Flight of the Iguana


In the days that followed Mrs. Rattlesnake's visit, Iguana sat brooding. He did not mention the visit to his mother, though he was not certain why. Instinctively, he suspected Mother would forbid him to see Mrs. Rattlesnake again. And there were things Iguana longed to ask that only Mrs. Rattlesnake seemed to understand. She had nodded agreeably when Iguana tilted his body to bask; the first time Mother saw him do that she had said, "What are you doing?" rather sharply, as if it were somehow distasteful.

Iguana was sure Mrs. Rattlesnake would return. Yet when he looked to the ledge one afternoon and there she was, as still as a rock, he was startled. "Good afternoon," he said. "How did you get there?"

Mrs. Rattlesnake stretched herself into a fluid line and rolled sideways along the sunny ledge. "Just a little reptile magic, my dear."

Iguana said nothing. He did not know about magic, nor did he know if it was polite to ask about it. "Do you think I could fly?" he suddenly blurted out. He flicked his tongue nervously; he had not meant to say that.

"Flying -- now there is an art." Mrs. Rattlesnake arched her body and swayed, ducking and weaving. "Of course you can fly, my dear."

"I have no wings," he said, frowning. "In case you didn't notice."

"Wings are for the unimaginative. For those without magic. You, my dear, have an impeccable lineage for magic."

Iguana stood. His legs were stiff from the shadow slanting across the nest. Gently, he rotated each egg to expose a new side to his body heat. He was worried that he was too cold to warm them properly.

"You are not well suited to egg warming," Mrs. Rattlesnake said.

Iguana looked up. How could she know his thoughts?

"You are marvelously suited to flying, however." She coiled herself into a tidy circle, tucking beneath her the tip of the rattle. 'Your scales are magic. In flight, they open and close to accommodate the wind currents. You don't even have to think about it. It's marvelous." She looked at him steadily, her eyes reflective. "You should know that you come from a long line of noble ancestors. Have you heard of your cousins, the winged Draco Agamids? No? How about your great uncle, the Komodo Dragon?"

Iguana had not heard of any of these relatives. His blood, cold or not, began to stir within him. "Dragons, really?" he asked.

"Oh my dear, don't get me started on dragons. The mightiest of dragons possess jewels beyond measure and they are renowned throughout their kingdoms. Do you know how they get their treasure?"

Numbly, Iguana shook his head.

"Simple. They capture their treasure in flight," she said.

Iguana pulled himself onto his forelegs and began to do pushups. "I can really do this?" His dewlap became erect. He felt a stirring of pleasure along the inside of his back legs. "Oh," he said. "But I cannot go."


"The eggs. I must warm the eggs."

"Oh, if that is all, I will warm them while you are flying. I have been sunning my body on these rocks while you were shivering in the nest. And while my lineage is not as noble as yours, I have my own bit of reptile magic. Watch this." Iguana stared as Mrs. Rattlesnake opened her jaws and seemed to unhook them. She scooped up an egg and held it in her mouth for a moment before slipping it back into the nest.

"What a good trick," Iguana said. He bobbed his head.

"No trick, magic. The jaws of the rattlesnake are renowned. Have you heard the expression 'the Jaws of Life?' Well, no matter. Are you ready to fly?"

Iguana perched on the rim of the nest facing the canyon. He did his pushups until his dewlap filled with blood. He looked back to Mrs. Rattlesnake for encouragement. She cradled an egg in her mouth and her beautiful warm body was coiled around the nest. Reassured, Iguana leapt far out, away from the jagged rocks to clear the road below.

He gasped. The wind pummeled his nostrils, cutting his breath. Iguana panted to fill his lungs. Mist brushed his face. Whipping with his powerful tail, Iguana twirled and danced and the striated sky danced with him. He could never have imagined this radiance. Most beautiful of all, was the canyon river which sparkled like rose quartz split into diamonds. This, then, was the treasure of his ancestors the dragons.

And yet even as he flew, twirling down to his jeweled treasure, Iguana felt a stab of profound sorrow. Now he knew that as long as he lived, he would never again experience a moment of such perfect joy.