With apologies to Nancy and Eric Gurney.
This is a guest post from my dad. The title of the post is a reference to one of my favorite childhood books, The King, The Mice, and The Cheese (TK, TM, and TC), by Nancy and Eric Gurney.
The post is adapted from an email he sent me, recounting the story of a childhood pet. The occasion of the story was the passing of his dear aunt, without whom this story could not have been.
One day Aunt J took me to the circus at Madison Square Garden. I’m not sure how old I was. It was before I had my pet parakeet, Fluffet, so I’m guessing I might have been 7 or 8. At the circus you could buy an anole, along with a small box of mealy worms. Anoles only eat live food that they can see moving. Anoles change color depending on their environment. Mostly they are bright green, but they can change to any color between green and brown. At the circus they called them “chameleons” but really they were anoles. My mother was delighted to see me come home with this new pet. Hahaha. She particularly loved the mealy worms. I have to say, though, it was pretty cool to see the anole gobble up a mealy worm.
After a while the mealy worms from the circus were all eaten. But I discovered that I could get more mealy worms from Tony’s Pet Shop. I had a long relationship with Tony from my days as a turtle hunter. So the anole was well fed, and he and I were getting along famously. He lived comfortably in a low, flat fish bowl, the kind you might keep a small turtle in. He had a little bowl of water, a rock to sit on, a small open box for shade, and a good supply of mealy worms.
Anoles like to roam and explore, of course, so I kept a piece of screen over the top of the fish bowl. That was the compromise I struck with my mother. I was very diligent about keeping that screen in place…until one day I wasn’t. On that fateful day I came home from school and went right to have a look at my anole. Lo and behold, he was gone. This news freaked out my mother. She was not a country girl. She didn’t like creepy crawlies. She was very tolerant of her son, who did like creepy crawlies. Mostly the creepy crawlies died after a short stay in our apartment. They were not used to urban living. That was OK with my mother.
We looked around the house, under the bed, in the bookcases, in the living room, bathroom and kitchen, but no anole. That apartment wasn’t very big, but the anole was very small. There were a million places it could hide. And hide it did. It never came back to its fish bowl. … I thought it was gone for good. Days went by. Days turned into weeks. AND THEN, one morning….it was light outside, and the light illuminated the drawn window shade. There on the shade was the silhouette of the anole!! It was on the shade between the shade and the window glass. In a matter of seconds I was on that anole like a fly on flypaper. I was a speedy creature hunter in those days. I restored the anole to its fish bowl, and I promised myself that on that very afternoon I would get a new supply of mealy worms. I don’t know what the anole ate while he was gone.
My mother was less pleased at the return of the anole. The anole liked living with my mother, but my mother did not like living with the anole. [LK: from TK, TM, and TC: “The mice liked living with the King, but the King did not like living with the mice.”] I guess she was happy that the anole had not died in some hidden place in the apartment, but she informed me that on that very day the anole was going to be delivered to a new place to live. She didn’t care if it was the Oval in Parkchester, in the swamps near Zerega Avenue, or just out in the street. But it was to be gone from the apartment on that day. I took the anole to Tony’s Pet Shop. Tony took the anole, but I never found out what became of it.
This is a nice reminiscence about my grandmother, Aunt J, and the mischievous boy that was my father. Is there a lesson in this story? In The King, The Mice, and The Cheese, the lesson is that the cure might be worse than the disease. (The King brings in cats to chase away the mice, but they cause their own problems, as do the dogs, etc.) But that lesson is not the lesson of the anole story. Perhaps the lesson of anole story is that even tolerant mothers have their limits.