Ring-a-Round the Birthday
KJ Hannah Greenberg
Georgeanne sniffed, extending her pink-brown nose as high as the bottom of the ottoman upon which Ansel had perched. She detected someone mincing chicken in the kitchen.

Her nose flared open another time and then a third time before she yielded to a yawn. With her jaws thus extended, her maw seemed twice as large as the rest of her face.

Ansel shuddered in his sleep. A single pinfeather fell to the carpet. Georgeanne sniffed it, and then laid her head on her paws.

Vladimir, all stout snoot and scaly length waddled in. He had long wanted to make a snack out of Georgeanne. He could hardly wait to taste that adipose tissue of hers, that glorious meat over which he regularly drooled. In his esteem, hound dogs made great treats.

Leslie, though, would disapprove. In consolation, he ran his gray tongue over one of his clawed appendages. He instead regarded Ansel, but shook his head; the bird would constitute less than a mouthful.

Vladimir, next, tasted the air. He was habituated to checking for danger. Nothing in the household, though, was larger than was he, a Komodo dragon, so he continued to walk slowly and to drool. He had also sensed the raw meat in the kitchen, but regarded it as worthless since it smelled dead.

The lizard regarded the basset again. His tummy was rumbling. It had been a fortnight since he had gorged on the calf.

Rozi watched Vladimir from the relative safety of the mirpesset. She relied on the barrier of an accordion gate, which Leslie had installed, and which Rozi, with her small, prehensile thumbs, but not Vladimir, with his large paws, could open. There would be no monkey brains or any other monkey parts on the big lizard’s menu that day.

Meanwhile, Rozi looked at Leslie’s other. That mate was not focusing; he kept dropping food. Predictably, Vladimir appeared in the kitchen to “clean up.” The two-footers were foolish to tolerate the carnivore. The likes of Vladimir would not be hesitant to eat humans.

Rozi, too, would have liked some of the meat that Vladimir was trying to scavenge. It was a fiction that monkeys were strictly herbivores.

She threw a roll of paper towel at Vladimir’s head, but the scaly thing ignored her. Leslie’s mate heard the roll drop, spotted the giant lizard, stopped cutting up the dead animal, and backed up. Vladimir lifted his snout just a little and slurped up the bits on the cutting board.

"Oh Vladimir!” the man cried. "I'll have to toss that knife and board, now. Your saliva is lethal."

The ancient-looking critter smiled and waddled back into the living room. His digestive juices were at work; Georgeanne was looking increasingly appetizing. Dead animals were not bad chow, in hindsight.

Ansel woke up, appraised the situation, and squawked. Rozi leapt for the chandelier, from which she had bombarded Vladimir with the paper towels.

Vladimir growled. Rozi jumped back to the mirpesset and to the safety of its trees. Ansel followed. Georgeanne tried to leap the baby gate, but failed. 

Leslie’s mate, armed with the garden hose, which he had stored under the kitchen sink and which he had attached to the kitchen facet, held Vladimir off long enough to open the gate for the dog. He threatened the prehistoric relic with additional spray.

The lizard closed his eyes and pretended to dream of cute crocodiles. The human could wait. The two-leggeds’ generosity again saved him from having to hunt.

Georgeanne growled from the sanctuary that was the mirpesset. Lizards weren’t supposed to be larger than geckos. Geckos were tasty. Komodos were scary. Suddenly, she perked up her ears.

A bright voice wafted toward the porch from the direction of the kitchen. Leslie was home! She wanted to greet her mistress. However, Georgeanne’s eyeful of the living room revealed that the overly large, cold-blooded thing still patrolled there.

Just as unexpectedly as Leslie’s speech musiced toward Vladimir’s potential prey, the door between the kitchen and living room slammed. The voices of Leslie and of her mate increased in volume.

Vladimir pawed at the obstruction. He left long claw marks in the wood.

As rapidly as those tones upsurged, quiet ensued. Something crashed. Something else crashed.

Ansel flew to the topmost branch of the lemon tree. Rozi climbed after him. Georgeanne whimpered.

Vladimir turned toward the gate. It really ought not to prevent him from crossing onto the patio, given his weight.

Just as the Komodo dragon was going to topple that wee obstruction and place his jaws around the hound, the kitchen door slammed open. Leslie hurled a large kettle in front of her menagerie’s apex beast. Suitably distracted, he paused, sniffed, and began to eat.

Ansel flew over the gate and settled on Leslie’s hair. He chirped, and nested. Rozi jumped the gate, and immediately sought victuals. Georgeanne whimpered from the patio side of the gate. Her instincts left her at a loss as to whether to pursue dinner or to avoid the large lizard.

Leslie’s mate brought in a giant cake aglow with many candles. He made music.  

Vladimir backed away. He was afraid of fire.

Georgeanne growled, impotently, as the lizard backed toward the barrier behind which she still cowered. That nasty thing ought not to soil her haven.

Loud human voices and angry knocks sounded on the main door.

Leslie scooted Ansel and Rozi into the lemon tree. She pulled out a fresh hunk of meat and bribed Vladimir into the kitchen, carefully shutting and locking the door behind her. She then shrugged at the still trembling Georgeanne and opened the gate to rerelease her.

It was permitted to own dogs in her coop. As well, there were no laws against birthday parties.

KJ Hannah Greenberg

captures the world in words and images. Her latest photography portfolio is 20/20: KJ Hannah Greenberg Eye on Israel. Her most recent poetry collection is A Grand Sociology Lesson (Lit Fest Press, Sept. 2016). Her most recent brief fiction collection is Friends and Rabid Hedgehogs (Bards & Sages Publishing, June 2016).

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