“Iguana Get to Know You” by Renee Hughes

Visiting the facilities to at our dad’s house could involve an unexpected encounter with a sizable exotic reptile. His girlfriend’s pet iguana hustled to the bathroom whenever she let him loose from the cage Father constructed when the lizard outgrew his tank. Mingo rushed out the open door of the enclosure and skedaddled to his humans’ toilette to relieve himself. Martha ran a few inches of warm water in the bathtub for the iguana to do his business, after which he floated and walked around in his ceramic pool.

Once he concluded his aquatic activities he climbed the chair under the window and propelled himself to the top of the valance. There he rested, stretching his lengthy body out across the rod, his tail extending past the lower edge of the short curtain. This perch provided him a clear vantage point to view anyone entering his domain to use the restroom. Other than the bathroom, the cage was his favorite spot. He basked under the heat lamp while he lay on his stomach over the electric hot rock to digest his meals.

Named Mingo after Mingo County in West Virginia from where Martha hailed, the iguana changed ownership without much forethought on the part of his masters. The reptile was two years old and three feet long when Martha acquired him in a yard sale transaction back home before relocating to the Midwest. A couple visiting her tag sale desired to acquire the waterbed she had advertised and decided to barter with her for it. An iguana apparently equates to adequate compensation when trading for furniture. In consideration of his long sharp claws, finding the lizard a new owner made sense before bringing home a waterbed. The twosome procured the bed and she landed the iguana.

To Martha she got the better deal in the barter because animals rated far higher than furniture to her. Employed for a dozen years as a veterinarian’s assistant in West Virginia, she adores her furry, feathered and scaled friends. To this day that occupation was her favorite job stint. In addition to Mingo, several critters besides the usual dogs and cats happily resided with her over the years including a turtle, snake, parrot, mice, parakeets, fish and a rescued deer.

Over the time Martha owned Mingo he added another foot to attain his adult length of four feet. Weighing in at over ten pounds, he whipped around his powerful tail that stung if it contacted with a person’s unprotected body. Sections of his rough skin curled up until they shed. Since he did not utter any noises she was unable to discern whether he enjoyed being petted, a sharp contrast to the contented purrs of her favorite felines.

Mingo coexisted peacefully with the small animals with which he shared the house. He never bothered the cats or the parrot, though the former exhibited an affinity for putting their noses on the reptile. Since he was a vegetarian they fortunately did not tantalize his taste buds. Preferred delicacies included lettuce and other veggies and fruit, melons in particular.

Though not outwardly affectionate, the iguana appeared to appreciate walks in the sunshine. Dad held the lease to her bulldog Sabo while Martha accompanied him with Mingo draped over her shoulder, his tail hanging down the length of her side. With his girlfriend’s slight build, a living lizard stole that exuded some warmth provided her with a portable heater. Mingo’s presence definitely enlivened conversations with others they encountered on their neighborhood strolls.


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