“Hi honey,” Mrs. Howard said to her eight-year-old daughter who was sitting at the kitchen table with a text book open. “You studying?”
“Uh-huh,” Angie said without looking up.
“What are you studying?” Mrs. Howard asked, sitting down in the chair next to Angie and looking at the page over her shoulder. She resisted the urge to reach over and adjust it so she could see better by breaking little pieces off the chocolate chip cookie in her hands before popping them in her mouth.
“Science. Animals. We’re learning about reptiles right now.”
“That sounds like fun.”
Angie fidgeted and shrugged her shoulders.
“What’s wrong? Are you having trouble? Is there a quiz you’re worried about? How can I help?” Mrs. Howard
“It’s not that,” Angie said, sitting back in the chair and shrugging her shoulders.
Mrs. Howard wavered between pushing Angie about what was bothering her and letting it go. She remained silent but offered a few pieces of her cookie to Angie. The bribe worked. After she swallowed, Angie sighed and began her story.
“You have to promise not to laugh,” she began tentatively. “We were having science time and Miss Lawrence was telling us about reptiles. You know, crocodiles, snakes, lizards. She was telling us about some really cool lizards. Like one that has extra skin around its face that goes flat most of the time but sticks out like this when it wants to look bigger to scare something else.” Angie splayed her fingers out and held them up to the sides of her head contorting her face to look threatening.
Her mother shrank back and put a hand to her chest, widening her eyes in feigned terror.
“And Miss Lawrence told us about a dragon, the kimono dragon. And she told us about another one.” The excitement left Angie’s voice. She got quieter and shifted her weight on the chair making it rock back and forth on the slightly uneven floor, tapping the ceramic.
“And? What was special about this one?”
“Miss Lawrence said it was sometimes called the Jesus Christ lizard.” Angie paused looking purposely away from her mother. “She said she wondered if anyone could think of why someone would call it that.” Suddenly, Angie turned and looked Mrs. Howard right in the eyes and sped up. “I wasn’t being serious and I didn’t mean for her to even hear me. I wasn’t trying to cause problems.”
“What did you say?” Mrs. Howard’s eyes narrowed a little and her tone wasn’t as light as she meant it to be. She wondered if she would be fielding calls from disgruntled parents later that evening.
“Dani was sitting next to me on one side. I said that it must have been because all anyone could say when they saw it was, ‘Jesus Christ!’ Caitlyn was sitting on my other side. I should have said it to her. She’s quieter when she laughs.”
Mrs. Howard bit her lip so hard she drew blood.