Remembering “No-Tail”



Gentrification. It happens all the time, but this time it was personal. I knew the old guy who was displaced. In fact, it was my fault.

He had lived close-by for about three years. Quiet, downright aloof at times, he wasn’t an easy fellow to get to know. But since COVID-19 and the isolation it brought, I was home almost all the time and spending a good bit of my day outside. We saw each other regularly and developed a camaraderie. He’d stop whatever he was doing if he saw me, nod cautiously with a sideways glance in my direction, puff his dewlap into a bright orange bubble, and go about his business.

If you are confused at this point, I should mention that I’m talking about No-Tail, the brown anole who has been a presence in our patio garden for three summers. (See “The Lizard Whisperer.) He surveyed and defended his territory from a sunny perch on a garden gargoyle’s left wing. He defeated other males who tried to claim the gargoyle as their own. He ate their young.

The last time I saw him was the morning before gentrification began. He was enjoying a romantic tryst on the fence with a young female. I recognized him immediately. He has a vertical stub for a tail, and his skin appears to be in a perpetual state of molting. The rendezvous consummated, he caught a huge earthworm and devoured it whole for breakfast. “Not a bad way to start the day,” my husband commented.

Early the next morning, I began work in the garden, which had that exhausted, end-of-summer appearance. I cleared leaf debris and moldy mulch from the beds and cut back the aphid covered night-blooming jasmine. I removed impatiens laced by slugs and snails, cleaned the fountain, leveled and shimmed the listing gargoyle, and yanked out unwanted, over-grown asparagus fern.

After sweeping and washing the patio bricks, the area looked neat but bare…of plants and lizards. Installation of fresh annuals would have to wait until cooler or at least less hot, days arrived. The lizards, I assumed, would return by late afternoon. They did. All but one.

The revered patriarch was still absent the following day, and a veritable turf-war had begun in the garden. No longer in danger of being snared in the jaws of the master hunter, juvenile lizards scurried about freely, snapping at moths and each other. Several hipster and millennial males engaged in a bidding war for ownership of No-Tail’s prime sunning and hunting perch on the gargoyle’s left wing. A lonely female kept watch on the fence, longing for his return. As do I.

I never thought I’d write a tribute to a lizard, but these are unusual times. I hope No-Tail is alive and well, perhaps in the compost bin with the discarded garden debris. I imagine him living the good life in there, a gated retirement community for aging lizards. I feel sure he’ll meet some attractive senior ladies who hunger for his advances and serve him tasty meals of grubs and worms that they have prepared especially for him. He’ll play bocce ball with the guys. Any grandkids that he didn’t eat will visit on grandparents’ day.

Wherever you are, No-Tail, “stay gold.” You are one kick-ass lizard.


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