The Nutty Neigh­bour­hood Block Party

Chap­ter 4: Leap­ing Lizards!

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - STORY BY STACY TORNIO IL­LUS­TRATIONS BY ROEL WIELINGA

The story so far: The staff of The Robyn Re­port is cov­er­ing the neigh­bour­hood block party. There’s an animal miss­ing from the pet­ting zoo. Robyn just heard a scream.

“What was that?” Mrs. Peter­son asks. She takes off run­ning. I fol­low.

The scream came from Crazy Cat Cor­ner. It’s Al­li­son. “What hap­pened?” I ask. Al­li­son looks scared. Her eyes are huge with fright. She’s grip­ping Buster tightly against her chest. He doesn’t look that happy, ei­ther.

“Over there,” Al­li­son says, trem­bling and point­ing to a nearby shrub. “It was over there.”

I have a feel­ing I know what Al­li­son is talk­ing about. Ai­dan and Roxanne rush over. “Where is he?” Ai­dan asks. “Where is who?” Mrs. Peter­son asks.

“My lizard,” he says. “Didn’t you find Scruffy?”

Now Mrs. Peter­son does not look happy.

“You lost your lizard?” she says. “It was sup­posed to stay in its cage at all times. That’s one of the rules.”

Ai­dan knows he is busted. “Scruffy just wanted to get out for a minute,” he says. “All of the other an­i­mals get to be out.”

“Hold on a minute,” I say to them. “Whether the lizard was sup­posed to be out or not, it’s still miss­ing.”

Ai­dan looks at Al­li­son. “I thought you found it,” he says.

She glares at him. “I did find it, but then it slith­ered away.”

“Why didn’t you catch it?” he asks.

Al­li­son glares at him again. “I don’t chase lizards,” she says.

I don’t blame Al­li­son for that. I wouldn’t chase a lizard, ei­ther.

“What hap­pened, Al­li­son?” I ask. “Where did you see the lizard?”

I take my note­book out of my back­pack. I don’t want to miss any de­tails.

“I was over there,” Al­li­son says, point­ing to one of Mrs. Peter­son’s shrubs. “Buster was ly­ing in the shade. Then, all of the sud­den, he went into at­tack mode.”

“What do you mean by at­tack mode?” I ask.

Al­li­son smiles. “Buster can catch any­thing. One time Dad put him out in the garage be­cause there were some mice out there. In just two hours, those mice were toast.”

I watch Buster, lick­ing his fur. Those poor mice didn’t stand a chance.

“What hap­pened af­ter the at­tack mode?” I ask Al­li­son.

“That’s when it hap­pened,” she says. “I saw Buster with his tail all puffed up and his back arched, so I went to see what he was look­ing at.”

“And that’s when you saw my lizard?” Ai­dan asks.

“Yep, that’s when I saw him, all right,” she says. “He was hang­ing on a branch. Buster tried to pounce on him.”

“What!” Ai­dan says. “Your cat pounced on my lizard? That is def­i­nitely against the pet­ting zoo rules. Rule num­ber seven: No animal shall cause harm to an­other animal.”

Al­li­son rolls her eyes. “Calm down,” she says. “I said Buster tried to pounce on him. He missed.”

Roxanne tries to break in.

“Ai­dan, why don’t you tell us more about your lizard?” she says. “What color is he? How big is he?”

Ai­dan takes a deep breath. “Well, he’s just the best pet I’ve ever had,” he says, glar­ing at Al­li­son. “He’s usu­ally green and he’s about …”

I think about what Ai­dan just said.

“Wait just a minute,” I say. “What do you mean he’s usu­ally green?”

Ai­dan shrugs. “He’s a chameleon. They change color.”

“Why didn’t you tell us that?” I ask.

Ai­dan shrugs again. “I thought you knew.”

“What’s a chameleon?” Al­li­son asks.

“It’s a spe­cial type of lizard,” I say. “They change color so they blend in with the back­ground.”

“Why do they do that?” Al­li­son asks.

“It’s a de­fense mech­a­nism,” I say. “It keeps them safe from preda­tors, like cats!”

Al­li­son holds Buster even closer.

“OK. No­body move,” I say. “Look around for the lizard’s eyes. You’ll prob­a­bly see them be­fore any­thing else.”

Within a few min­utes, Roxanne spots the lizard at the top of a nearby shrub. Ai­dan goes over, picks up the creepy crawler and returns it to its cage. He looks much hap­pier than he did a few min­utes ear­lier. So does Scruffy, come to think of it.

By this time, a crowd has formed around Ai­dan’s lizard. They all want to know more about chameleons. I think it might be the most pop­u­lar animal at the pet­ting zoo. And you can’t even pet it! Roxanne walks over to me. “I’m glad we fig­ured that out,” she says loudly. “So what’s next?”

“I have to get back to the seed­spit­ting con­test,” I say.

“I hear it got de­layed,” Roxanne says. “Maybe we should go see what J.P. is up to.”

Roxanne doesn’t know my grand­fa­ther’s old say­ing.

“A re­porter’s work is never done,” he says.

“I’d bet­ter go check it out,” I tell Roxanne. “Come with me.”

“OK, but are you sure you don’t want me to check on J.P.?” Roxanne asks. “He might need help.”

“No,” I an­swer. “We’ve got other work to do.”

When we get to Lo­gan’s house, we see that there is a de­lay in the con­test. Some of the spit­ters were com­plain­ing about the seeds be­ing too small, so they are find­ing re­place­ments.

I spot Sarah across the yard. She’s prac­tic­ing. Be­fore I can go over to her, Corinna runs up to me. She seems fran­tic.

“Help!” she says. To be con­tin­ued Mon­day. Next Time: Bake Sale Dis­as­ter

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