On the sidewalk, fallen between the cracks was the strange man dressed as Carmen Miranda who had earlier walked into the bar and demanded to know who had taken his pet iguana. I knew it was him. I recognized his shoes. I stepped over him and stopped. His rigid pose and soft snore told me he was not at the moment concerned about the iguana. I wondered if he ever hooked back up with the lizard.
"Whoa, lookee there. Nice watch."
Casting a quick coast clearing glance around, I bent down and checked to see what else he had in his possession that might bring a few bucks over to the Triple Globe Pawn Shop. I just loved easy pickins. Slammin em around always grated on me. Too much like work. And besides I never knew when one of them was gonna play the hero. Carmen here was not playing the hero. Carmen was cooperating completely. I gave him a good kick in the ribs to make sure he was really out. Cool. No response.
Taking a second look around for citizens who might want to mind more than their own business, I considered if flipping him over made sense. I seem to remember he had come in the Fifth Street Bar waving around a sizable purse. Gripping fistfuls of his chiffon Rhumba dress at the shoulders and hips, I rolled him in my direction. Yes. The purse was under him.
I grabbed the purse to pick it up. It was then I noticed the shoulder strap. It disappeared up his dress. When I yanked on it, it yanked back. I yanked harder. It yanked harder. A few more times of this and I realized the purse was not going to come of its own free will. I worked on his wrist watch. Damn thing was a strap on with a buckle and clasp. The girly thin leather was clamped hard with about the smallest buckle I had ever seen.
In my trade, I don't have much time to perform my work. I can't dilly dally too long rifling pockets, purses whatever. At some point, someone happens by and wants to know what the Hell is going on. My credo is get in and get out as fast as possible. I reached over to my buck knife stashed in the upside down sheath on my belt. Cutting the watch strap and the purse strap seemed the line of least resistance. I never got the knife out. A rough voice out of nowhere made my hand freeze in mid air.
I looked around almost in a panic. I stood back up. Not a soul anywhere that I could see.
Again, "Yo Bub.............. Hey Asshole, down here."
Still frozen with my eyes up the street, I cautiously tried to see if Carmen had suddenly wakened. Without moving my head, all I could see were those ridiculous shoes. They were not moving. Unnerved for sure now, I very carefully dropped my head down and focused. An ugly lizard with an ugly look in his eyes stared back. Only his head and one clawed foot clutching the purse strap were visible. The rest of him disappeared up Carmen's dress.
"Yeah, that's right, a talkin lizard. Got a problem with that?"
Slowly I began to fix in. "Uh no. I guess not. Just did not expect to see a lizard stuffed up someone’s dress. Caught me off guard is all."
The lizard turned his head sideways and blinked the one eye facing up. Suddenly Carmen's dress seemed to heave and pulsate as the lizard tried to claw his way out from all that purple and pink chiffon. His clawed front feet could not find a purchase on the concrete. He seemed stuck.
"Hey, give me a hand here asshole. You rolled him over on my tail."
I just gazed at the lizard a second too long.
"Come on Jerk Off let's go, let's go. My tails fallin asleep here."
I knelt down. Lifting Ms. Miranda by his hip, I asked, "Hows that?"
No, No, No! Fer Chrisakes, what are you trying to do? Squash me flat. Lift the other hip. I jumped over the prone drunk and lifted. " Ah thanks much." And the lizard scrambled free from the chiffon Rhumba dress.
Neither of us said anything those first few minutes. I was deciding if being caught red handed rolling a drunk by a talking lizard was something I ought to worry about. What if he he talked? Or worse, began to raise a ruckus right here next to the peacefully resting Carmen Miranda? I am a cautious man by nature. Not a chance taker. Like I said, I favor easy pickins. Don't like dealin with heroes, cops, or good Samaritans. I figured I'd just off the lizard and move along once I had filled my pockets. No one gets jail for offing a lizard. Do they?
The lizard must have been a mind reader. He shook his head, looked up at me, and hissed as his mouth opened wide. The spiky ridge along his spine stood up hard and his throat pouch puffed up like a balloon. He did not look happy. He looked mad enough to cause pain if I wasn't careful. "Bub", he hissed, "I got no clue what you are about to do, but if it includes that pitiful excuse for a knife, you can forget that noise. I spit you know. And it ain't pleasant spit. Blind you in a heart beat."
He had knocked me off my game with his claim. I started to back away with my hands out, "Hey no problem. I'll just be on my way. You have a good evening."
"Hold on there Bub. No need to leave on my account." He relaxed his spikes and the throat pouch emptied with a whoosh. "A lizard can't be too careful these days. All kinds of low lifes and losers out here waitin around corners to have their way with me. Just wanted to make sure you knew I could protect myself." The iguana turned around and looked at his former companion lying in a stupor on the sidewalk. "Damn I hate drunks. Wish I had known this before I said yes I'd go to the bar with him. Fool has no capacity for liquor."
"Well where'd you disappear to earlier? Your buddy here was all in a lather about losing you. He even accused Fred the bartender over to the Fifth Street Bar of stealing you. Fred don't steal. He's a perv and a gambler, but he don't steal." I was starting to feel okay with this lizard. He had a way of making me feel comfortable.
"Ah Shit man. I told Richard... Richard's his name by the way, in case you have any interest..... I told the asshole I was going to find some food and maybe some company. Told him I'd be back in an hour. Even paid for more drinks while I was gone. But I guess you can't depend on a drunk to remember anything. He got three sheets to the wind and started a tantrum I guess."
"Where did you go?"
“Spotted the cutest she toad out back of the bar. We hooked up. Let me tell you what, that tongue of hers found places I didn't know I had places.“ The lizard paused and worked up what I thought might be his version of a smile. He looked off into the night. "It's too bad though……… I was hungry too. Shoulda asked her if she had any sisters before I ate her."
I was disgusted and showed it. "Ah man, that's just disgusting. You ate a toad? God. Ew. Yeech."
The lizard turned back and looked at me. “What?........... I’m an iguana ferchrisakes. What do you think we eat? Caviar and truffles? Shoot, if I was big enough, you might be on my menu.”
The Lizard paused. We looked at each other. It’s damn hard to tell when a lizard is kidding by the look on their face. Must be all those scales and teeth. To me they always looked serious.
“So Lizard, what’s your name? Mine’s John, but everyone calls me Easy Picker.”
“Well John my name is Harold. Everyone calls me………..Harold. Glad to meetcha.” Harold raised his right clawed foot in a gesture as old as Mankind and I guess lizard alike. I took it and we shook. “ So John, uh Easy Picker, are you gonna rob Richard here or not? Seems we ought to get a move on before someone comes along.”
The reference to “we” threw me for a second. I had no plans to hook up with a lizard. My act was a solo act. Always seemed to work out the best for everyone concerned that way. “Uh, well John, I guess so. That is if you don’t mind. “ I slowly reached for my buck knife. Harold’s spikes twitched, but quickly relaxed as I unfolded it and slipped the blade under the watch strap. While I pocketed the watch Harold let go of the purse strap. I picked up the purse and opened it.
“Jesus Harold, what the Hell?” Inside the purse was a huge handgun and a roll of bills.
“Yeah, Richard may have liked to dress up like the ladies, but he was a real bad ass in his day. The money’s mine. I hired Richard to be my body guard.”
I picked up the roll of bills and felt its size and weight. “Must be ……..”
“Over 10 grand”, Harold finished the thought for me. “So Easy Picker, you want a job?” Harold turned and looked at Richard in his Rhumba dress sprawled out on the dirty pavement. “Seems I am in need of a new body guard.”
I took a second to filter this new situation. A job? A real job? Hmm. I hadn’t had a real job since Jeez, it had been a long time. That’s for sure. I tossed the roll and the gun back in the purse and tucked it inside my coat. “Sure, why not Harold. Let’s go. I know a great pawn shop that asks no questions.”
“I am sure you do John, I am sure you do. Just give me a sec. I need to ……” And Harold turned and disappeared back up Carmen Miranda’s dress. The chiffon billowed this way. The chiffon billowed that way. Mild curse words could be heard. Finally Harold emerged with a smaller version of the same fruity bonnet that Richard/Carmen had been wearing. Once again out from under the frilly dress, he reached inside the bonnet. He came out with a half burned cigar. Stuffed it between his lizard lips and looked up at me. “Got a light?”
“No Harold, I don’t smoke. Let’s get moving. The pawn shop closes at midnight.” We headed down the dark street. I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“What’s up with the hat there Harold. You a perv too?”
“What? You think an iguana wearing a Carmen Miranda bonnet is odd? What about you? I mean, if you wanted to pull off the WC Fields look, you could have at least picked out a tux that fit.”
I stopped. Harold stopped. I looked him in the eye and said, “Get it right Lizard. Fred Astaire. Not WC Fields. Jeez, you lizards can be so numb sometimes.”
That was a hoot. Had some fun with this one. Fun like this is probably illegal somewhere. Since I could not pick which sentence to go with, I used them both. Kind of worked I guess.
(1908 / 15,235)