Thursday, August 22, 2013

Prompt Drabble 2: Lizard Thunder, titled "The Lizard King"

So the next time I tried finding a picture prompt, but the ones I got all involved either Russia (boo! hiss!), or sleeping cats. Wasn't feeling those.  So I found this random prompt generator where you can choose how many elements are selected for you.  I chose to go with two elements, as 5 seemed kind of overwhelming.

The prompts for this one are:
The story starts during a thunderstorm. The story must have a lizard in it.
That seemed doable, but things got crazy.  So several month and hundreds of miles later, I'm ready to finish this.

The title of course references my two most common associations with lizards: the prevalent blue bellied lizard of Siskiyou county, and Jim Morrison, Mister Mojo Risin', also known as the Lizard King, who is forever a part of my mind thanks to my mother.
And just because I can, penguins chasing a butterfly.

Because that's how I roll.

The lighting arches across the night sky, brilliant against the dark clouds.
Shawn starts counting under his breath.

"One... two... three...." 

The thunder cracks, close, the noise echoing in his chest.  The forecast promises rain, a welcome break from the thick, cloying heat of summer.  The summers are always so long and hot, the air dusty as he rides his bike around his neighborhood. Of course, neighborhood is a relative terms.  It's actually a small group of houses at the end of a long driveway, miles from anyone he could befriend; so isolated and alone. He spends his mornings and evenings riding his second-hand bike and swatting at mosquitoes, before he retreats indoors during the worst of the heat.

Their trailer has air conditioning, but it's always broken.  The only advantage to the inside was shade, a fan, and ice water.  Usually, Shawn spends his days inside, watching soap operas on the t.v.  They only have one channel, and any distraction is better than none. Or else he or re-watches one of the 10 video tapes they have.  Those luxuries like cable t.v. don't cost money; they mean more hours alone for Shawn.  His mom doesn't think cable, though; she worries about paying for food and spending hours at home with Shawn, meals spent talking with her son.  It's a fair trade, and he won't mention the need for further entertainment.

Every day, Shawn has his chores; he checks the dog's water bowl beside the back door. Then he walks the 20 yards to the chicken coop.  Inside, the coop is like a hot car in a parking lot, the heat trapped and festering. It's almost overwhelming, the smell of chicken shit strong as it clings to the air.  Shawn always rushes; he tosses feed to the chickens and checks the water quickly before gathering the eggs.

The sun beats down, a burning, oppressive blanket that he tries to ignore in his desperation for activity.  Sometimes, when the heat is under 94 degrees, Shawn spends some of the hot hours outside.  There isn't much to do; every so often, the neighbor's dog comes over to play, but she's got a cooler place to hide.  On the truly tolerable days, Shawn sits under a tree, a juniper, a dark spot with a bearable temperature.  It's right beside a worn fence post that stands out in the sun.  It's during the day that he sees them, those blue-bellies, always skittering away before he can approach them, let alone touch them.  It's one of those strange childhood desires, to catch and keep one. He's always tried to grab them, but they're always too quick.

Day after day, week after week, summer after summer, he watches the lizards run around in the sun.  And each time he stretches his arm out, his hand several feet away when the lizards run.  Then one day, a lizard doesn't run.  Slowly, Shawn moves his hand closer, until he's less than a hands-breadth away.  He freezes, afraid to go closer.  He tries to be calm; its the closest he's gotten to touching one.  But the lizard doesn't scramble away; it sits, undisturbed, just a few inches away.

The pale wood of the fence post almost burns under Shawn's hand.  It's warm, maybe too warm, but he stays still.  A soft breeze picks up, blowing slightly cooler across his skin.  He takes a breath and calms.  Soon, the lizard moves.  But this time, it moves a few inches closer to Shawn's hand.  Shawn freezes; it seems a miracle to be so close.  His fingers itch to stretch those few inches, to try to catch the lizard.  He wants to, but he's afraid to move too fast, to move his hand too hard and hurt it.  But after long moments of near breathless silence, his fingers move, reaching.  Quickly, gently, he move to cover the lizard.  The lizard freezes, waiting instead of running.  Shawn's heart pounds as he curls his fingers, cupping the lizard.

Carefully, he raises hand, over and over, the words "don't squeeze, don't squeeze" running though his mind.  Shawn brings his other hand up, cradling the lizard carefully.  Slowly, he moves one thumb, and he sees it, his lizard, his prize, a treasure that is new and different.  Gently, he recreates the cage of fingers, then  stands.  His heart pounds as he bolts toward the back door. 

Shawn doesn't know how to care for a blue-belly.  Do they eat bugs? Worms? He had no idea.  But it only takes a few minutes to drop the lizard into a jelly jar; even fewer to punch a few random holes into the lid with a hammer and a phillips head.  The computer in the living room isn't good for much but writing papers.

After a few minutes, the old laptop boots up, and it only takes a minute more to run the encyclopedia disc.  Shawn looks up "blue-belly lizard" before being redirected to "Western Fence Lizard."  Shawn quickly reads through the article, then scrolls back up and reads it again, this time carefully.

As he makes plans and thinks of ways to catch food for the lizard, he looks over at his mom's record collection.  He can't see the titles, but he knows the ones on top are his mom's favorites. Most nights, they listen to The Doors and talk, while drinking ice water with the windows open. It's Shawn's favorite time of day.

He looks down at the lizard, his lizard, and smiles.

"I'll call ya Jim."


  1. I LOVE this so much--the gentle twists and turns of it, the way it flows . . . just lovely, lovely, organic story-telling. I want to read more about this boy and his lizard, Jim. And their lonely, but not-as-lonely-as-it-was world. Make more.

  2. You can really feel Shawn's loneliness, and this very real and aching desire for something else. Very well done.