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Authors: Charlie Price

Lizard People

BOOK: Lizard People
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Title Page

Copyright Notice



Not the Police

A Month Ago


Lizards Hate Red

In the Ozone Layer

Out to Get You

Danger to Self

Something's Happened

I Couldn't See My Hand


4000 Treatment


Rude, Blued, and Tattooed


Strings and Wormholes

Drug Dealer?

What a Party!


Did He Hear Me?

A Pitch to Team Ludlow

Betty Lou Weighs In


Deep Ancestral DNA


Calls and Whimpers


Lizard History


Some Mistake

Locked Unit


Not Too Close

Are You High?

Let Me Get This Straight

The Doctor Is In


Also by Charlie Price




To my daughter, Jessica Rose, with love:

Once I cradled you against my chest in one hand and smoothed your hair with the other.

Now I cradle you against my heart and smooth your hair in my dreams.

a poem by Charlie Price


I am thankful to have Deborah Brodie as my editor. Collaborating with her is like singing harmony. I treasure her compassion, her wisdom. I am very glad that she embraced
Lizard People.

I am similarly fortunate to have wonderful agents, Tracey and Josh Adams, and I continue to appreciate their professional acumen and their unflagging efforts on my behalf. Further, I respect Ms. Lauren Wohl for the many great ideas she brings to my literary projects.

This book could not and would not have been written without the daily encouragement and readership of my darling wife, Joan Pechanec, who, time and again, put aside her own agenda and read the latest chapter to tell me what worked and what clanked.

My book writing would not have begun without the inspiration and friendship of Chris Crutcher. I appreciate his graciousness and humor.

I also thank Mr. Bill Siemer, who challenges me to better understand story-craft on a weekly basis over corned beef and eggs.

I am grateful to Celeste White for her expertise, and I am in debt to several friends and readers for their support and straight feedback. I will simply list them in thanks: George Rogers, Kit Anderton, Melinda Brown, Dr. Burley Packwood, and Kate Anderton.

I have benefited from canny technical advice on a variety of matters. I heartily thank Dr. Steve Hudgens, Physicist; Lucy Rogers, RN, BSN; Jay Roitman, DO, Medical Director, Hill Country Community Clinic; Mr. George Wolf, Biologist; and Mr. Manuel Garcia, Attorney.

—C. P.

Not the Police

driving too fast. The last thing I need right now is to get stopped by the police. A traffic officer might know I knew Marco. They could think I helped him escape. There might be a warrant out for this car. I don't think so, but anything's possible. They might know all about Mom and even believe I'm crazy, too.

I don't know why I'm so revved up. I'm not afraid. Am I? This is just so important! I want people to understand that, want them to know what I know. I have to get to the Ludlows and tell them this story.

I guess I'm a little overexcited, but you can't keep a secret like this. Not something that will actually change the world. Make thousands of people well. Turn science on its nose. I mean, it's not like I have the answers, but I know the direction to go in. I'm the only one who really knew Marco.

Z will help me get a grip. She'll listen to me and figure out what to do next. She's Hubie's sister. Sophomore in college. Three years older than I am. Smart and funny and quirky and so different! If she isn't home? What is today? What
today? Even Hubie could help. He's practically a scientist already. Or Mrs. Ludlow. She'll know what to do. But not the police. Not right now. I'm not ready.

You can't give a story like this to just anybody.

A Month Ago

could see Mom with a death grip on one of the secretary's heads. It looked like Mrs. Vance, our across-the-street neighbor. The principal had one hand around Mom's waist, his other hand on her forearm, and he was trying to pull her off the terrified woman. I could see office assistants huddling behind the counter, and two school counselors running through the rear door into the office from the courtyard. Our vice principal, Mrs. Onabi, was on the phone.

I crashed through the office door and tackled Mom, bringing everybody in that tangle to the floor. I was yelling, but Mom was maniacal. She had Mrs. Vance's mouth pulled partway open and was trying to see down inside. The counselors joined the pile, and in a few seconds, the four of us had Mom detached.

“Look at her! Look at her!” Mom was yelling.

“What, Mom?” I was holding her head and one shoulder and whispering in her ear, trying to calm her. “What?” I asked again. “It's me, Ben. What's the matter?”

Mom looked at me for the first time. Her eyes were bloodshot, pupils black whirlpools in a fiery sea of madness. “She—won't—admit—it!” Mom puffed, struggling for breath.

The office was suddenly quiet, except for Mrs. Vance softly sobbing, now behind the counter like a barricade.

We released Mom and stood as she stood. She extended her left arm straight in front of her, pointing, index finger tipped with a long scarlet fingernail. Right at Mrs. Vance. “She,” Mom said in a theatrical voice dripping with contempt, “is a Lizard!”

The room was once again silent and stayed that way, practically unmoving, until the police arrived.


meet the nicest people in the lobby of a psychiatric hospital. Unless they're drunk or tweaking. Most people are sad and empathetic and easy to approach after what they have just been through with their dad or mom or son or daughter or husband or wife.

I was sitting at the end of a row of connected metal chairs. Two empty seats down from me there was this good-looking blondish guy with short, thick hair, the kind that pretty much always looks right, whether or not it's combed. I think what held my attention was his eyebrows, really bushy and much darker than the rest of his hair. He looked eighteen or nineteen, but something about him seemed even older. He was concentrating, studying what looked like a map of our county. He would think for a few minutes, make a note on a clipboard, and then do the same thing again.

He was pretty much my size, maybe shorter by an inch or so. Face and arms tanned like he was outside a lot. He didn't have the muscle definition of a jock, but he looked in good shape. His clothes were the kind you might buy in an outdoor store, fleece vest, woven cotton shirt, canvas pants, running sandals. I figured this guy had some relative being admitted, too, but he didn't seem nervous, wasn't trying to pretend he was cool. It looked to me like he was just thinking.

I guess I got absorbed watching him, and he noticed.

“Hey,” he said, “I'm Marco. How about you?”

“Ben,” I said.

“Got somebody here?” he asked, sticking his pen in the metal top of the clipboard.

“My mom,” I said. “She's been losing it more often since Dad walked out. Doc thinks it's something like schizo-affective disorder.” Was I talking too much?

“Yeah,” he said, “my mom's bipolar. I'm just waiting for them to finish with her admission process.”


“Yeah, mood swings, depressed to manic. She's had it for a long time. It flares up and really sends her out there. She stops sleeping, starts drinking, has all these amazing projects going that she's talking about all the time. Usually nobody can slow her down until she goes off the deep end and winds up here or in jail.”

I was nodding. “My mom's a little like that. She gets off her meds and gets wild and scared and crazy. Nobody can talk her out of it. Your mom work?”

Marco moved a seat closer so it was easier to talk. “She's a decorator, houses and stuff,” he said. “She's real intelligent and a good mom when she's down to earth. But every so often, she stops taking her lithium, and then
ho, baby,
watch out! This time she was trying to build a two-story gazebo in the vacant lot across from the post office at 3 A.M. She says she's going to use it as a demonstrator model for her new exterior design package.
The police arrested her and brought her here to get medicated.”

A woman stuck her head out of the locked unit door. “Next?” she said.

Marco said good-bye and went inside before I thought to get his phone number or his school or anything.

Lizards Hate Red

to take care of Mom after Dad left has played hell with my junior year. I'd missed a fair amount of school, dropped out of wrestling, and resigned as president of the Fly Fishing Club. My teachers and my principal understand what I'm dealing with at home. Especially after today, I bet.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was not thinking about Mom as I sat in the hospital admitting area. I was thinking no girl will
go out with me again. It was bad enough before, but now, there'll be a neon sign on my back: WARNING! SANITY-FREE ZONE! No, cancel that. Most girls will feel sorry for me and that will be even worse. Pity and whispers.

I'm an okay guy. Almost six feet tall, and I usually made the weight and wrestled in the hundred-and-sixty-pound division. I keep my hair short for two reasons: Makes me feel like a wrestler, and my fishing hat fits better and doesn't blow off in the wind. I used to have a bunch of friends. In grade school, middle school, early in high school, in sports, and in summer recreation leagues. This last year most of them have sort of disappeared. They're not mean. I think they're just scared. Like being crazy could be infectious. It is definitely uncool.

I had a couple of girlfriends but I lost them both. I probably know why. For one thing, I was nervous being close to a girl. I watched shows like
Real World
on MTV whenever I got a chance, and tried to understand what girls were like. Did they want to be treated special, doors held and stuff, or was that insulting? Did they want compliments or did they think that compliments were just the way a guy hit on them?

How the hell was I going to keep taking care of Mom? The whole Lizard thing started when Dad left Mom. Left home actually. I don't think they're divorced. I'm pretty sure it was another woman who caused it. I've seen him around town a couple of different times with the same woman. Or maybe, more likely I guess, living with Mom drove him away. I'll probably never know. He won't talk about that when he calls. He gave me his cell phone number but not his address. He always asks me if I need money for sports or dating or anything, and says, if he has to, he'll visit Mom in the hospital. But he won't come by the house. He hasn't been home for three months, since he walked out.

Mom's breakdowns had been happening on and off over the last several years. She had been in some psychiatric hospitals. Here in Riverton, when they had room, down to Sacramento when they didn't. None of the medications, and they had probably given her at least ten by now, seemed to hold her for long. Or maybe some of them worked and she stopped taking them as soon as she came to her senses.

BOOK: Lizard People
13.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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