Skink Wars

May 29, 2016

About a week ago, Scout the Cat learned how to open the front storm door, standing on her hind paws and pushing the latch free. I was mowing at the time, and by the time I noticed the wide-open door, many minutes had elapsed.

The next morning, I went downstairs to my basement, to fetch some tools. And there on the cool concrete floor was a red-headed skink (think slow lizard, with a snake-like head), over four inches long. It didn’t move, even as I approached it and kneeled.

Farmer Orville opined that the skink got in through the sump pump, which means that other critters, mice and rats, snakes etc., could also get in. I subscribe to the Scout the Cat Theorem.

I didn’t want to hurt the skink by picking it up, so I got a Tupperware container from the kitchen, tip-toed to the skink and dropped the bowl. I looked around for something to slide under the bowl. I go up and walked toward the stairs, and the skink charged at the bowl, lifted it with its head, and skittered under the dryer. Round One to the skink.

Scout’s litter box is in the basement; surely the skink and cat would meet, the cat would torture the skink, I would have a mess of dead animal to deal with.

Round Two. The skink survived the night. It was resting under a night light the next morning. I grabbed the bowl—I had its lid this time—and trapped the poor reptile once again. I slid the lid under the bowl . . . and the red-tail skink wedged in the opening between the lid and the bowl. I didn’t want to squish it, so I eased up, the skink ran for it and skittered under the washer. Round Two to the skink.

Mind you, the skink had plenty to eat: spiders, water bugs, noseeums and the like. It was me who thought the skink should roam free and bask in the sun. The skink might have thought it was in a luxury hotel.

Round Three. Two days passed with no skink sighting. I kept looking at Scout and watching for skink blood spilling from her fangs. It had rained, and the basement had some water in it. I descended the basement stairs . . . and there was the skink, at the beach beside the sump pond. The minute it saw me, it slid into the water and swam for it, reaching the other side and skittering off under the dryer. Round Three to the skink.

Several days passed with no sign of the little bugger. Had it gone back out the sump pump hole? Had Scout excreted its remains in the litter box?

Round Four. I woke up this morning and stumbled to the kitchen for nourishment. Scout was sitting at the top of the basement stairs, her fur fluffed out and she was growling. I joined her and looked down . . . and there was the skink, next to the litter box.

I slowly descended, bowl and lid in hand, my fine naked body making me feel like a Welsh warrior, my “boys” swinging back and forth. “Ask not for whom the balls toll.” The skink was lifeless. It looked like its neck might be broken. I was so upset.

Now I was a pallbearer. I gently lowered the bowl over the body, slowly slid the lid underneath

AND THE SKINK SPRANG TO LIFE AND HISSED LIKE A COCKROACH AND MY BOYS RECEDED

but I held my ground, sliding-sliding the lid, the skink giving me the finger. One bit of its tail got caught, and the bit released onto the floor and began to wiggle of its own accord. I thought Edgar Allan Poe. The skink was fine.

Up we climbed, skink in bowl, the cat yowling as I approached the front door. I opened the door before I realized I was naked. I snapped the bowl lid shut and got dressed, the red-tail skink frantically trying to tip the bowl. I released the poor traumatized little critter at 8:30 am under the roses. The skink just lay there and glared at me. It was going to have to hunt for food. Round Four to Genehouse.

I went back inside the house. No Scout. Finally, here she came, up the basement steps, the skink tail end in her mouth. She proudly dropped it at my feet.

I accepted her gift on behalf of a grateful Genehouse. I took it to the rose bush. The skink was gone. I placed the tail bit in the shade. If our skink friend needed a little tail, here it was.

I am a better man for this. I have learned that all red-headed skinks do not look alike. There are no Trump skinks. There are Trump skunks, Trump skanks, scoundrels, scumbags.

The Sixth book of the “I Ching” put it best: ‘Lose your tail, gain your self. Lose your self, and you must visit the Lost and Found at Walmart. ‘Cleanup on Aisle Three.’

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