I never really noticed geckos until I came here and built a stone house in the country. Their initial resentment at my interference in their habitat—if they were even here back then—has given way to a population explosion, and they are everywhere. I gave up long ago trying to keep them on the outside of the house, and we have become accustomed to their comings and goings across the living room ceiling. They are very discreet during the daytime, and even at night they prefer to inhabit the window screens on the outside and the exterior walls where the lights are. They consume enough insects to result in a quantity of gecko excrement (I like to think of them as fewmets) which is truly amazing. These small turdy packages litter every windowsill and the floors of balconies in alarming numbers. It requires a close inspection to determine that they are indeed gecko poop and not rat (another skill which is useful to know, as geckos, like birds, produce a small package which is neatly divided into white and dark sections); seeing the white dot brings a sigh of relief. I suppose I should note that birds such as chickens do not merit the terms “small and neat,” but more on that later.
I love geckos. They lay their eggs in dark spaces and sometimes we find them, but most of the time we see the hatchlings struggling to hide, clinging to the bottoms of flower pots, and we do our best not to crush them. They are delicate. We have adults which are the size of healthy garden toads, and we refer to them as crocodiles. If you pick one up it will scream at you, and even bite you. It may not break the skin, but it will have your full attention until it lets go. One must be careful not to pull the tail, as it will drop off and squirm disconcertingly for an hour or so while its owner runs away to grow a new one. My dogs love to chase them, and at the end of summer many of them have a tail stump with a tiny nub of new fleshy growth as a result of a well-placed paw.
Unfortunately the folks around here do not love geckos, nor do they appreciate them in any way. Many is the time that I have rushed to their defense because someone was determined to “defend himself” with broom or shovel. Town people tell the story of a woman who jumped to her death from a balcony to avoid contact with one of them. Another story, which never fails elicit disgust, is about a man who came home to his lunch and discovered a new kind of meat in the sauce, the result of an unlucky gecko that lost its grip on the ceiling above the stove. I have been helping strong workmen move large wooden panels and had to scramble not to fall, as they suddenly dropped everything and sprinted away at the sudden appearance of the dreaded reptile, flattened and terrified on the backside of a board.
In local dialect the gecko is called ” a lucertl sprascjtat” which translates roughly to “disgustingly disintegrated lizard.” I don’t believe that any amount of animosity on the part of the inhabitants of my little town will ever lead to the eventual reduction of the gecko population. And every time I am bitten by a mosquito, I thank my little scaly friends for making sure it was just one bite and not ten.
painting: “Synchronicity” pencil on paper, 12 x 12 inches, 2006