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Story by
Robert Winter

There was something different about this lizard.

Jason didn’t normally care much for reptiles.  As a boy, when his brother went gaga over the chameleons he had brought home from the pet store, Jason reluctantly picked up one from the terrarium.  It wasn't anything like holding a puppy.  The lizard writhed and scrambled so frantically inside his hand that he wasn’t sure he could hold it without squishing it.  Then when he turned his palm up and opened his hand, it scurried up his arm and behind his neck.  For a few moments, he could feel its terrified tiny toes and twitching tail, and then…

Nothing.  The chameleon settled down, apparently satisfied that it had climbed a branch to safety on a ledge.  

How could you like an animal that didn’t know the difference between you and a stick?

The reptile's obliviousness to all the warm, gooey life bubbling up inside him somehow called into question whether he was really there.  The sensation made him shudder.

The lizard  in front of him now was different, though.  This smallish, brown-skinned creature had caught his eye as it wriggled across a patch of morning sunlight on the coffee shop’s front patio.  Instead of fleeing in panic, it had stopped and stared at him.

“Oh yeah?” it seemed to be saying.  “Who wants ta know?”

Jason paused to look more closely.  Plucky little guy, aren’t ya?  

With twitchy reptilian movements, the lizard turned its head slightly to one side, then to the other, never taking its birdlike eyes off Jason.  

Jason could almost hear the theme music from a gunslingers’ showdown in an old spaghetti western.

The lizard went still for a moment…then with the sudden flash of a gunfighter’s draw, extended all four of its squatty limbs to their full length, raising its whole body off the pavement by maybe an inch.  It held the position for several seconds, its sides rhythmically expanding and collapsing, glaring steadily at Jason all the while.

Whoa, what’s this? thought Jason, the corners of his mouth beginning to turn up in amusement.

The lizard dropped back down…then shot back up again.  Then down again—and up again, in herky-jerky movements like an early silent movie—up, down, up, down, up, down…

Are you doing pushups?!

The lizard continued its grim labor.

Jason knitted his brow in thought.  Wait!  You’re trying to show me you’re bigger than me!!  A broad grin spread across his face.

The lizard gave no sign of being amused.

Jason whooped with delight.  “Okay, buddy, you’ve made your point.  No way I’m gonna mess with a big fella like you!” He turned and strode into the store.


He was still chuckling inwardly as the petite blonde barista rang up his coffee.  “You know you’ve got a new attraction out on your patio?”


“Yeah.  A lizard’s out there doing pushups.”

Her face became earnestly solicitous.  “I’m sorry.  We have a pest control company come by every two weeks, but I guess…”

Jason grinned a little more broadly.  “I’m not complaining.  I think it’s a kick!”  

She flashed him a bright social smile in return, her eyes still blank with non-comprehension.  “Enjoy your day.”