The Flight of the Iguana

Iguana’s don’t fly?

What’s that you say? Iguana’s don’t fly. I saw one fly once. With my own eyes.

A few years ago, at the behest of my local Code Enforcement Department, I was lopping twigs off the rosemary bushes in my front yard when I looked up to see a group of people-- a man, a woman, a teenage boy, and a young girl, watching me.

“Good morning. Are you guys out for a walk? Don’t these rosemary bushes smell good”? I smiled at them. The man and the woman smiled back but said nothing.

The girl, who looked to be about eight years old, put her thumb in her mouth and grabbed on to her mother’s skirt. She held her head down and wouldn’t look directly at me.

The boy, who appeared to about fourteen, started poking around the rosemary bushes with a long stick.

“What are you looking for? Did you lose something under the bushes?” I asked him.

He gave me a hostile look but wouldn’t answer me.

“What’s he looking for?” I asked the adults, whom I presumed to be the parents.

The man and the woman stared at me. Both shook their heads, which I interpreted as meaning they didn’t know.

This is weird, I thought. Are these people safe? Are they sane? Are they people out to destroy my rosemary bushes?

I felt I had a good reason to be concerned.

About a year earlier I had arrived home to find the husband of a neighbor woman pulling up my rue plants.

“What are you doing? I screamed at him Why are you in my yard? What are you doing to my rue?

“You killed my baby.” he yelled. “It’s your fault. You gave my wife ruta. I could kill you.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” I yelled back at him.. “You are crazy. You’d better get off of my property right now or I am going to call the police. I didn’t give your wife anything. I don’t even know your wife.”

“You gave it to my boys, he said. They told me they got it from you.’

His boys? So, he is the father of the two young boys who had knocked on my door and told me that their mother wanted me to send her some ‘ruta’.

When they knocked on my door I recognized them as the kids who often passed my house going to the grocery store with their mother. Sometimes they would stop at my front gate and the mother and I would talk about our gardens. She didn’t speak much English; I spoke little Spanish but we managed to communicate.

When the boys asked for ruta to give to their mother I didn’t ask them why she wanted it. I was glad to share the bounty of my garden with my neighbor. I assumed she wanted it to add to a recipe. It never occurred to me that she wanted to use it to abort a baby. I had heard stories about some women who use ruta, and other herbs to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies, but I had always considered those stories false. I hope the stories aren’t true. I prefer to think that my neighbor lost her baby due to complications from the pregnancy but her husband, needing someone or something to blame it on, blamed it on me and my ruta.

After I told him that I was going to call the police, the man stomped on the remaining rue plants and left. I never saw him, the boys, or their mother again.

These people standing at my front gate now, poking under my rosemary bushes, what were their intentions? Did they harbor a grievance against me? Had I unknowingly committed an offense against one, or all of them?

I tried again. “What are you looking for?” I asked in what I hoped was non hostile manner.

The girl removed her finger from her mouth. “We’re looking for the iguana,” she said. “Me and my brother were cleaning the terrarium and it got away. My brother said that it could be in your yard because your yard has a lot of bushes. Iguanas like bushes.”

“Well, it’s not in my yard.” I assured her. “If it were in my yard my dog would be digging under those rosemary bushes like crazy.”

“That’s what my brother is afraid of,” she said. “He thinks that your dog will find the iguana and eat it.”

Eat it? The thought of Thresh, my son’s seven-year-old Akita, eating an iguana made me laugh. He might play with it, or challenge it to a staring contest, but eat it? Not likely. If it weren’t Milkbones or his regular food Thresh was not going to touch it.

Thresh had two main interests in life--Milkbones and Amber, the fourteen-year-old blonde who lived across the street.

Whenever Amber came to my house for a visit Thresh would get close to her face and grin at her. “Your dog is leering at me,” she would complain. “Amber, dogs don’t leer,” I assured her, while Thresh, seemly transfixed, stood in front of her, with his tongue hanging out and a glazed look in his eyes.

Lorelei, the elderly red-headed ‘Georgia peach” who lived in the house west of mine, was another of Thresh’s interests.

“Lorelei, why do you let that dog lick your face,” I asked her whenever I saw Thresh standing at the fence which divided our property, slobbering on Lorelei’s face.

“Oh, he’s just being friendly,” she would laugh.

Based on what I knew of Thresh’s preferences, I believe I could honestly tell the young man, his sister and the man and woman, that if the iguana turned up in my yard, my dog would not eat it.

“Well, tell your brother that my dog is not going to eat the iguana,” I told the girl. “Tell him not to worry.”

The boy was still poking the stick under the rosemary bushes when the man said something to him in Spanish, he stopped and turned to walk away. The others started to follow him.

“Where do you guys live?” I called after them. “If I see the iguana in my yard I will come to your house and let you know.”

“We don’t live here,” The girl said. “We live in San Diego. We are staying at the house of my mother’s friend while she is away. I don’t know the address. The iguana belongs to my mother’s friend.”

The girl asked the woman something in Spanish. The woman shook her head from side to side.

“We’ll come back with the address,” the girl said after speaking with the woman.

They never returned to give address to me.

Months passed. Had it not been for the young men who lived in the house east of mine, I would have forgotten about the iguana.

For whatever reason, they found it amusing to taunt me about the iguana being in my yard.

When I came home from work, they would be sitting on their front porch drinking beer. Before I could get out of my car good, one of them would come up the fence that separated our driveway, point to the back yard and yell, “iguana, iguana.”

Flustered, I would yell back, “Usteds, estan loco. No hay iguana aqui.”

They all just laughed louder when I tried to respond to their heckling. I assumed they were laughing at my terrible Spanish.

Autumn arrived. The time had come to rake up the bushels of leaves which had fallen onto the sidewalk from the fruitless mulberry tree in my front yard.

“Come on boy,” I told Thresh, early one morning. “Let’s get a move on. No use inviting the wrath of Code Enforcement.”

When we got outside Thresh abandoned me to visit with Lorelei at the fence.

I worked most of the morning, dividing the leaves into piles and shoveling them into black plastic yard bags.

Rake a pile, Bag a pile. Rake a pile. Bag a pile. By noon I had raked up my last pile of leaves and was bending down to push them in the bag with my hands when I saw movement.

Uh oh, what was that? Immediately, I thought of the iguana. My mind began to race. I have a genuine fear of reptiles in any form.

I picked up the broom and threw it into the pile of leaves. Something orange and pink peeked out.

In a flash, it sprinted out of the pile of leaves, up the side of the house and headed toward the rooftop. About halfway up, it turned and looked at me. I screamed. My scream frightened it. It made a mad dash to the top of my house. Without stopping it flew across the tall, wide tree that stood between my house and Lorelei’s house, across the rooftop of Lorelei’s house, then out of sight.

I stood there amazed. I didn’t know iguanas could fly. I bet that iguana didn’t know iguanas could fly either.