January 4, 2007

Leapin' lizard

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll cross paths with an anole. Especially taken with the little lizards are newly transplanted homeowners, thrilled by the prospect of spending balmy, exotic lives where palm trees drop coconuts on cars, and the little reptiles perch on rocks, translucent crimson dewlaps flashing territorially in the endless summer.

They eat ants and crickets and can be kept as pets… but why bother? They’re just as much fun peering at you through your kitchen window or hanging from a fern on the porch. Perhaps because of the housing boom, a rather lot of the little beasts are suicidal, running directly under your feet as you pass. Hopping from one foot to the other to avoid them does no good. They have an uncanny knack for finding the Shoe Of Doom. Suicide by bicycle is also a trend.

One day, halfway to the beach on my motorcycle, I looked down and saw one perched on the handlebar, face to the wind, like a dog in a pickup, master of all it surveyed. I was enjoying its company, as we sped along, as much as it enjoyed the ride, an old hand it seemed, as smug as a toad. But as we neared the beach it grew restive and appeared to be casting about for an opportunity to disembark. Perhaps it smelled the sea, or the seagulls. Of course it picked the most impetuous moment, when I was rounding a sharp curve in the road, to jump off. Whether it survived or not I have no idea. We had just passed a cluster of coconut palms.