Short Story / Writers / Writing

KOMODO by Heidi Benson

          Longing to step away from the world, we bought a house in a rustic beach town where weatherworn picket fences were buried aslant by migrating sands and where people moved through their days in a brightly-illuminated present. Soon we did, too, and we felt some relief as we became similarly unworried by the past. But no place is without ghosts, and eventually we learned the troubling story of the house across the street.
          A generation earlier, this house had been headquarters for a small but violent political sect. For years, no connection was made between bombings in the capital and the remote cottage tucked behind a flowering hedge. When police finally raided the house, they found a library of plastic explosives, neatly marked and shelved. The meticulous subversives were never found. The house remained empty. Few people knew the barest facts of the case.
          We had only just learned them ourselves on a day we spent in difficult telephone negotiations with mother’s caregivers over how much morphine she should receive and when. Finally satisfied that she would rest comfortably, we prepared to view the moon, which that evening was expected to reach a spectacular perigee. After our evening meal, we retired to the broad, south-facing porch, and rolled up the bamboo shades. The moon could not yet be seen, but it was rising quickly behind the eucalyptus windbreak that flanked the house across the street. Already, the night world was brightly lit by its white beams, which seemed to reveal more than the sun’s had by day.
          We stood silently, sharing the sight, when a movement within the hedge captured our attention. The head of a creature emerged – large, spoon-shaped, and reptilian. Having pulled itself to the top of the hedge, the creature paused – its green marble gaze intent upon us — before beginning to glide soundlessly downward, as if gravity had no pull. The animal touched down. That gaze again. He was coming our way.
          We retreated to the rear of the house, locking doors, checking windows. But somehow, and against any logic, the creature had gotten inside our house. We could hear his claws on the kitchen floor. How impossible it seems now to explain what came next, but at the moment we knew the creature had joined us, we also realized that he meant us no harm.
          Time passed and we simply shared the house, at first moving from room to room to ensure our mutual privacy. Friends offered advice. One said he could arrange to have the creature taken away and killed. “No,” we declared, “it must be preserved, it must be studied.” We rushed our friend out the door, promising to call an animal-rights group. And although we have spoken to no expert and engaged no animal wrangler, from then until now there has been harmony in the moonlight and beneath the eucalyptus, and the creature sleeps curled at the foot of our bed.

2 thoughts on “KOMODO by Heidi Benson

  1. Heidi Benson left the newsroom for the classroom. A former editor and
    reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco
    Examiner, she earned her MFA in Writing in December 2012 from the
    University of San Francisco; her thesis is a collection of short
    stories, “Displaced Persons.”

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