Paul Hirst (Phirst)
Osama 1, the terrorist, sedately snoozes away under warm light in the space he’s staked out for himself. On occasion, when the mood strikes and without warning, he turns nasty. A flare of the throat, bobbing of the head and sudden rapid leaps are enough to strike fear into anyone nearby.
That would be Osama 2, the coward. When Osama 1 is out of sorts, he simply retreats into a cave and hides out for awhile. His hiding can last from a few hours to days. Sometimes, only food or water are enough to lure him back out into open territory.
These two are small Anole lizards that live with us. We’ve had them for over 4 years now, acquiring them by default. Originally, I bought them to live in one of several terrariums that I had my students at school set up. I did not teach there the next year, and since no one would take responsibility for the lizards, I ended up keeping them. They require little care; during our infrequent travels our trusty “lizard sitter”, Danielle, gives them her own special brand of TLC.
As a young girl attending the Montana State Fair, I’d find vendors selling these - each tethered by a string tied around its neck, attached to a safety pin, and displayed on felt-covered boards. The idea was to pin them to your shirt and wear them as “living ornaments”. Several years I came home with one of these little treasures. I loved animals (any animal) and knew of nowhere else to get one, and felt sorry for them, seeing the need to rescue them from those dratted display boards. More than a jewel for me, as soon as I got mine home, off came the string and in he went to his own little new home - usually a large jar outfitted with twigs, grass and water. I’d gladly catch bugs to feed him and spend hours watching him change from green to brown and back again, then lull him into a trance by holding him on his back and stroking his belly. Things did not always go well with them, though. I watched one die a long, agonizing death while it rubbed its belly and turned a deep blackish color - the result, we thought maybe, of eating bugs that had been sprayed. (My parents owned commercial greenhouses and used sprays then that would never be allowed now.) Another one got loose, only to show up dead in a load of clothes that my mother removed from the washer. “Well, at least he died a clean death.” she said.
We’ve enjoyed these two. Both males, although looking exactly alike, they have very unique personalities. You cannot tell them apart by the way they look, you have to watch carefully how they act. In fact, I did not even bother to name them until after 9-11, when the name Osama reared its head. Osama 1 is usually very laid back. When I spray water in for them to drink, he closes his eyes, acts disinterested, and lets it drip off the end of his snout. When dinner is served (live crickets and other bugs) he acts like he couldn’t care less. Osama 2, on the other hand, is very high strung. The water spray drives him nuts - he races around the cage as if I’d sprayed him with acid. He attacks dinner as if there were no tomorrow. Strange bedfellows, these two.
Then there’s the way they act towards each other. Although terrorism and cowardice are occasional, total avoidance of each other is the usual behavior. However, when the temperature drops too low for their welfare, they gravitate towards each other. One will actually climb on the back of the other, hugging him tightly, to conserve and share what warmth there is. When they need to, they do band together - if only for sheer survival.
Are we so different?