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Romance Drama

Aaaakk! Aaaakk!

Wake up, Ricky! 

Huh! Angie, what’s—-?

Shush, said Angie, fumbling for her bedside lamp. Didn’t you hear that? 

Hear what—-?

Listen, Angie hissed, as her striped lampshade cast streaks of bright orange around their bedroom. Up there!

Aaaakk! Aaaakk! croaked the lizard from its vantage point above the window.

Don’t just lie there, she said, shoving her husband. Kill it!

The startled creature cast a brief but dramatic shadow in the low angled light like a pantomime villain making an untimely appearance, hoping in vain that  all are oblivious, despite telltale shrieks from the cheap seats below.

Richard Leckie rolled his corpulent body towards the edge of the mattress, reached down for his battered leather slippers and launched one at the gravity-defying creature. The footwear fluttered and flapped through the air like an ungainly fledgling attempting flight, skidded across the wall space vacated by the devious amphibian and plummeted with an unapologetic thud. In truth, the wily reptile had shifted its location long before the clumsy projectile left Ricky’s chubby fingers. Angela Leckie’s shrill call to arms was notice enough for the lizard to abandon its reconnaissance mission and assume a defensive strategy forthwith. An ancient survival instinct and primal reflexes dictated the reptile’s movements; it flexed its gnarled claw’s, priming sticky pads for immediate action and with rhythmic flicks of its tail against the plasterwork, scuttled horizontally across the vertiginous wall towards the wooden slats of the upper wardrobe door.

How could you miss? Angie said, sitting upright and gathering the top sheet around her ample form.

But, sweetheart, Ricky said, frowning and shaking his head with incredulity, You didn’t give me much—-

You’d all the time in the world.

I didn’t think—-

You got that right.

But I thought—-

Don’t just lie there!

Shouldn’t we—-?

Go after it, Ricky!

Angie swung her dainty toes onto the floor and retreated from their room with all the bedding.

Hey! said Ricky, standing forlorn beside their mattress. Maybe, you could help?

No way, said Angie. You’re the man. With that stated, she entered their children’s room and slammed the door behind her.

And, Ricky!

Yes, sweetheart?

Tell me when you’re done.

#

In Angie’s country, it’s a fact that croak lizards have been responsible for more broken marriages than any number of infidelities, either real or imaginary. She was of the opinion that good women will refuse to sleep in a house with a croak lizard on the premises. Tradition dictates that it’s the husband’s duty to seek and destroy the pest and demonstrate their success by presenting the remains for inspection after the duel, thus proving his undying love.

However, divorce court lawyers claim that most true men will refuse such a request, fearing that a bite from a croak lizard will effect both their manhood and sexual prowess, hence they would rather seek separation or leave their wife rather than suffer such a fate.

#

Ricky’s response to Angie’s request was one of compliance rather than controversy. He was a bold fellow despite his lethargic demeanour and lacked familiarity with the superstitions of his wife’s culture. Armed with his leathery old slipper, Ricky set about the task in hand. However, it wasn’t without a sense of trepidation that he climbed the rickety wooden stepladder to search the upper wardrobe cupboard. Ricky removed the first pile of folded towels, shaking them at arms length to dislodge a possible intruder. He folded each item in turn as he progressed, assembling fresh heaps of towels, bedding and table linen on the mattress. Once Ricky had cleared the upper cupboard, he started on the clothes hanging below. 

With his trusty slipper at the ready, Ricky reached out his left hand, wrapped his fingers around five wooden hangers and removed them, revealing the wardrobe’s rear wall and the cowering lizard. In that frozen moment both combatants calculated their choice; fight or flight. Ricky dropped the clothes, lashed out with his slipper and the lizard scampered from view.

Goddam! It was fast. 

Ricky jerked the clothes both left and right, and caught an another glimpse of scurrying yellow scales. He yanked a dozen ironed shirts from the rail, ripped out blouses, skirts and scarves, cursing under his breath as he tossed them aside. Within the upper recess, a pair of beady eyes glinted down at him and vanished before he could attack. Ricky threshed his arms about like a deranged combined-harvester, casting the last of his suit jackets and trousers onto the floor, leaving the closet bare. He sighed and collapsed onto the mattress for a moment of respite. Unperturbed and brazen, Ricky’s plucky opponent poked its head between the wooden door slats and slithered across the wardrobe’s rear wall. Ricky grabbed his scruffy slipper and hurled it in vain as the lizard disappeared from view.

Aaaakk! Aaaakk!

#

Three weeks after Angie had decamped with their two children to live with her mother, Ricky was still engaged in his domestic struggles. He’d updated Angie every night on his progress and reassured her he was winning; painting his offensive in a positive light and downplaying his desperation for the sake of their children. However, Angie wanted a rapid result regardless of the cost. 

You need to kill it today, she’d said, if you want your family back.

It was as if she was oblivious to his Sisyphean trial and how Ricky had upended the entire residence on a mission to destroy his mortal enemy. Ricky had searched every cupboard, hiding-place and cubbyhole throughout the property. He’d unwrapped, repacked and restored order to each room in turn, but to no avail. No sooner had he isolated the crafty amphibian to one floor, herded it into a room and cornered it, then the damn creature would evade his death blows and run for its life.

Ricky’s endeavours weren’t entirely based on an aggressive kill-or-capture policy; he’d Googled the topic, watched YouTube videos on the subject and sought the advice of experts; both local and worldwide. 

There are many practical ways to approach any infestation, however the world of lizard extermination has its own renowned gurus; messianic characters with years of experience and a myriad of tried and tested tactics.

Lindell Lowell had a reputation that was second to none and agreed to offer Ricky the benefit of his knowledge, once terms were agreed and paid for in advance. He suggested half a dozen approaches utilising: egg shells, bowls of honey, peacock feathers and shavings of onion and garlic. 

That’s all well and good, sir, Ricky said, biting his lip. But my family is falling apart.

Patience, said the guru, wafting his regal hand in the air as if dismissing the very notion.

I need an immediate outcome.

The hot pepper spray will satisfy you, said the guru, moistening his lips with the tip of his tongue and offering a cold-blooded smile.

Lindell’s most popular recipe advised grinding half a cup of black pepper corns, stirring the resulting powder into a litre of warm water and then sprinkling it liberally in areas frequented by an offending reptile. 

Be calm, the guru said. It’s not going to work overnight.

Ricky found comments from satisfied clients on the guru’s website and after reading persuasive opinions that vouched for its efficacy, he committed himself to the strategy.

First of all, Ricky sealed all points of entry with duct tape and piled their household possessions onto the floor. Then he donned a respiratory mask and HazChem suit, prepared a supply of fiery pepper-water and doused the interior walls, cupboards and wardrobes, and all the dark spaces under his bed, bath, fridge and cooker. Ricky saw nothing of the lizard during the first two day’s work, made more arduous by wearing the sweltering full-body PPE suit and mask, in a property transformed into an boiling hot cauldron. 

After three of days of continuous spraying and sprinkling, Ricky smiled to himself, believing he’d soon discover a shrivelled-up reptilian cadaver.

On the fourth evening, Ricky lay back on his bed, still clothed head to toe in sweat soaked PPE and considered his next call to Angie. He must have destroyed the pest by now and restored their home’s integrity. Surely he’d won?

In the quiet of his marital home, Ricky peeled back his paper mask and sniffed the air. It was cool and fresh since opening up the window an hour ago. The piquant tang of black pepper had diminished and all but disappeared, and a refreshing night breeze carried the sweet odour of lemon mint from his front garden. 

Daring to presume he’d triumphed, Ricky 

reached for his mobile phone and dialled his mother-in-law’s landline. As the phone rang and rang, he glanced aloft at the upper reaches of the walls and ceiling. They now bore the variegated stains from his dried pepper spray; the scars of battle and evidence of his secret war. He‘d have to explain the mess to Angie and no doubt repaint the offending areas, but at least he’d defended their territory and regained sovereignty.

The phone continued to ring in the half-light; echoes of a world he thought he’d never rejoin. It had been a hellish month and one he cared never to revisit. At last the ringing ceased, the line crackled and a dark shape twitched above the window’s architrave.

Hello, Ricky? Said a familiar voice. Hello?

Ricky narrowed his eyes and scoured the walls in the dim light.

Are you there, Ricky?

Yes, Angie, he said, spotting another sudden movement. I just called to….

What’s that you say?

Aaaakk! Aaaakk!

Is that the lizard?

I wanted to say… Ricky’s throat was dry. 

Aaaakk! Aakk! Aakk!

Haven’t you destroyed it yet, Ricky?

Two separate movements from opposing sides of the ceiling converged and disappeared between the wardrobe door’s wooden slats. 

Aaaakk! Aaaakk!

Don’t you care about your family, Ricky?

Aaaakk! Aakk! Aakk!

I wanted to say goodnight, sweetheart.

Ricky ended the call and closed his eyes.

Our family’s doing just fine.

Aaaakk! Aaaakk!

Aaaakk! Aakk! Aakk!

Aak! Aak! Aak! Aak!



The End





July 14, 2023 12:31

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17 comments

Martin Ross
15:19 Aug 09, 2023

That’s a wild ride — I loved the lore of the lizard, and Ricky’s desperation. I’m a corpulent beta sort myself, and I can chuckle and empathize and reflect on the times my Sue expects arachnophobic me to be a man and vanquish the wolf spider in the garage. I wish I had your skill for diversity of theme and tone.

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Howard Halsall
23:51 Aug 10, 2023

Hey Martin, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and relating your experience with those pesky little blighters. I’ve had my share of battling various house pests too, so I tried to convey that sense of hopelessness that comes from chasing shadows into dark corners only to be outmanoeuvred once again. Alas, it’s a life’s work in many respects and a skill that I’ve failed to master. Take care HH

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Frank Lester
17:00 Jul 29, 2023

Good story and very visual. Great description, although I had to look up several words, which took me out of the story. Aside from those few distractions, I really enjoyed your story. Ricky's dilemma was palpable and humorous. I could see him trying to talk his way out of this, but--happy wife, happy life. I was stationed in Thailand many years ago and experienced a relative of the croak lizard, the gecko. Noisy critters, and they were everywhere. Brought back memories. Thanks for sharing it and stay well.

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Howard Halsall
22:13 Jul 29, 2023

Hey Frank, Thank you for reading my story and sharing your thoughts and positive feedback. I’d be interested to know which words ruined your reading experience; there’s nothing worse than an annoying distraction when one’s enjoying something. However, I’m pleased the tale brought back some memories of far-flung lands and hope you had pleasant recollections too; not just thoughts and troublesome reptiles…. Take care HH

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Frank Lester
03:41 Jul 30, 2023

Howard, I went back and the three that caught my eye were Sisyphean, architrave, and vertiginous. Don't lose any sleep over this. The problem is mine as I'm not as well read as you and my vocabulary is quite thin as a result. Not to worry. I learned three new words in the process while being entertained by your excellent story. The gecko memories were good; Vietnam, not so much. Keep writing and be safe. Frank

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Howard Halsall
13:57 Jul 30, 2023

Hey Frank, Thank you for responding; much appreciated. Take care HH

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Rose Lind
04:51 Jul 16, 2023

I liked ur writing. I like how u identified cultural superstition with current times of internet guru. I can say I felt for the lizard and wanted it to live.

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Howard Halsall
12:15 Jul 16, 2023

Hey Rose, Thank you for reading my story and sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you enjoyed it and imagine you’re happy the lizard survived and prospered too…. Take care HH

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Zeeshan Mahmud
19:15 Jul 15, 2023

Great story. If it wasn't for comments, I wouldn't have understood the ending. I really need to sharpen my reading skills!

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Howard Halsall
21:49 Jul 15, 2023

Hey Zeeshan, Thank you for reading my story and taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m glad you enjoyed it and pleased it made sense… in the end. Take care HH

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Lily Finch
16:33 Jul 14, 2023

Just a well-written story about a Jamaican woman and how Ricky has to save his family. Mix marriage is interesting, to say the least. The lizard croaks and the misunderstandings just are part of the package Ricky was most likely not bargaining for when he said, "I do." Nicely done Howard. I enjoyed this story. LF6

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Howard Halsall
17:21 Jul 14, 2023

Hey Lily, Thank you for reading my story and leaving your positive feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed it and relieved it made sense. I wasn’t sure if the mixed marriage aspect was confusing, however I now think the story wouldn’t be the same without it or maybe it would have been a court room drama instead…. ? I’ll reread your story after you’ve completed your edits, Lily. I look forward to reading the final version. Take care HH

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Lily Finch
17:55 Jul 14, 2023

Reedsy took care of that for me, Howard. I am unable to make changes to my latest. Since someone from the judge's team read it and approved it. No worries though I don't expect people to read my story just because I read theirs. I learn so much by reading others' stories. Form, style, voice, characters, plots. That's what I am here for. You never disappoint. LF6

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Howard Halsall
18:38 Jul 14, 2023

How true and quite so… :)

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Lily Finch
18:43 Jul 14, 2023

D) LF6

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Mary Bendickson
14:23 Jul 14, 2023

So Angie is from Jamaica? Cute charming story how poor Ricky must save 😅 his family. Woohoo! Got it right! Thanks for reading and liking my little stories.

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Howard Halsall
15:27 Jul 14, 2023

Hey Mary! Thank you for reading my story and well done with your detection work; you got it right first time :) Mixed marriages can be blessing and a voyage of discovery for the open-minded despite misunderstandings and croak lizards of course…. Take care HH

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