Lizard World

Lizard World

Terry Richard Bazes


A certain . . . a certain noble earl had need of a handsome, young, female carcass -- for which specimen I would be excellently paid provided it be fresh and that the feet were shapely and unblemished . . . . By nightfall, when I set about my work, it was raining. Gratefully, this inclemency of weather favoured the expedition of my efforts: for not a single hackney passed to retard the steady progress of my digging. Indeed, so quickly did I work, that I had broke into the box, bagged my quarry, replaced the soil, and rode off in my cart, ere I bethought myself to see whether the feet of the poor creature would answer the intent of my commission.

Thus begins the long association of a young medical doctor and his hilariously depraved American descendants with the notorious Earl of Griswold, a 17th-century libertine and connoisseur of smells whose discovery of an elixir in the Florida swamps will keep his evil presence alive for the next three-hundred years.

ISBN: 978-1-60489-077-8 Trade paper, $22.00             Sale $11.00

ISBN:  978-1-60489-076-1 Library binding, $27.00        Sale $13.50

 Pages 254

 About the Author: 

  Terry Richard Bazes is a graduate of Columbia College and has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the author of Goldsmith’s Return, published by White Pine Press, and of Lizard World – which will be published by Livingston Press in the autumn of 2011. His personal essays and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, including The Washington Post Book World, Newsday, Columbia Magazine, Travelers’ Tales: Spain, Lost Magazine and the Evergreen Review.

 Excerpt from the Book:

         In which the Artiste falls prey to melancholy thoughts.

      While he was cleanin’ up the surgery after yesterday’s operation, throwin’ away the itty-bitty pieces and puttin’ the big pieces in a plastic bag, Lemuel Lee was thinkin’ that one a the really good things about gators is that they're useful even when they're dead. Aside from the skin, which was made into wallets and change purses which made toursists go apeshit and which Uncle Earl sold in the Lizard World gift shoppe alongside the seashell art and coconut candies, a dead gator could be sold for meat. A dead cow or a dead sheep wasn't none too good for sellin', cause in that case you're forced to compete with the A&P. But gator, though it's tough as chewin’ on an inner tube, was somethin’ you could always sell for good money to the Magnolia diner, where tourists -- and especially their little brats -- always gobbled it up as a genuine Florida treat.

     That was why, after he picked up his paycheck, Lemuel Lee drove his pickup truck to the Magnolia diner and delivered the mortal remains a Caesar's alligator wife. Rico, the cook (a smart little Cuban who knew how to shut the hell up) had been given forty dollars to spend:  as usual, Lemuel Lee would give twenty bucks to Uncle Earl, leavin’ him and Rico twenty more to split:

               "Catch you later, man," said Rico.

                "Keep cool, " said Lemuel Lee.

     You'd think -- since it was payday and he had an extra ten dollars in his jeans -- that he'd be feelin' good. But no, he was feelin' mean enough to kick a cat.

Was it the Komodo?  Not likely. Fortunately, the operation had been a success and the Komodo (so Uncle Earl had told him) would be almost good as new for the Monday show. No sir, that wasn't it:  there was other problems that Lemuel Lee felt gnawin' on his innards, makin’ him sad and testy, bringin' him down. Ever since he'd lost his lucky snake-rattle keychain, he'd just been feelin' worse and worse. Too bad, too. 'Cause ordinarily on Fridays, after he'd got paid, he'd drive into Fort Myers, go to the Bijou Adult Cinema, jack off, eat some popcorn, then after the show stop off for a six-pack and some slimjims at the Seven-Eleven and keep drinkin’ until he got all the way back to the trailer -- usually around three or four in the morning. But today -- hell, he just wasn't up to it.

      Feeling sad like this, he raced his truck back to Lizard World, screeched into the parking lot, slammed the door and moped back to the snake house -- where it was cool, dark, quiet and a man could think. Behind their panes a glass the rattlers, copperheads, vipers, coral snakes and pythons – including Beelzebub, who was moving a lump a bunny down his middle -- were all quietly digesting. Lemuel Lee sighed, then took in a deep, cool breath of reptile. The fact was that he loved the snakes, loved the way they always seemed to be sleepin’ but could lash out like lightnin’ the moment their prey got near. In high school he'd put one in his math teacher's mailbox. One a the things you had to remember was that you shouldn’t never let anyone get away with anything: because your honor was at stake and nothin’ was more important than a Frobey's honor. This was what his daddy had taught him and Lemuel Lee had never forgotten it. "Love's a fine thing, boy," his daddy had told him, "but a good hate will warm your belly on a cold night. If someone fucks with you, you pay him back ten times worse -- not just so that he knows it but so that everyone he knows knows it. That way they're gonna know what kind of man you are and they're gonna show you respect."

      Fact was, there was a lot a people at Lizard World who was beginnin’ to bug him. Take Uncle Earl's secretary, for example: that big fat skank Lily listened in to all their phone calls and, chewin’ gum, always sat with her legs spread when Lemuel Lee came into the office, so that he was obliged either to look away or to study the obscenity of her crotch in bulgin’ blue jeans. Lemuel Lee didn't think a woman had a right to look like Lily, especially the way she put her finger in her ear and inspected the wax and then looked at him as if he was givin’ her the the eye.

If a girl was a looker, that was one thing. But a dog like Lily, in Lemuel Lee's opinion, was an affront to his ideal of womanhood.