THE LOST WORLD
– The Leaf Lizard and the Jungle Princess
Sidney was a common leaf lizard, although he was in no way ordinary. In fact, he considered himself to be rather special. As long as Sid could recall, the Jungle Princess had lived in his tree. As Amelia had put it: People can grow anywhere. Amelia knew these kinds of things because she was a parrot, and parrots live a lot longer than lizards. What set Sidney apart from the other common leaf lizards – and both Amelia and he were in full agreement on this point – was that Sidney was crazy-in-love with the Jungle Princess.
"Hold up. I never said that I agreed with you," Amelia interrupted, "I only said that you were crazy."
Sid lay on his belly, straddling a thin tree branch; his hind legs dangled free and relaxed. His tiny lizard-chin was cradled in his plump olive fingers.
"Crazy-in-love," he sighed, as he watched the Jungle Princess flutter about the tree house through its many windows. And so this day went, as so many had before it, with Sidney professing his love for the Princess while Amelia groomed her toes with her beak.
It had all started a few weeks back when an early chill had caused Sid to change his morning routine…
Sid was not an early riser; he preferred to let the sun do a little bit of work before he did. This morning was colder than usual, so he set out to find a nice puddle of sunshine. He found something even better – clouds of warm steam billowing from the tree house shower room. He wriggled through the loose bamboo slats, to the inside of the shower, and then climbed up the wall. In the thick of the fog his cold blood surrendered to the balmy vapor. Content as he was, he didn't mind the gentle touch that eased him off of the humid wall and onto her finger.
Now Sid would be the first to admit that his eyesight was poor, but some beauty transcends vision; and so it was with the Jungle Princess. Haloed in the mist before him was the loveliest creature that Sidney had ever beheld. Her hair danced like sunlight in a waterfall. Her smile set his tiny lizard heart to racing. She pulled him so close that he could see his reflection in her crystal eyes. And then she wrinkled her soapy button nose, and rubbed it against his own. How could he help but fall crazy-in-love?
"I've heard that story a hundred times, Sid," Amelia slurred, through a mouthful of parrot foot.
"She rubbed her soapy little nose on mine," Sid sighed again; he sighed a lot these days. "I think she was going to kiss me, but I panicked and shot around the shower like a loose marble. I don't even remember how I got out of there."
The two voyeurs spent the rest of the day hopping from branch to branch, keeping a close eye on the comings and goings of the Princess's entourage. They watched the crazy old magician brew his potions, the houseboy run errands, and the huntsman do the biding of the evil stepmother. But mostly, Sid just gazed dreamily at the graceful motion of the Jungle Princess. Amelia could see that her friend was smitten beyond his ability to reason.
"I'm telling you, Sid, leaving flies on her pillow is not going to win this girl's heart," she told him – and not for the first time.
"Yeah, I really thought she'd come around." The leaf lizard rolled over onto his back to get a better look at his friend. "What kind of girl doesn't love a fresh fly?"
Amelia shook her feathered head. "This is only the first of many biological incompatibilities you two are going to face," she warned him; but Sid had no idea what she was talking about.
It was on his second trip to the shower that the love struck lizard lost his tail. He cowered, dripping wet and hidden in the leaves, while Amelia did her best to calm him.
"Look at my tail!" He held up the stump for inspection.
The parrot put a wing over her pint-sized pal, and pulled him close. "Now, slow down and tell me what happened," she said.
Shaken as he was, he slowly explained, "I had worked my way into the shower – just like before. I didn't want to miss a thing, so I kept licking the fog off of my eyes. Suddenly, that raven haired harpy came cutting through the steam. She was swinging a hard bristled back brush like I was a prize piñata. I was lucky I found the window." Sidney sat down with a plop, and pulled up what was left of his tail.
"It'll grow back," Amelia tried to ease her friend's sorrow.
"Yeah, but it'll never be the same. I had a really swell tail."
"Yes you did."
Sidney spent the next few days watching the Jungle Princess from various perches and windows. At night, he would cling to the wall near her bed and imagine himself to be a moon-shadow that traced the rise and fall of her light covers. It was during such a night that he hatched his next big plan.
"We're going to write a love note!" Sid woke his friend well before daybreak. He was very excited; he had written all of the words in his imagination.
There was no point in trying to put the lizard off until morning; Amelia blinked the sleep from her eyes. "I'm not much with a pen," she confessed.
"That's ok," he said, and he explained his plan.
They knew that the houseboy kept a good supply of parchment and ink in his room. Sid was certain that if Amelia spelled the words, he could write them out. He would just have to take care not to track footprints through the wet ink. Most of the time the houseboy was out doing chores for the evil stepmother, so using his room was simple enough. Sidney poured his heart out and Amelia explained how he should draw each letter of every word. After the love note was complete, Sid carefully placed the parchment onto the Princess's pillow.
It seemed an endless vigil; but one by one the tree house windows faded into the darkness. The flaxen hair beauty had said her goodnights and she began moving towards her room. The cohorts knew the branches and byways of the canopy, and they quickly navigated to the backside of the tree house to get a view into the Princess's bedroom. Amelia had to admit, she was a little excited; but Sidney was absolutely certain that he was going to pop.
She had already found the love letter, and it looked as if she was reading it over and over again. She touched unsteady fingers to her lips and the soft lamplight began to collect in her eyes. Sid couldn't hold himself back any longer; he raced across the leaves and sprang to her windowsill. But the Jungle Princess had exited her room. She had gone directly to the houseboy's bedside and the two were locked in an urgent embrace – they seemed to be making up for lost time.
It took the better part of an hour for the lizard and the parrot to work out their miscalculation. Once done, Sid's brow pulled low into an evil glare. Clearly, the houseboy must die.
Sid had never planned a murder before, so he let his shattered heart guide him. The next time his rival – that shifty, would be suitor – entered the elevator, he would bite through the vines that held the car aloft – long whistle... splat... deliberate dusting of tiny green hands.
The assassin sprung his trap the following day. The houseboy's life hung, suspended, as the elevator began its slow decent. Sid buried his razor sharp teeth into the tenuous vine... and he chewed... and chewed... all the way down to the jungle floor – he chewed.
In hindsight, he had underestimated just how thick those vines really were.
Sid was no killer, and he knew that he had lost the girl. Amelia did her best to console the lovelorn lizard, but he needed to be sad for a while. So they sat together – just outside of the tree house – and they listened as the houseboy read poems of unrequited love to the Princess.
That night, as he clung to the wall above her headboard, he watched the moonlight drift across an empty bed. He wasn't the kind of lizard to feel sorry for himself, and so it came to him what he must do.
Amelia was a patience parrot; time had seen to that. She wasn't surprised as Sid woke her with yet another plan.
"I'm just going to march right in there and tell her that I love her," Sid declared, and he drove his olive fist into an open palm.
"Of course you are," she easily shifted her position from consolation to encouragement, "but you're going to be a good little lizard, and wait until morning." And just like that, Sid was back in the game!
"Wake up, Sid. She's getting into the elevator." The parrot shook the lizard's slumber-leaf.
Sidney had never moved quickly in the mornings, but this morning he felt as though he had borrowed Amelia's wings. He scampered along the tree house roof, and then let himself freefall onto the top of the elevator carriage. It wasn't nearly as daring as it sounded; Sid could fall a very long way without much of an impact.
He easily passed through the bamboo housing and held his position directly above the Jungle Princess. Her hair smelled like wildflowers and her skin looked as soft as Amelia's feathers. He had never given much thought to her outfit – but there wasn't much to it. Looking at her bare skin from this rousing angle put a little tickle in his tummy.
The elevator jolted as it hit bottom and Sid lost his grip on the ceiling. He plopped straight down and landed in the cradle of her halter-top. It was the safest, coziest place that he had ever been. He was even happier here than he had been in the shower. The Princess began to run through the jungle, as she was prone to do, and the little leaf lizard curled himself up against her warm jasmine skin. As Sidney drifted off to sleep, he knew for certain – he was crazy-in-love with the Jungle Princess.