Late last summer I was seated at my computer, deep in thought about the words on the screen, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement at the baseboard of my bookcase. It was gone in a flash, before I could get a fix on what it could be. Mouse? Lizard? Oh, please not another snake!
There’s a narrow crack where bookcase joins to cabinet and this would not be the first time some outdoor creature had taken refuge there. One year it was a little gray lizard who eventually worked his way back outside, only to be replaced by a little gray mouse. Another time, a determined black widow spun her web there. (I normally trap most spiders and take them back outside, but like copperheads and mice, black widows get no mercy.) Something about this latest darting creature seemed different though and a few days later, while I was sitting perfectly still, trying to work out in my head the motivation for my character’s actions, a bright orange broadheaded skink strolled out of that corner and slithered along the baseboard.
He didn’t go far, and the moment I moved, he darted back into his refuge. I knew there would be no way to catch him, so I left a flat dish of water out and hoped he’d find enough spiders and beetles to live on, but I doubted it and I was not surprised when fall drifted into winter and I quit seeing him. I assumed he had crawled into that dark space and gone to sleep for good.
Wrong! Yesterday, there he was, a brilliant orange, sleek and fat despite his winter hibernation. I’ve put down another dish of water with a lettuce leaf that has a nice juicy slug on it. I have no idea if broadheaded skinks eat slugs, but I’m not going to bring in crickets or caterpillars. This is a working office, not a deli for skinks.
Normally I like to work in solitude, but as long as he doesn’t start whistling or crawl up on my desk to give me a sales pitch like the Geico gecko, I’m not going to reach for the Raid. Who knows? He might even get a cameo in the next book!
[PS – My skink won’t stay still long enough for me to grab my camera so the picture here was taken by Iris Sutcliffe of GreensboroBirds.com. Visit her website for more wonderful pictures of North Carolina wildlife.)