It happened on a pleasant evening in late spring. Warm enough for the cicadas to be singing, but not so hot that they were deafening. Thomas and I headed out into the backyard to hunt our favorite prey...the enticing and defenseless gecko. Or so I thought.
Pretty soon we spotted one, a nice medium one on the garden wall. I cupped my hand quickly over it and gently scooped it up.
Now, in all the other times I've caught a gecko it stays mostly still in my hands, and the littler ones often stick around for a long time after I've opened up my fingers and Thomas and Bethy get to look at them for awhile. They're soft with slightly sticky little feet and not the least bit unpleasant. This time, however, my hands were filled with frantic activity that didn't...feel...right.
I opened my hands a little bit to see the gecko...and it's tail, no longer attached, flopping frantically around. In my hands. ICK!
I dropped both without delay. The gecko scampered off but the tail continued it's horrid disembodied dance around my shoes.
If I were not such a self-possessed person it is possible I would have freaked out.
As it was, I picked up Thomas and hauled him back indoors. ALL DONE catching geckos! I told him.
Totally grossed out, and feeling very, very guilty, I swore off gecko catching. Now, the gecko's tail is designed to come off so that predators will chase, and eat, it instead of the actual gecko. Having seen it in action, I can see it is a very effective defense, but come ON, I didn't hurt the gecko, though I suppose he can't be blamed for thinking he was my after-dinner snack.
The next night I was coming up our front walk and was stopped dead in my tracks by an unexpected sight. Perched over the kitchen window where I couldn't possiby miss him, giving me the eye, was a newly tailless gecko.
Aw man. I addressed the problem directly, hoping no neighbors were within earshot:
"You climbed all the way over the house so you could come out here and make me feel bad? Look, I didn't do it on purpose. I'm really, really sorry, OK?"
He didn't blink and continued to stare me down.
Fine. I went inside.
Most evenings he was out there, waiting for me, his pink wound growing into a stub, then slowly becoming a tail as the days went by. I would throw a "how's it going there, Stubby?" at him as I braved the gauntlet of his reproachful eye.
Finally his tail was all the way back, and after that he disappeared. I can only hope that his absence indicates that I am forgiven and that there's no longer bad blood between us, karma being what it is.
And, despite my claim to be finished with the entire gecko catching scene, I have started to catch geckos again. Only the ones in the house, to save them from the kids catching techniques. Apparently the word has gone out because one tried to hide under my foot yesterday. I like that.
Teeny tiny itsy bitsy gecko baby. With original tail.
Bethy holding the itsy bitsy teeny weenie gecko...you can almost see it by the bottom crease of her fingers.