Wilbur Whiptail (Part 2)

Image of Nahdjla Bailey
By Nahdjla Bailey

Winston and Wilma are shocked by Wilbur’s story. They would never have guessed any of it, not for one minute. True, all along, they had felt that Wilbur was different and much more interesting than any of the older lizards, but … Well, says Wilbur, I think you two have got enough of a surprise for one night. I must leave now. I shall see you again in the morning after breakfast.

Old Wilbur retreats to his burrow and spends some time thinking of what he has done. After four and a half years of keeping his secret to himself, he’s just gone and blown his cover. But those are good kids, he says. I know they’ll keep my secret faithfully.

Next morning, Wilbur rises nice and early. He has a lot on his mind today. Look what he went and started … now he has to follow it up. The whole thing has Wilbur most excited, and he can’t wait to meet the kids again and chat with them. Now, as you already know, after breakfast Wilbur and the others would usually go underground and stay there during the hottest part of the day, before coming out again once it has cooled down. But, today, things were taking a different turn.

Oh, there they are. Wilbur spies his friends coming towards him. I see they’re wasting no time in continuing what was started last evening. The two are as excited as Wilbur is. They are excited because they have been let into a big secret which none of the other lizards know. And they want to know even more.

First, Wilbur greets his friends, then pointing to the mainland, confesses that though it is a dangerous place for a whiptail, there is lots of adventure to be found there, and every now and then, he does long to see it again. Then he launches into another of his lectures: At times such as this, he tells them, when our little island is so dry, the weather can be a bit challenging and life can get pretty humdrum for us, can’t it? True, things usually get quite interesting whenthe hawksbill turtle occasionally comes to nest between April and September, and when the nesting seabirds also come to hang out and be safe from the dangers on the mainland, in order to have their babies in peace … and let’s not forget the tens of thousands of Sooty terns which arrive every year. Then we have the hundreds of red-necked pigeons and zanaida doves which rest peacefully on our island. Yet, with all of those animal visitors each year, we are still much safer here than over there.

Winston and Wilma know just what their friend is describing, as they have observed this activity on the island in their four years of existence, but were never quite sure what it was all about, and are very pleased to have it all explained by Old Wilbur. The youngsters have always been eager to add to their knowledge. Someday, they would like to be as smart as Wilbur.

So, says Wilma, tell us more about over there – the mainland. Please!
Well, Old Wilbur declares, as I said before, there are many, many dangers over there.
Like what?asks Winston.

Like rats, mongooses, cats, and manicous, otherwise known as opossums – these are the worst ones for us. The questions keep coming and coming and Wilbur is having to do a lot of talking at once – even for a talkative fellow like himself. I think that’s where we’ll end for today, declares Wilbur to his friends, and shoots off.

When he awakes next morning, he has a major plan in his head. It came to him during the night just as he was about to doze off. He must find the young ones quickly. He definitely wants them to be a part of it.

When the three whiptails meet, Old Wilbur shares his plan: the three of them will take a trip to the mainland to sightsee. He knows his way around and will see that they do not get into trouble. He wants to take them to the lively little schoolhouse on the hill, and to the big church in the town with its colourful stained glass windows, high ceilings, and peaceful atmosphere. There is a third place, but it will remain his secret for now.

Well, are you in agreement?asks Wilbur.

Sounds like a cool idea, the young ones tell him. Count us in. But, big question: how do we get over there? We can’t swim.

Oh, that’s easy. Same way I came across; only this time my good friend Don John won’t know anything about it. In other words, he won’t know he’s carrying passengers on board.

Wilbur goes on to say that it is about the time of the month when Don John will be visiting the island. I can just sense it in my bones. He should be here any day now.We’ll have to be ready to roll. Now you know we ground lizards cannot climb even a short distance off the ground. Sad to say, that is our weakness and it will make things even more difficult for us – but we must find a way.

Two days later, as soon as Wilbur awakes, he senses that it is the day, the big day. He can almost smell Don John. The three do not have long to wait. They spy the little boat coming across the half-mile stretch of water towards Maria Major. They can hardly keep themselves from trembling with excitement. But wait! says Wilbur, Don John is not alone today. Seems he has two visitors with him. This is wonderful news…the best, in fact! Looks like we’ll each have our very own transport!

The visitors come ashore. Wilbur makes certain he keeps sight of them at all times. He observes Don John pointing things out to the other two humans. First, he shows them a male whiptail and describes him. His eyes then search for a female. He finds one and gives the men another lesson. Wilbur hears him saying to them, ”As you can see, the females are generally smaller, reaching a maximum length of 10 inches. They are also paler and browner in colour than the males, with a pattern of stripes and dotsrunning from the neck to the base of the tail. You may also find some females with a bright red belly.”

The men spend an hour or so looking around the island. As usual, Wilbur reveals himself to Don John who smiles and says hello. He already knows it is Wilbur. Out of one thousand whiptails, he always recognizes me. That’s really something, isn’t it? And Wilbur smiles back at him.

(Read part three in next Saturday’s VOICE)

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