Chasing Lizards


“Ok, you have to move really really slow and then really fast,” my brother Quinn whispers from behind me as he peeks over the side of a boulder into the rock outcropping that he calls Lizard City.

The Colorado summer sun glares off the faded orange sandstones, and I feel sweat beading down my forehead. The heat is not the only reason I am sweating, as I precariously move toward my prey. 

“Go now!” Quinn shouts excitedly, jumping up behind the boulder. I pounce forward and my hands close around the little body. 

I pull my hands up to my eyes and look between the spaces of my fingers, where a small desert lizard stares anxiously back at me. Two slight ridges extend behind his eyes and circle the back of his head, like a little scaly crown. Checkered squares of black, tan and brown cascade down his back and into his tail, which is longer than his whole torso.

“Quinn, look!” I screech and turn to hold up my prize. 

“Woo!” he cheers. “Look at his stomach.”

I transfer the lizard to one hand and slowly twist it around to expose his soft underbelly. I gasp. His whole stomach is a shimmering mosaic of blue and green effervescent scales. I never knew color like that could exist in the dusty browns and greens of the Colorado foothills. 

“You should go show Mom,” Quinn says as he turns to make his way down the hill and back towards the house.

I follow him, but now I have precious cargo. My feet follow the path that Quinn has taken me on ever since I first learned to walk. I place my weight on the rocks that I know won’t slip beneath my weight, and I avoid the cactus fields that leave your shoes riddled with thorns. I am quiet as I pass the tree with a chickadee nest because I don’t want to stress out the mother. 

At the bottom of the hill, we cut between the trampoline and the fenced-off graves of my dad’s dog Chica and my mom’s cat Nikki. Before Mom and Dad got divorced, mom used to keep the little grove planted with flowers, but now it is overgrown with weeds and fallen pine needles. 

My mom sits in the scattered shade that the oak trees cast on the lawn. She looks up from the grass shears in her hands. Her newly greying strawberry hair is pulled into a ponytail held by a soft green scrunchy that conveniently matches the color of her yardwork shorts.  

In ten years, her voice will sound distorted through the cell phone as she asks me how the weather in New York is. She’ll tell me that her hair is really dark now because the stylist covered the grey with brown rather than her natural red, and she’ll remind me that I need to call my brother more often. I’ll only half listen to her, and then I will tell her about the cactus I just got and how excited I am because it smells like home.

But today, she just smiles up at me and Quinn from the green grass that she nurtures back to life every summer, and her smooth voice cuts through the thick of the heat. 

“Did you guys catch one?”

Molly Matheson is a sophomore at Syracuse studying environmental engineering. She loves anything involving the outdoors, including writing about it.