Today, I took my creative writing students into an art gallery; I told them to pick a piece and let it inspire a story. Naturally, whenever I give them prompts, I try to participate in the activity. I was drawn to an excellent black and white mosaic iguana and the turtle with the clock on its back–(If I can get the author’s permission, I’ll post them.)
I like the tone and direction of the piece. I think I need to finish it. Here’s what I have so far:
My iguana has tiles for scales. God didn’t build iguanas to be fragile. He didn’t build them to crack and splinter and fragment. But He didn’t build them to be beautiful either. I guess that’s why I did. I dunno. Blame the dream, blame the drug. It doesn’t really matter once it’s built. No one ever demanded an explanation of God, did they? Shit. Of course they did. But God never felt like he should give an answer. So neither should I. I call my iguana “Danny Boy.” That’s another one I can’t explain. I’m not even Irish, and he sure’s’hell isn’t green. I can tell you that Danny Boy is a fully functional iguana. He walks, he stretches, he heats up in the morning sun, and he falls asleep on my belly. He even eats. I can also tell you that—save for the crushed beetles that were used in the dye—not a nanometer of his body is organic. Danny Boy is a completely autonomous automaton, and as far as I know, he’s the first of his kind. He winds up, he moves forward, he turns, he drags his ceramic and crystalline belly across the table—(his edges catch on the carpet when I set him on the floor). But more than that, once he’s wound, he will decide where to move and when. As I told that chick from TIME—or whatever magazine it was—Danny Boy isn’t another cheapass Roomba knockoff. His motivators don’t just propel him until he runs into a wall; he determines whether or not he wants to go toward the wall in the first place. And again she asked how? Again she asked why?How the fuck should I know? I just built it; I didn’t plan it! But I didn’t say that out loud. I kept my cool during the interview. Didn’t want to explode and look like a nut for the world to dissect. Instead I looked like an inventor who promised more than his creations could give. Danny Boy hardly moved for the reporter. Why should he? It was his nap time. She was impressed by the movement that he did do though, liked the gizmos that she could see turning, and took a bunch of pictures. She asked me how much I would sell it for, and excitedly preempted by telling me that she figured he could be worth a few hundred K, or something ridiculous like that. I was less cool in response to that one; naturally I refused, and then I probably came across as a loony artist or something, more than even an inventor. Maybe I am. Either way, she didn’t seem too miffed. Maybe she’d built up a thick skin in that business. I hadn’t; and if Danny Boy’s was particularly thick, it was also brittle. The reporter was most intrigued by the skin. Danny Boy’s tiles overlapped in scale fashion, but they weren’t soft to the touch, and they didn’t give individually—only as a lattice. It was like tiny sea shells cracked and scattered on the beach, forming a surface that isn’t hard to walk on, but still doesn’t pet well. Maybe there was an order and a method to them, some wild helix fractal equation. That’s not my thing. I told her to be careful; he’s fragile; she didn’t need to be told. Most people are really gentle when handling fine art and new pets. Maybe Danny Boy demanded both. Funny thing is, real iguanas don’t need to be handled with kid gloves. No, they’re somewhere between leathery and rubbery. Iguanas were even specially engineered to shed their tails as offerings to predators so they could otherwise escape. An iguana can actually be off living well somewhere while someone else is eating them, and that someone else might even be a human being. That’s totally true by the way; it isn’t an urban legend or anything like that. There was this food show where some daring chef guy pulled off the tail of an iguana, cooked and ate it, and the bastard actually hung out on his shoulder while he did it. I don’t know what it says about me that I watch stuff like that. I don’t know what planted the idea of a “mosaic iguana” into my head either though. I do know that Danny Boy’s tail won’t just grow back. I know that his skin doesn’t work like that.