Befriending The Lizard Man

Lauren Buss

© Copyright 2018 by Lauren Buss


Photo of a bearded dragon lizard.

A day in mid-February sees beautiful weather here in Houston. Pleasant temperatures are more common than they are made out to be in this strange place where winter feels like spring, spring feels like summer, and summer feels like the belly of the devil. The mildness of this particular Friday morning coaxes me out of hiding and onto the porch. I am armed with a cup of coffee and my busily annotated copy of Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, a personal recipe for relaxation.  

I had experienced some self inflicted turmoil over the past week due to the uprooting eclipse in Aquarius. Luckily, I had lately found myself in a more objective mindset; I was able to see these events as new beginnings rather than endings. (“These events” being a devastating car accident that left me stranded approximately 30 miles away from my fiancé, and an unpleasant epiphany about my dependence on drugs and dishonesty.) 

Subconsciously, I decided to revisit The Ginger Man in order to provide myself with some perspective. Sebastian Dangerfield, a self proclaimed genius, walks through life drunk and dishonest completely unaware that the destruction and devastation that follows him is his own doing. The story resonates, to say the least. It is nice, convenient, to experience a true rock bottom via literary empathy; to learn these lessons from Mr. Dangerfield’s mistakes rather than my own. The Ginger Man, all literature really, provides me with much needed perspective in times where I would rather not think about anyone but myself. The coffee just tastes good.  

Outside, my thighs stick to the plastic lawn chair. February is a respite from high temperatures, but no such respite exists from relentless humidity. I think to myself that pants would have served me better than shorts, but do nothing about it.  Ugly as the inside of the apartment is (my dad commonly refers to it as a “crap hole”), the courtyard makes up for it in a strange way. Two beautiful fountains that haven’t been on in years are in the process of being overrun by wild grasses that miraculously stop at the concrete path which serves as a border between the nature and the doors of the dwellings. Shrubs and trees of various species are scattered as if on accident; I know however that they were very deliberately planted many years ago by my dads ex-girlfriends sister. My mind wanders, and I realize that the plants in the courtyard as a curious metaphor for the vast array of tenants.  One would have a hard time denying that this place has a very peculiar energy about it. Undecipherable. That’s a good descriptor. An old and simple place that seems to have no right to exist in complex uptown. To me, it is too easy to call it nasty and run down.

I find The Ginger Man particularly entertaining on this day, but I don’t get more than one chapter read before I am distracted by a strange sight: A young but bearded man in orange slides wielding a bug catching net. I am interested, but shy. I hide behind my book. Aware that shy people can easily come off as snobby, my hope is that the book will serve to say “I am not a snobby, I am just very interested in Donleavy’s The Ginger Man!” From over the top of the book, I watch intently as this man searches the shrubs and roots with the end of his net. He is absorbed in the work to say the least, enough so that I feel comfortable placing the book in my lap. I allow myself to stare and wonder what he could possibly be doing. A few sips of coffee. A few minutes of guessing to no end. I come to the conclusion that I will inquire as soon as he turns around.  

Around he turned and I initiated eye contact. “What are you looking for, if you don’t mind?”  


Lizards? But why?”  

To feed my lizard.”  

Okay. I see. Why another lizard? Why not some bugs?” 

It’s hard to find bugs out here.” 

Why not go to a fishing store? Stock up on crickets?”  

Where is the nearest fishing store?”  

Good point.”  

I was satiated to allow him to return to the hunt. The last thing I wanted was for his lizard to go hungry.  

What is that you’re reading?” 

Something about the way he speaks cues to me that he is not interested in great literature, but I am more confident in the danger of assumptions.

The Ginger Man” I reply.   

The Gingerbread Man?” He asks. 

I laugh.  Part of me wants to entertain that prospect, pay a harmless prank on this man wh quite obviously who cares more about the circumference of my legs than the book.  My recent mental turnaround however stops me from being dishonest.  
“No, no. The Ginger Man. It’s about an American man, a student, who moves to Ireland and screws it up. His life I mean.” 

He nods in response then asks me my name. 

“I’m Lauren.” 

Lauren. That’s a pretty name.” I disagree but it’s nice to hear. 

My mother thought so too, and yours?

Free.” I know from experience that is likely not his real name, but I also know that sometimes people give out pseudonyms for a reason, so I don’t push it.  

That’s an interesting name. What is your birthday?” 

September 19th. A Virgo/Libra cusp.

Mine is September 30th.” Pure Libra. My rising is Cancer and my moon is Capricorn, but it seems too trivial to mention.
“What kind of lizard do you have?” 

A Bearded Dragon.” 

What’s its name?” 

Captain Clark.” I cannot help but laugh at this.

 “Why Captain Clark?

“He used to be named Isabella but then we found out he was a he, so we changed it. Captain I. Clark.” 

That’s clever. No one else's business what the I stands for.”  


It’s nice to meet you. Good luck finding lunch for the Captain.”  

Likewise.” He says as he returns to the grasses, and I return to my book. As I read I breathe a silent wish that Free finds a lizard for the Captain.         

Contact Lauren

(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher