not long ago i submitted a story about things that “go bump in the night”. this story is an addition to that one, and recounts by far the scariest night-bump i have experienced. it took place in picture rocks, where i was living in a very nice three-bedroom manufactured home centered on an acre of desert land.
after i moved in, i cleared an area of land in front of the house and began planting desert-loving cacti and flowering perennials. i also discovered, over time, the myriad critters living there. the entire experience was delightful, especially the many weekends i was able to share it with my small grandson.
i built a gazebo in front of the house, covered with sunshade fabric and spent a lot of time there, both alone and with my grandson, watching the critters, who went about their business, seemingly unaware of our presence, as long as we were inside the gazebo.
the list of critters was long, and included round-tailed ground squirrels (the most adorable little creatures), gambol quail (whose babies look like tiny pieces of fluff with legs, running after their parents), cottontails with long ears to keep them cool, the occasional snake of course (which i generally viewed from a distance), tarantulas, many variations of lizards, horned toads (actually lizards, but short and chunky) which, when little, would sit in your hand unafraid, and many beautiful birds.
i hung hummingbird feeders, set out seed blocks, which many of the critters enjoyed, scattered seeds and left-over bread crumbs, which led to the discovery of yet another fascinating critter. one beautiful morning, as i was quietly spreading bread crumbs in the clearing, out of the brush darted the longest lizard i’d ever seen. it was a desert iguana, complete with vertical scales along its back, like a slender dragon, nearly 18″ long including a tail as long as his body.
he grabbed a bread crumb and nearly flew back into the brush. as he and his family adjusted to my presence, they became more brave, and all seven of them would pop out to munch on the crumbs as i scattered them. it was such a joy to watch all of “my” critters so close-up.
keeping a large bowl of water outside for my “extended family” was important to me and to all of them. every evening i dumped the bowl and filled it with fresh water. i loved being outside in the early evening, watering plants and generally tending my yard.
one such evening, as i completed the watering, it was beginning to fall dark when i realized i had forgotten to change the water bowl. as i leaned over to empty the bowl, something roughly 8-10″ in girth, sprang from the bowl, lunging directly for my face! the thing, being unfamiliar to me, and it being too dark to see clearly, nearly scared the hair right off of my head. i swear to you, the first thought that sprang to mind was, “what the…is this what an alien looks like?!”
as i leapt out of its projectory, i realized that the alien was an arizona-sized toad! putting my heart back in my chest, i finished filling the bowl with fresh water, looked around for the vanished toad, and went inside. i imagine that poor little alien’s heart was beating as fast as my own.