Geckos in Paradise

Ron Karpinski  2000


Twice each year my wife, Irmi, and I escape to the sun-drenched beaches of Florida -- paradise on earth.  Unfortunately, the place has one detraction.  Our home there appears to have been built directly atop a sacred gecko burial ground.

Geckos are small brown lizards, ranging anywhere from two to four inches in length.  They are harmless creatures but very territorial.  For the most part, they eat tiny insects.

There are no insects in our house, trust me.  For five years, I have crawled on my hands and knees, sealing every crack and crevice, summarily executing anything walking on more than two legs.  Food is stored so carefully that ants don't even bother visiting.

Any gecko that wandered into our house would quickly learn two things:  First, there is nothing to eat.  Second, there is no way out.  Yet, for some strange reason, the geckos seem obsessed with getting inside.

Geckos work in pairs.  One rings the doorbell while the other lurks in cool darkness next to the threshold.  When the door cracks open, the one down below scoots inside.

This has happened many times.  Usually, I chase the intruder down and swat it with a dustpan.  Dustpans make great gecko-killers.  The broad, flat surface is so wide that even the fastest gecko in all of Florida cannot outrun it.  Splat!  Throw the limp carcass out on the lawn.

Sometimes, though, a gecko does slip inside without our knowing it.  Usually, the intruder holes up in a cool, dark corner until it dies from lack of food and water.  Weeks later, we stumble across the mummified remains -- and toss them out on the lawn. 

One day, Irmi and I returned from a shopping trip to discover a gecko in the living room.  It stared indignantly, as though it were the homeowner, and we were the interlopers.  Such impudence cannot be tolerated.

We dropped our bags and chased after it.  Wisely, it ran under the sofa.  Twenty minutes passed in futile attempts to extract the wily rascal from inside the overturned sofa.  It remained just beyond reach.

Then an idea struck.  "Wait here," I told Irmi, "and don't let it out of your sight."  I ran to get the vacuum cleaner.

Screwing a plastic extension tube onto the end of the suction hose, I turned the machine on and probed the darkest recesses of the sofa.  Soon, a most satisfying sound filled the room, as the gecko rattled up the length of the vacuum hose.

Whatever a vacuum cleaner sucks in, it deposits in an air-tight dust bag.  There is no escape; but, just to make sure, I stuffed an old rag down the end of the hose.  If the gecko still lived, it would not survive much longer, smothered deep in a densely-packed ball of dirt, hair, and fiber.

The next day, another gecko found its way into the house.  This time, we dispensed with the preliminaries and rushed straight for our new weapon of choice.  Within minutes, this gecko, too, found its way into the bowels of the vacuum cleaner.  I smiled at Irmi.

On the third day, still another gecko appeared indoors.  The smile faded from my lips.  Two geckos in two days might be a coincidence; but three geckos in three days seemed highly unlikely, since the doors to the house had not been opened in more than twenty-four hours.

Carrying the vacuum cleaner onto the front lawn, I emptied its contents.  If the math added up, two dead geckos should have fallen out.  There were none.

My hand itched for the dustpan; but rage slowly gave way to reason.  This particular gecko obviously had above-average intelligence.  We should use that to our advantage.

Perhaps, if we spared its life and released it to the wild, the gecko might carry a message back to its colony.  Maybe it could talk the others into finding a new sacred burial ground.

Back in the house, I cornered the weary gecko and scooped it off the carpet.  Stepping out the front door, I tossed it gently on the lawn . . . and watched it crawl away.

No gecko has tried to enter our house since.


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