The Case of the Juggling Anole

She entered the condo with turquoise purse, lunchbox, and grocery sack slung over her left arm, holding her father's dirty laundry in that hand. Keys and mail were still in her right.  She nudged the twelve-pack across the entry rug with her left foot while bumping the door shut with her right hip.  It had been a day, let me tell you. 

Plunking the groceries and mail on the table, she popped open an unfortunately warm brewski, and shelved the cans of reduced-sodium garbanzos in the cupboard.  The lemons had gotten warm enough in the Buick's trunk to threaten citrus explosion.  Later, much later, she would remember to mix the good hazelnut coffee in with the Maxwell House basic caffeine source.

Any day that starts with a snake in the bathroom is going to be tough.   Snakes are not deathly afraid of tile, despite what Fritz told Eunice.  Snakes are nonchalant about linoleum.  The lizard had been partial to miniblinds.  Shake it off, she told herself. Reptile interior design is unlikely.

Kicking brown clogs under the desk, she turned on the computer and tried to mentally exit the lengthy patio evaluation of her father by the hospice nurse.  Interview conducted in the hot wind.  Her dad trying to remember that he was in Texas on West Park Boulevard in 1930 or 40 or 50 or admitting he didn't know.  He didn't know either that he'd been fighting the aides, slapping and insulting them for two days, ever since he returned from Mulberry Hill.  The RN keeping the session relaxed, picking up on hints, suggesting meds for the most agitated moods and aggressive behavior. 

Maybe she could rest some, breathe a bit, realizing the nurse was sharp, much better in person than on the phone.  Processing it all slowly, she began to sense something was off.  The picture was wrong.  Retracing steps through the grocery, the mail, emptying the lunchbox, unloading the dryer, adding the wrinkled slacks and blouse to the ironing pile on the couch. 

There it was again.  Knowing someone was in the condo, but not knowing how she knew, she stood.  Still.  In the living room looking at the sweaters machine wash gentle cold reshape and dry flat on the old bath towels.  Sunlight filtered through the miniblinds sketching designs on the carpet next to.  Next to.  Next to the Christmas ornament from the elementary students.

Why was the ornament on the carpet?  Why was a Christmas decoration still out on income tax day?  Nevermind.  The ornament hadn't been there, she knew, when she left.  She had waited until water sprayed in the dishwasher, and the snake had slithered west under the hedge before leaving for school.  The sweaters had been arranged, and knew their task.  There had been no silver ball.

The silver ornament sat next to the MOG ornament she got from the MOB--mother of the bride.  They were in front of the photos of Halma as a young girl and a young wife.  The Woolly Mammoth sat nearby on the mantlepiece.  That's where they had been for months, well-settled in the dust, but now the ball was on the floor.

Floor.  Floor.  Fl...FL... fl... fl... flizard.  The anole had been on the mantlepiece, just as sure as she knew her consonant blend sounds.  The anole had been juggling the Christmas ornaments, but now the silver one was on the floor.  The jig was up.

She knew what she would find, but she needed to see it.  Anole toes.  There.  Hiding on the miniblind slats.  "Slats".  Halma's nickname since she was so darn skinny.

10.  the jig is up, Slang . It is hopeless; no chance remains: When the burglar heard the police siren, he knew the jig was up.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Kathleen said...

Anole toes!!

Christine Thresh said...

Lizard tricks. He wants you to know he is there.


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