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Creek Running North

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June 05, 2003

Reptile parts

There are times when you find something, and the way it came to be there makes itself plain at once in your mind.

Yesterday morning, walking the dog, I found a severed lizard tail laying at the curb.

The lizard to which the tail had been attached was a western fence lizard, common around here. The tail was six inches long, about a quarter wide at the blunt end, cafe con leche brown with little rust red spots running its length. The severed end was drawn in and puckered, flecks of dried blood dotting the wound. It lay neatly parallel to the curb, as if placed there deliberately.

The neighborhood is full of cats. Some are feral, and more are "owned," put outside each day by people who would probably complain if Zeke crapped on their lawns, but who blithely allow their cats to dig, and defecate, and spray urine in our garden beds, and sidewalks, and in other places where the first rain will flush the Toxocaria-laden waste into the Bay.

With thirty or so determined, subsidized carnivores in each few blocks, the small animals in the neighborhood take a beating. I've seen few lizards around here with intact tails. A pounce, a painful tear, and the tail thrashes wildly, and if all goes well the cat is distracted from the other half, which can then make a calculated escape.

I spent a moment hoping the lizard had truly escaped, and then dug in my pocket for a plastic bag. (I carry them whenever Zeke and I go out. Unlike the cat owners in the neighborhood, I clean up after my pet.)

I dropped the tail into the bag, carried it home, laid it on the soil in the zinc pot that holds my Pachycereus pringlei, Mexican cardon cactus. It's a fierce plant, like a saguaro on steroids. Maybe the extra nitrogen will help it grow, I thought, and then, some windy day, it can fall over on a cat. The revenge of the tail.

Off to work and then back home. Faultline's web host suffered a nameserver failure for a couple hours, so I went running instead of writing about reptile parts. Along the Railroad Avenue levee, a four-foot snakeskin lay tangled in the grass. It was a good shed, a clean shed, skin sloughing off all in one piece the way it's supposed to.

Sometimes you find something, and the way it came to be there makes itself plain at once in your mind: I saw a bright snake seeing the seasonal wetland through newly clear eyes, trading a bit of tissue for a less-encumbered few weeks along the creek.

Posted by Chris Clarke at June 5, 2003 06:40 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs