Normally reptiles are far from my favorite sort of animal and yet one particular one found his way into my heart. Our high school class had traveled to a nearby city in a school bus to attend the circus. We girls tried to find the silliest souvenirs possible but the guys outdid us. They brought a live chameleon back to the classroom. Most of the girls thought of it as a small creepy looking lizard but that wasn't our homeroom teacher's view. Sister Nicholas thought the little animal was delightful and would make a wonderful class mascot. A shoe box was fitted out to become the home for the little fellow. Naming him was not a very democratic process. Personally I wanted him to have a first and last name such as Mr. Camou Flage because his color changed according to the environment. That idea fell flat and he was named Oscar. One of the boys volunteered to give it food and water and so Oscar took up residence on a sunny windowsill in the classroom.
One morning Sister Nicholas took Oscar out of his box-home and allowed him to run around on her desk for a short while. We were all whispering and giggling as we watched her play with it. She picked him up preparing to return him to his box. She held him in the flat of her hand for a moment, studying him. The little animal cocked his head, looked up at her and then took off scampering up her arm inside the wide-bottomed loose sleeve of her habit. The subdued giggling became full-fledged laughing when Oscar didn't stop with just scampering up her arm. Whispers turned to squeals when the rascal disappeared into the folds of her brown wool robe. Sister was squirming grabbing at her back trying to capture him. We saw a ripple under her veil as he ran across the top of her head. By this time Sister was laughing louder than anyone and everyone was talking at once.
She was still searching for Oscar when there was a sharp rap on the door. Our visitor was a very stern-faced principal. The noise and commotion in our classroom had not gone unnoticed. It stopped very suddenly at her arrival. She took Sister Nicholas into the hall and helped her find the run-away chameleon. They returned with Oscar firmly clutched in Sr. Nicholas' hand. She put him back into his box and the principal picked up the box. I suspect, unlike our beloved Sister Nicholas and more like most of the girls present, she was squeamish about handling Oscar.
Sister Nicholas, a twinkle in her eye, turned her back on us to hide her grin and stood silently while the principal made an announcement. She said she could not allow us to have such a distraction in the classroom during the school day. She would return him when classes were over. Then she left the room taking Oscar in his box-home with her. Oscar was basically put into detention spending the rest of the day in the principal's office. He had food and water in his box so we thought he would be okay.
The next morning we found Sister had returned Oscar but instead of putting his box on the windowsill, she had set the box on the radiator. The radiator may have been cold when she put him there but now it was hot. Oscar was a crisp chameleon - no longer in need of food or water.
When the principal learned what she had done, she wrote the class a letter of apology. We posted it on a bulletin board in our room together with the eulogy we wrote for Oscar. I don't like reptiles but I couldn't help but feel sorry for our tiny class mascot who lost his life in such a tragic way. firstname.lastname@example.org