Alison Armstrong
October 2017 Commended

The Chameleon

by Alison Armstrong

Last night I dreamt of our house in Kosedere, way up on the mountainside. I was in the garden at the back, with the seven pomegranate trees. The fruits warmed, half way to ripeness, in the August sun. The evening breeze that fetched up from the bay and gave respite from the heat had not yet begun. It was the day you came back with the chameleon. You brought it back, like a trophy. By chance you had found it, you said, by the side of the road. It was dying. But, like a child, I was filled with the drama of your arrival, convinced that we could save it. I had never seen one before, not in the flesh. The perfect smallness of its form. I thought a chameleon should be bigger somehow, like an iguana. Its skin was rough and smooth in the same stroke – reptile skin – dotted relief. Was it extra delicate in its dying state? We put it on the low wall, near where the vines bush out for shade. It rested on its side in the white dust, no longer able to stand. We watched its breathing, quick and small. Its magnificent turning eye, still turning. The movement mechanical, some innate deep down thing? Its four tiny feet were sticking out from where we placed it. Opposable toes, half-curled, beginnings of an unmade grasp. In silence we stood, watching. Its tail, coiled round – unable to cling to branch, nor any thing, save itself. Its life slipping away quietly with each rapid breath. And, as your hand left mine, I watched its colour change from the brown of its arrival to the white of surrender. Or a last camouflage against the bleached pallor of stones?

Two complete colours in the space of one skin.

About the Author

I live and work (as a teacher and painter) near Lancaster with my two children​. I was born in Leeds and studied in Lancaster, Leeds and Cambridge. I have been writing for many years. This is the first time I have had any fiction published, in fact, the first time I have sent a piece of flash fiction anywhere. I won a Northern Writers’ Award for fiction this year. I am seeking a publisher for my short-story collection and am writing a novel.

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