Floyd's home, and the moon is bright

September 21, 1997|By Peter A. Jay

HAVRE DE GRACE -- As the equinox nears, there have been some spectacular moonrises, especially as seen across the five-mile expanse of the Susquehanna Flats. As I was lucky enough to be running charter-boat trips several nights this past week around the time of the full moon, I got a good look at these events.

First, a strange red glow would appear in the wooded heights of Elk Neck, as though the Boy Scouts over at Camp Rodney had let a fire get out of control. Then the moon would pull itself free of the woods and begin to climb, slowly losing its sinister bloody color and turning a conventional yellow as it rose.

Later in the evening, as we made our way back over the dark water toward the lights of Havre de Grace, the moonlight made the whole sky translucent while casting mysterious shadows over land and sea. Even the hard-boiled business people who were my passengers this week were awed.

But although it was very lovely, I kept thinking about Floyd, who was still lost at the time.

Floyd is Dana Cole's pet iguana, and when his disappearance from their Ellicott City home was first publicized in the press, his tragedy became all Maryland's -- and, one assumes, all America's, too. It was like when that little Texas girl was stuck in the well, or when that poor innocent football player was charged with murdering his wife. We all looked on, mesmerized.

The feelings of Floyd, and Floyd's family, were felt vicariously throughout the sensitive world. The pain of those who suffered was shared by those who only empathized, and thus they became sufferers, too. This was was rather titillating, in a macabre way. It made me remember when that beautiful blond princess we all adored died in a car crash. What was her name? Oh yes, Grace Kelly. It was sort of like that.

And as I would head the boat homeward in the moonlight, hoping that the business group was enjoying itself even if the beer seemed to be running low, I would find myself musing about Floyd, lost somewhere in the wilds of Ellicott City. Howard County can be a cruel place for a five-foot iguana, I sensed. Even though I hadn't yet checked out Floyd's home page on the Web, I could imagine Dana Cole's anguish.

The iguana as metaphor

I didn't mention any of this to the business people on the boat. It was all too personal, and although they couldn't have been nicer, I felt that they just wouldn't get it. And even if they had understood that a lost iguana can be a metaphor for modern human life, they might not want to talk openly about it, and almost certainly wouldn't want to charter any more boats from someone who did.

I almost wished that I had an analyst on retainer, so that I could have discussed it with her. But talking while lying down usually makes me sleepy. (The Wall Street Journal had an article recently about an undertaker/poet, who rather wittily described death and sex as ''horizontal'' conditions. I suppose you could include psychoanalysis and sleep in that category, too.)

Fortunately, the lark's on the wing, the snail's on the thorn, Floyd's back in his home and all's right with the world. We won't have to go through the grieving process for the beloved reptile after all. We learned Wednesday night that he's been reunited with Dana Cole, and is now presumably fattening up on mealworms and Sustecal while chatting with agents about a docudrama based on his harrowing adventures in Ellicott City's mean streets.

On Thursday, the Floyd crisis past, the world seemed very different. I had another charter, but it was a daytime trip with no moon to be seen. Instead of business people I had five elderly patients from a nearby nursing home, as well as three of their attendants. I doubt that any of them had heard of Floyd. I took them all fishing.

One of the patients, Woody, said early in the trip that he didn't want to fish. ''There's a lot of water out there,'' he observed as we left the dock, and then he lay down on a seat, put his head on a life preserver, and went to sleep. While he snoozed, other members of the trip were catching rockfish -- and no, the fish didn't have ugly lesions on them. They were clean and healthy and full of life.

Shortly before we went in, Woody woke up and went to see what was going on. Someone hooked a little rockfish, gave the rod to Woody, and let him bring it in. It was too small to keep and went back into the water, but the smile on Woody's face as he held it up was magical to behold. That'll be something nice to remember now, as the nights grow longer than the days.

Peter A. Jay is a writer and farmer.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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