home.

Glancing at the clock, I realized I couldn’t stay and watch the lizard extraction process.  “I’ve got to go”, I said to Dick as I pushed the kids through the open door.  ”You’re the one who deals with pests so you get these things out of here!”

“I’m on it. I’ll get the broom.”

As I pulled out of the driveway I could see Dick sweeping in the direction of the open door.  I breathed a sigh of relief.


Later that week I was preparing dinner when I glimpsed something small and green darting across the floor of the children’s nearby play area.

“DICK!!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

“What is it?”

“Get in here RIGHT NOW. You didn’t get the lizards out of here, did you?”

Sheepishly, Dick admitted that he hadn’t been able to locate either lizard, let alone sweep them outside.

“So you were only pretending to sweep them out of here the other day? Why didn’t you say something to me?”

“I knew you wouldn’t want to sleep here if there were lizards on the loose.”

(Gotta give him credit for being right on this one…)

I was furious.  “Well, get them outta here!  I’ve even found one of them for you.  He’s hiding behind the kid’s toy box.”

Dick pulled the toy box away from the wall a bit so he could see where our little reptile roommate was residing.  He stood and scratched his head.

“Do you want me to get the broom again?” I asked.

“No. I think I’m going to try a different tactic.  Get me a plastic cup or a bowl. I’ll put it over him and then gently slide it and him across the floor and outside.”

I returned seconds later with a Glad disposable plastic bowl and lid.

Carefully, Dick leaned over to place the bowl over the lizard.  The kids were silent with anticipation.  I stood on a chair several feet away with one eye closed trying not to hyperventilate.

Just as Dick was about to lower the bowl, the baby lizard zigged and Dick zagged and then…SNAP!

Dick sighed.

“What? What’s going on Daddy? Did you catch him?” the kids begged.

“I’m afraid the poor little guy perished.” Dick explained.

“But what happened?”, we all demanded to know.

“He started to run away as I was lowering the bowl and the edge of the bowl came down on his neck and, well, let’s just say it killed him.”

“EWWWWWWWWWW!” we all screamed.

As the children and I looked on, Dick retrieved what was left of the deceased critter and unceremoniously flushed him down the toilet – a burial at sea.

Naturally, the children we’re horrified that their Daddy had actually killed a poor, innocent baby lizard. Dick and I went on to explain that it had never been our intention to harm him, rather it was an unfortunate accident.  That story worked –  for a few minutes.


A few minutes later, as I chopped and then sauteed veggies on the stove, I noticed something moving near the philodendron I was watering in the kitchen sink. I put my spatula down and moved in for a closer look just as baby lizard #2 bolted from the planter into the garbage disposal…as it was running.

The sounds of mincing steel blades grinding up the baby lizard combined with my screams prompted the children to run over to see what was going on.

“Mommy, what happened??”

Dick emerged from another room with a “what-in-the-heck-is-going-on-now?” look on his face.

I pointed to the sink and said, “Baby lizard #2 fell in there.”

His face went a bit pale as the realization sunk in.


“Yep. He was in the plant and he was trying to jump from the edge of the pot to other side of the sink and he, well, he fell and…and, um, now he’s down there.  

Adam, never one to skip a beat these days asked, “Daddy, are you getting the baby lizard out?”

Me, not being so swift to catch on responded to Adam with, “No, Daddy can’t get him now.”

Dick shot my an annoyed look and leaned toward me, his voice in a low whisper.  ”Are you dense? I was going to pretend I’d caught it and fake an escape outside. Now he’s on to me.”

Adam looked up at us with a hint of a tear in his eye.  “Is the baby lizard dead?”

Dick rolled his eyes at me and nodded his head in Adam’s direction.

“Daddy, what happened to him? He’s just a baby!!! His mommy & daddy and brothers & sisters will all be looking for him!”

I made a pathetic attempt at addressing Adam’s concerns.

“Maybe it’s just his mommy & daddy looking for him now since we killed one of his brothers or sisters earlier.”

“Sam, that was so NOT helpful,” Dick quipped.

I leaned over and grabbed Adam & Tabitha in my arms and pulled them in close for a group hug.  “It’s all over,” I said in a soothing voice as I rubbed their backs. 

But even as I hugged them close I knew the memory of the baby lizard massacre would live on.  The combination of the grinding noise of the garbage disposal as it made mincemeat out of one baby lizard and the sight of the limp, lifeless body of the other baby lizard circling the toilet bowl would leave a lifelong imprint.  In the years to come, the children would reflect on this day as the day their parents slaughtered two innocent baby lizards.  I imagined their horrific tale being recounted in a group therapy session with other suvivors of parental abuse would choke back cries of horror.  Dick and I would not fare well in the re-telling of the tale.  At least we could take some comfort in knowing that the group hug at the end of the session might help them move on.  But I knew they would never, ever forget.


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