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Lizard music, p.10
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       Lizard Music, p.10

           Daniel Pinkwater
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  While Charlie was talking, the door opened a couple of times, and lizards came in to see if the new baby chick king needed anything. Both times Claudia chased them out of the room.

  “See, Victor,” Charlie said, “what happened is this. The lizards don’t know anything about raising a baby chick and they’ve asked Claudia to stay around a while and sort of help out. Naturally, where Claudia goes, I go. So I’ll be staying on too. You, Victor, will have to go back to McDonaldsville.”

  “Why?” I asked. “I like it here. I’m having a good time. I want to stay on the island!”

  “What about your family?” Charlie asked. “You’re an exceptional kid, Victor, but still a kid, you must admit. Don’t you think it is suitable for you to continue growing up in your own home?”

  “No!” I said. “My own home is boring. I want to stay here and be a lizard!” I was getting pretty upset.

  “Victor, we will not argue about this,” Charlie said. “You know that you have to go home. Now think about it for a minute. You don’t want to upset your parents, do you?” He was right of course, but I really didn’t want to leave the island yet.

  “Let me stay for another week. My parents are away—they won’t even miss me,” I said.

  “The island may not come back this way for a year or more,” Charlie said. “Besides, you know the legend about the egg. The island is supposed to start getting less invisible now, easier to get to. I’ll see to it personally that you get back sometime. You have the Chicken Man’s word of honor.”

  “When will I have to leave?” I asked.

  “Right now,” Charlie said. “They’ll have a hard job getting you to the coast before the island starts moving. Transportation from the island to Hogboro is being arranged right now.”

  “There are a lot of things I never found out,” I said. “I never found out where the lizards came from, or whether pod people really exist, or a whole lot of stuff.”

  “There isn’t time to tell that story now,” Charlie said. “I’ll try to send you a letter in care of Shane Fergussen. By the way, I wouldn’t tell anyone but him what happened. Anybody else might think you were nuts.”

  A lizard stuck his head inside the door. “The bearers are ready to take Victor to the water,” he said.

  “You’d better get started,” Charlie said. He patted me on the back. Claudia clucked good-by, and the lizards hustled me down the stairs to the side door.

  Four lizards were waiting for me. They were carrying a big flat board, like a surfboard, on their shoulders. I was lifted by many pairs of lizard hands, plopped on top of the surfboard, and we were off. The lizards ran, carrying the board. They were pretty fast. I would say they got up to about thirty miles per hour. We headed out of the city and into the big plain that was the crater floor. Every so often I would see a lizard sitting by the roadside. When he saw us coming, he would jump up and start running in the same direction, a little slower than the lizards carrying the board. As we caught up with him, the running lizard would fall in behind one of the lizards carrying, and that lizard would drop out. This went on the whole time I was traveling overland by surfboard. No lizard carried the board for more than about fifteen minutes. When we were climbing up the inside of the crater wall, the lizards changed places maybe every five minutes, and in the really rocky places there were hundreds of lizards who didn’t run, but just passed the surfboard from hand to hand. I made the whole trip at a steady speed, and at no time did the surfboard ever stop or slow down. The lizards were so skillful in handling the surfboard that it never rocked at all. I was able to sit on it as comfortably as if I were sitting on a solid floor. In fact, after I got to feeling confident, I even stood up and walked back and forth on the fast-moving board. It was quite a ride.

  It was late afternoon when we reached the crater rim. I took a last look at Thunderbolt City. The red sunlight was making the gold rooftops shine. A minute later we were running down through the forest on the outside of the volcano. The lizards sort of sang or chanted as they ran with the surfboard. When a new lizard took his turn, he would join in the song.

  Before long I could see the lake through the trees. The sun was almost setting, and the water was shining red and gold. The lizards put down the surfboard and told me to take off my clothes. As I undressed, the lizards put my stuff into the same garbage bag that Charlie and I had used when we came onto the island. The bag was tied around my ankle, I got back on the board, and the lizards carried it out into the water. Nobody had stopped to say good-by to me, or shake hands, or anything. That bothered me a little. I was sitting on the surfboard, and maybe a dozen lizards were swimming alongside. It was getting dark, and I was a little worried that they were going to get me through the barrier somehow, and just leave it to me to find my way back to Hogboro. What the lizards did when we reached the barrier was all grab hold, drag it underwater, give it a terrific shove, and the board with me hanging onto it just slid under the barrier and bobbed up on the other side.

  I looked around for the island, and it was nowhere in sight. There wasn’t a lizard in sight either. It was almost dark. I could already see a glow on the horizon that had to be from the lights of Hogboro. It wouldn’t be too bad, paddling the surfboard to the city. I could rest on it. I wasn’t in any danger of drowning. There was a loop of rope attached to the front of the board. I crawled forward to grab it. I thought I might loop it around me so there would be less chance of my falling off the board if I fell asleep. When I touched the rope it was taut. Also, when my hand touched the water, I could feel that the board was moving—fast. It was moving toward the lights of Hogboro. There was just enough light to see the ends of the rope disappearing into the water. Something under the surface was towing the board and me. It was something pretty strong too. I lay down on my stomach and held onto the sides of the board. I kept the plastic garbage bag between my feet. At the rate the board was going, it would have dragged me into the water if it fell overboard. To play safe, I should have untied it from my ankle, but I never thought of that until much later.

  It was a turtle that was towing me. He took a rest after a while—came to the surface, looked around, burped, submerged, and went back to towing. He was as big as a house. Actually. He was as big as a small house. I never knew that there were turtles that big in Lake Mishagoo. I didn’t get a real good look at him. All I could see was the outline of his shell between me and the lights of Hogboro. He was definitely as big as a house.

  The ride couldn’t have taken much more than an hour. The turtle swam under the board, bumped it over, and left me sputtering in the water about a hundred yards from shore. He and the board were gone. I could see the headlights of cars that were driving on the road that goes along the lakefront in Hogboro. I swam with the garbage bag floating behind me and crawled up onto the beach. There was a street light not far away. There was a green haze of air pollution and mosquitoes around it. I sat on the beach, drying off for a while. I felt sort of depressed. Charlie and the lizards, even the turtle, had all rushed me out of Diamond Hard as if they were throwing out the garbage. There was probably a big party going on to celebrate the new baby chick king. I wasn’t going to be there. I probably wouldn’t even get to see it on TV, because the island was scheduled to float away during the night.

  I slowly untied the garbage bag and got my clothes out. I got dressed and started to fold up the garbage bag. There was a big wire wastepaper basket under the street light, and I thought I’d dump it there. There was a lump in the bag. I had left something in it. It felt too big to be anything but a shoe, even too big for that. Besides, I was wearing both shoes. I unfolded the bag and reached inside. There was something soft and familiar in there. It was my squirrel. There was something shiny hanging around his neck on a ribbon. It was a little gold medal with an egg-shaped diamond in it. On the back there was an engraved inscription. I ran over to the street light and read it:




  I crossed the road carrying my squirrel, and headed for the bus terminal.

  Chapter 18

  A couple of days later Leslie came home. She had a bad sunburn and some kind of a nasty rash. She had this cream all over her nose and was in a bad mood. The trip had ended early when the local police had fined her and her friends for camping without a permit, or starting a forest fire or something. I didn’t bother to tell her what had been going on while she was away. Mom and Dad came home on schedule. They were in a much better mood than when they had left. They brought me a very nice belt with a silver buckle made by the Indians. It has a lizard on it made out of turquoise. I thought it was a very appropriate present. They haven’t found out yet that Leslie went off and left me. It’s only a matter of time.

  Shane Fergussen hasn’t heard anything from Charlie yet. He checks the TV channels late every night for a lizard broadcast, and he says he will tell me as soon as he starts receiving anything. Shane Fergussen says he’s sure we’ll hear something from the Chicken Man and the lizards sooner or later. I guess he’s right. About all we can do is wait.

  Meanwhile I’m saving my money. I want to buy one of those yellow inflatable life rafts. Also, I’m looking around for a really intelligent chicken.

  DANIEL PINKWATER has written about one hundred books, many of them good. Lizard Music was almost the first one he wrote, and remains his personal favorite. It is entirely his own work, and the story that it was discovered as a manuscript inserted in a bale of banana leaves, probably to increase the weight, is merely legend, and without foundation in fact.



  435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

  Copyright © 1976 by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

  All rights reserved.

  Cover design by Louise Fili Ltd.

  Cover illustration by Daniel Pinkwater

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Pinkwater, Daniel Manus, 1941–

  Lizard music / by Daniel Pinkwater.

  p. cm. — (New York Review Books children’s collection)

  Summary: When left to take care of himself, a young boy becomes

  involved with a community of intelligent lizards who tell him of a little

  known invasion from outer space.

  [1. Science fiction. 2. Lizards—Fiction. 3. Extraterrestrial beings—Fiction.]

  I. Title.

  PZ7.P6335Li 2011



  eISBN 978-1-59017-396-1


  For a complete list of books in the NYRB Classics series, visit or write to:

  Catalog Requests, NYRB, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014



  Daniel Pinkwater, Lizard Music



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