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Becoming a Grifter

by Channie Greenberg

Methuselah flicked her tongue out of her mouth. She had visitors.

Living among agave and cacti was okay at Fomin Botanical Garden. She tolerated the feral dogs that broke into her exhibit. Some of them ate her hatchlings, but Methuselah, too, ate some of the intruders; she enjoyed her occasional snacks of canine.

When the Nazis garrisoned soldiers in her park, though, her life became peculiar. First, she was transported to Germany, where it was cold. Despite abundant food, most of which consisted of critters that had died en route and of hapless zookeepers, she ate little and moved less.

Plus, the giant monitor got shot by a Luftwaffe agent possessed of a P38 and of a conviction that lizards were Gypsies. Had that parachutist not been drunk, his effort would have been deadly.

Methuselah suffered. She was not a species that could autotomize an appendage. So, eventually, baited by carrion, she was trapped and tended to by the Germans. Throughout her convalescence, Methuselah remembered her assailant’s red-brown boots.

After being restored to her Ukrainian home, the lizard acted relatively tame before attacking zoo keepers that wore similarly-colored footwear, biting through their shoes, flesh and bones. One endured an amputated foot and another had to have several tendons reattached.

For a decade more, the land crocodile pushed against instinct by willingly interacting with humans. Annually, she harmed only about three people. Methuselah was becoming a grifter.

Copyright © 2013 by Channie Greenberg

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