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by Rudi Dornemann

Karina recognized the cul-de-sac, even though the sand was deeper in the front yards and the dunes had moved in closer behind the circle of houses. She knew her Aunt's house, the only yellow brick one on the street, a stump just visible where the tire-swing tree had been.

The house's sonics still worked, and the neighborhood kids snatched up some of the bigger spiders and less poisonous scorpions that scurried out the windows and doors Karina had opened. Their parents didn't get anywhere near as close, just talked in little knots several driveways away. Something else Karina remembered: this trial period to assess a new arrival. She couldn't be the first returnee from the cities, but had no idea if that would grant her quicker acceptance.

She heard chanting that first night. Next morning, she saw they'd captured a royal monitor, penned it in a dry kiddy pool under sections of cyclone fence weighted in place with picnic tables. She couldn't get a good look down into the shadows, and stumbled back when it hissed and lunged at the fencing.

The headwoman of the subdivision watched from the picnic shelter. "It's for an oracle," she said, "to tell us how neighborly you are."

This was new to Karina.

The second night, she watched from a distance as they fed it a goat carcass, drugged, apparently, and pulled back the fence to let the children glue beads and rhinestones all over the lizard's hide. After the neighbors went home, she watched it, glinting in the moonlight and moaning a low dinosaur sound that might have been drug reaction or indigestion. Even back home, with the walls tuned to white noise, the sound bled through.

She couldn't sleep. Coming here was supposed to get her away from having to make choices.

She got up near dawn, heaved a couple of picnic tables aside, and hauled the monitor out of the pool. The body was like a German Shepherd gone limp, the decorated skin rasped her arms, and she tripped over the tail as she staggered up and down the dunes. She couldn't hear the noise anymore, just felt it in her chest and belly. She left the lizard a quarter mile out.

The headwoman and a few other neighbors were waiting when she came back, and lifted their mugs of root-coffee in salute as she trudged past.

"Good omens!" called the headwoman.


So, this was just a test to see if she would keep the yard tidy? Some things never change.

Posted by: Rebecca | July 1, 2009 6:22 PM

Hmm... that wasn't quite what I was thinking, but it's one interpretation...

(I suppose there's a whole homeowners' association angle I haven't considered.)

Posted by: Rudi | July 2, 2009 11:24 AM

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