It all started in the middle of last week, when Sicily and John caught a lizard in the backyard. They convinced Ike to get a cage and some food.
Sicily informed me, "It's a boy, mom. We named him Zap."
"How do you know it's a boy?"
"He is black with blue and red stripes on his back. You know, like racing stripes. That's why I decided to call him Zap."
So Sicily made a sign for his cage, with ball-point pen on white construction paper, in all capital letters: ZAPE."
The next morning, while I was cooking breakfast, the kids sounded an alarm.
"Mom! Zap's missing! We can't find him anywhere! Come quickly!"
"Well, I guess that means he is running around the house somewhere. Let me finish the eggs before they burn, then I'll come look."
I peered into the cage. It was located on the hall counter, in between the kid's bedrooms, which was the result of a late night compromise stemming from an argument over whose room Zap would sleep in.
"Sicily, did you put this conch shell in his cage?"
"Yeah, last night. For decoration."
"I'll bet he's curled up in there somewhere, terrified. We'll find him tonight. Let's get ready for school."
Sure enough, he emerged that evening, and all was well. Until his tail fell off.
"Mom! John must have been playing with Zap without asking! He pulled the tail off!"
John emphatically denied any involvement in the tail incident, and I told Sicily it was probably a sign of stress. Twenty-four hours later Zap had still not touched either of the crickets jumping around his cage, and he appeared listless. A family decision was made to release Zap back into the wild, much to the kid's chagrin. But the reptile seed had been planted, and the kids were relentless in their requests for a pet store replacement. On Saturday morning before HarvestFest, Ike took them to the pet store after getting his iphone replaced, which had been submerged in a river somewhere on Friday.
They came home with a baby fancy corn snake, a new cage, and frozen mouse embryos. Both John and Sicily were over the moon.
I asked them, "What is his name?"
John answered first, in a serious and hushed tone, "I call him Dangerous."
Sicily replied loudly, "No fair! I get to name him! I want to call him Spotty, because he has all those spots!"
"Well, why don't we use both names? We'll call him Dangerous Spotty. Or better yet, Spotty Dangerous."
Sunday we had a successful feeding, and Spotty D was happy winding his way around Sicily's fingers after dinner tonight. Both kids are enamored. Or deprived, depending on how you look at it. But we're not quite ready for a dog, yet. Maybe in a few months.