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30 Days of Souvenirs: Day 18

The trip to Manila was excruciatingly long. He expected this. But leaving Texas in the torrid mid-summer heat and boarding a humid trans-scientific for the Philippines, he felt literally as if his skin was just a thin veil, supporting his entrails like the wrapper on a Hershey bar left sitting on the dashboard of his old Pontiac. He was happy when he stepped off the final plane that ushered him onto the chain of islands. The Philippines housed more unique mammal species per acre than any other country. But that's not why he was here. In a book of his late grandfather's he had discovered a small sketch, and a description of something so unique he sold his beloved car and bought the first ticket he could. When the world's leading herpetologist makes tiny notes in the margins of field books, it's worth examining.

The note said that a possible new discovery was at hand: a small lizard with not four, not six, but eight legs.  And the note also said there were colonies of them, so it wasn't just a genetic defect. Visions of a new discovery energized him daily, and he had already planned to name the creature after his grandfather, Gambelia Russell Octafelian. His camp was a modest affair, situated near a farm on the outskirts of Dipolog. The farm's trees, coconuts and rubber trees had the appearance of a lost and ragged marine troop, limbs akimbo in the overgrown jungle and loaded with climbing vines. It was his suspicion that among these trees is where his grandfather had spotted the lizard, scurrying so fast it almost ran sideways, avoiding the beaks of the intelligent myna and the bite of the storied cobra.

His tent was composed of a small cot, a lantern, and a side table, upon which he spread open his guide to lizards of the Philippines. He would be there for three months, after which time, had he not discovered the lizard, he would return to the states.

After two long and rainy months, on the last day of his encampment, a shout rang out from his men outside. In the darkness he grabbed his book, slammed it shut, and ran out into the misty morning. Sir, they spotted something! A new lizard!!

He ran to meet his men who pointed at a small four-legged lizard with excitement.

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Dejected, frustrated, and exhausted from battling sleepless nights in the jungle, he packed his bags to return home.

In the airport, as he was making his way through security, he suddenly heard loud shouts and a group of men approached him, grabbed his carry-ons, and swiftly escorted him into a side room.

"What's this all about?" he asked.

"We don't tolerate smugglers," was the reply. The stoic officer was unnerved and sweating. He wiped his brow and used the damp cloth to clean his spectacles.

"What?! There must be some mistake! I have nothing to declare!" he exclaimed.

The officer gloved a hand with a sterile mitt, rifled through the man's carry on, and slowly pulled the lizard guidebook from his bag, as if extracting a long splinter. The man watched in horror as the officer opened the book to the middle pages, and there, between photos of his relatives, were the smashed remains of an eight-legged lizard.

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