Me and the lizard

By Helen Row Toews

May 4, 2017 12:00 AM

Matthew Rettger, 10

The shed was full. Happy cows lay deep in oat straw chewing their cuds as Bill quietly moved among them, checking for signs of calving.
It was a placid scene of contentment after the evening chores, and as I stood there watching all the mouths move steadily, a memory floated back.
It was of a wedding which took place in Edmonton quite a few years ago.
I didn’t know the bride all that well, but she asked me to attend, and sing a special song after the ceremony.
She greeted me with an anxious look and a distracted wave as I entered her home that morning.
A stylist bent over the bride’s platinum hair; teasing it into a frothy halo which framed her darkly tanned features.
Five separate headdresses were then fixed into the resulting fluff.
A diamond tiara, rhinestone headband, two strands of pearls, three pink flowers, and a sequin encrusted comb were all artfully arranged with the aid of enough hairspray to supply an 1980s hairband revival. 
She turned to admire the effect in a mirror the stylist held out.
This woman lived a life of excess. Let’s call her Mazy.
Brushing past her fiancée’s three foot salamander—sorry, I was corrected on that—iguana, who lay across the back of a sofa, Mazy swept from the room to begin careful application of cosmetics in her boudoir. (Not everyone has a boudoir; she did)
The stylist exited with a sigh and I was left with the reptile—great. I perched on the edge of the couch and we stared quietly at one another for a time, each lost in thought.
I wondered why the heck I’d been told to arrive early only to spend quality time with an enormous green lizard, and he wondered if he could snare the lazy fly that circled over my head.
I moved, hurriedly.
Unbeknownst to me, this is where the trouble started.
Mazy had been suffering with nerves, and during her time alone in the boudoir, had resorted to self-medicating with Valium.
Never a good thing.
Two hours later, a limo parked outside, and Mazy’s teenage daughter sprinted up the sidewalk.
“Where’s mom?” she called brightly, “It’s time to leave.”
The lizard and I had been watching old Gilligan’s Island reruns (which shows you the extent of our boredom) and I glanced up with a shrug.
She rushed to her mother’s bedroom door and rapped vigorously, “Mom!” No answer.
More knocking ensued and then a frantic rattling of the knob—now even the lizard was concerned. The girl ran to the kitchen, snatched up a butter knife and deftly picked the lock, but something still prevented her entry. “BONK, BONK, BONK!” She banged the door repeatedly into some strange obstruction on the other side, continuing to call to her tardy parent.
Abruptly, the portal was flung wide to reveal her mother slumped beside it on the floor where she had expired—before the repeated pounding on her forehead woke her up.
The rhinestone headband hung crazily over one eye and several dark marks were materializing on her brow.
Somehow, we got her into the limo and off to the church.
It was some nut in the foyer that really clinched the day by offering the entire wedding party a stick of Wrigley’s gum.
Taking my place on the platform, I watched in horror as each smartly dressed attendant marched down the aisle chewing loudly, their mouths agape. Finally, Mazy unsteadily entered the sanctuary. She stared disinterestedly at her waiting groom through glazed, heavy lidded eyes as she launched off towards him. Her hair was matted, and flat on one side from time spent prostrate on the carpeting, but chawing on her gum purposefully, she swayed slowly down the aisle.
They said their vows, between chews, and successfully tied the knot.
Suddenly, it was my big moment.
The group turned towards me, each mouth chomping expectantly as I stepped to the podium, cleared my throat, looked out upon the dazed assembly and sang, “This is the Day the Lord Hath Made.”
What a memory.
(Before it was sent to press, Mrs. Muskego’s Gr. 4/5 class in Marshall School once again drew the pictures they visualized while listening to me read this wild tale).

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