Sunday, August 26, 2012
Cohabiting with lizards
My house is full of lizards.
Specifically, geckos. I like geckos. I always have, but that’s a geographical thing. I mean I don’t know for sure, but there are probably places in the world where you don’t look up at the ceiling and see this, right:
I currently have eleven geckos. I counted them last night. But it’s been a while since a new bunch hatched, so I’m sure there will be a crop of tiny pink translucent babies appearing shortly. I will have to come up with some new names.
All my geckos have names that start with G. Gordon, obviously. Goliath, the largest, then Gary, Graham and Gargamel. Even though I have eleven geckos, I don't need more than five names because, honestly, who can tell the difference between them?
The geckos live behind picture frames and in my fez during the day. They come out at night and eat insects. In a city that has occasional outbreaks of both Ross River and dengue fever, I appreciate their mosquito-killing abilities.
When I bought my house, the geckos didn’t know about cats. It was a killing field that first week. Now, the geckos stick to the ceiling and the architraves. I don’t know how many generations of geckos it’s been since I moved in, but they’ve obviously developed some sort of genetic memory that warns them the floor is dangerous territory.
Geckos are very territorial. They fight a lot amongst themselves. Sometimes, if a moth lands in the middle of the ceiling, three or four geckos will make a dash for it at once. Usually this is where I stop watching TV and watch the ceiling instead. It’s like a cross between Animal Planet and Spartacus up there. It’s vicious.
Geckos can shed their tails when they’re in danger. This is truly disgusting. And weird. And I mentioned disgusting, right? Okay, it’s evolutionarily fascinating, but come on! The cats don’t fall for it anymore, and I hate having to pick the tails up. I hate how they keep twitching even though they’re not attached. I hate how they tickle in the palm of my hand. It’s more like demonic possession than biology. Detached limbs should not move.
Scientists will tell you that geckos stick to the ceiling because of their toepads. I don’t believe this. I believe they do it by the power of concentration. And sometimes this concentration lapses and — splat! — a shell-shocked gecko is suddenly on the floor instead, wondering what the hell just happened.
Geckos have taught me a lot about situational awareness. Before I take the lid off this pot on the stove, I will look above me and make sure I’m not about to scald some gecko and have him fall to his death into tonight’s dinner. Before I hit the button to boil the kettle, I’ll make sure it's uninhabited. That way a parboiled gecko won’t come sliding out into my coffee, and I won’t have to wonder how many cups I made, and drank, before he was dislodged.
Both true stories. Not mine, thankfully.
What wildlife do you share your life with?
(Next week I'll introduce you to my window sill frog, Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle. The second. The original died of old age.)