Night of the Dallas Iguana

“I’m on parole too mother fucker… let’s get it on!”

Not exactly the response I was hoping for. But let’s hit the brakes and back it up a bit.

Her name was Salena. Her birth name had been Buffy-Gene. Yeah, I spelled that correctly. Her daddy was a circuit rodeo bull rider and wanted a son. When his second daughter was born… he named her after him. Oh… her name was also Shelby. That was her stage name. That was the name I first knew her by. Confused yet? Stay with me. Let’s back up again.

I moved to Nashville sometime around 1991. A guitar picker with a few dollars in his pocket and songs in his head. My best friend Craig had moved there with the same aspirations. I gave him my word if he went there and stayed 3 months… I’d join him. I did this because Craig was notorious for sailing with any wind. Never mind the fact that after I moved there, his girlfriend back in Ft. Worth got pregnant on one of his weekend visits. He left Nashville, moved back to Texas and they’re still married today.

Brass Stables

There was a dive of a strip club that some of the musicians went to in Printer’s Ally, The Brass Stables. That’s where Shelby, I mean Salena worked…. at least when I met her. We had a whirlwind relationship and by the time my dreams of stardom were being swept into a dustpan… we were moving to Dallas. She was a Texas girl anyhow… so it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Her name was Annette. I don’t even like that name. I worked with her. You see, Salena and I were split. Salena had been staying at her sister’s place just outside Dallas. I had taken Annette out, one of those dates that ended up in a midnight pasture with the tailgate down.

A few weeks later I had started talking with Salena again, and she asked me to pick her up from work Friday night. She was waiting tables at Judge Roy Bean’s restaurant in Dallas. This didn’t require a stage name. That same night, Annette had asked me to come by her apartment to have a drink with her and her best friend, who’s name I’ve forgotten. I was in limbo. But being 22 years old, I had zero doubt I could swing this.

So I arrived at Annette’s 2nd floor apartment around 9:00. Being an Alabama boy, I was proud to wear my “Bama ’92 National Champs” t-shirt. Fuck Texas… they think they know football. Roll Damn Tide. It was white with crimson print.

Annette was a voluptuous blonde, her friend was part Asian and slender. Both were playful and flirty by the time I fixed my second Jim Beam and water. They grabbed me by my arms and led me to the sofa. They were laughing.

“Sit here… we want you to see something”, Annette said as she led me to the sofa which was facing the sliding glass to the balcony.

Hmm, thoughts raced through my mind. I smiled a mischievous and boyish grin while I wondered what was in store. An unexpected surprise maybe? Oh yeah… you could say that.

Iguana

From behind and over the top of my head, a scaly green iguana was lowered onto my lap by Annette.

“It’s Arnie!”, they both said at the same time. Okay, so I’m taking a little liberty here because I confess I totally don’t remember the damn lizard’s name.

To me, it resembled a snapping turtle from back home… only skinnier and without the shell. People actually have these as pets? I pretended to not be disappointed. I mean come on… I was expecting a lingerie pillow fight or a dual lap dance or something. Instead I got a lizard dumped on my lap.

I sat there with Arnie on my lap, not knowing whether to pet the thing or cut it up for bait. From the couch and through the sliding glass door, I could see a tall guy outside on the sidewalk between the grass and asphalt parking lot. He was pacing back and forth in an arms bowed-back pissed-off kinda strut. He was dressed in standard Urban Cowboy attire.

“There’s some guy looking up into your apartment”, I said to Annette.

Her friend took the lizard and Annette walked to the sliding glass door. She opened it, closed it behind her, then walked to the rail. I could hear her talking. I could hear him yelling. A minute later, she walked back in.

“He wants to talk to you”, she said.

“Me? Who the hell is he?”

“He’s my ex-boyfriend. He’s not even suppose to be on the property. He’s been trespassed!”

I made my way to the sliding glass door, which was already open. From the second floor I was looking down on him.

“Hey partner… what’s your name?”, he drunkenly asked.

“Jason”

“Well Jason, I just got one question for you?”

“What’s that?” I responded.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing with my girlfriend?”

I admit, things weren’t looking too optimistic at this point. But I’d bullshitted my way through plenty of sticky situations before. There was still hope.

“Well, first of all… I didn’t know she had a boyfriend.”

I said this, damn well knowing that ignorance of the law is no excuse. But this was actually a true statement. According to her they had been broken up for weeks. Apparently he had trouble accepting that.

I continued, “Second… I’m not doing anything. I’m petting a damn lizard having a drink. I’m fixin’ to pick up my girlfriend from work.”

Surely this would convince him. I mean after all… someone with a pocket full of cash would never shoplift… right? I was sure the girlfriend angle would exonerate me and he would even offer to fill up my truck with gas as a gesture of good will.

He blurted, “Why don’t you come down here and talk to me about it?”

As he said this, he walked over to the spot my truck was parked in. He stood in front of it, took a leap up and backwards… firmly landing his Urban Cowboy ass on the hood of my truck. Had he been stalking her apartment the entire time?? He obviously knew what I drove. Surely he was unaware of the midnight pasture rendezvous. But I’ll be damned… he knew my truck for sure.

He took his right hand and slapped the hood of my truck three times with his palm and said, “Come on down here!”

As hope was dwindling for a peaceful exit, I made one last ditch effort to find a resolution.

“Listen!”, I said. “I’m on parole and I don’t need this bullshit!”

Of course this was total bullshit. I mean I wasn’t a wimpy boy, but if this guy thought I’d done some hard time, then maybe he’d back off. Right?

About 4 parking spaces to the right, I heard a truck door open and slam. Another guy, we’ll call him Urban Cowboy 2.0, walked toward the ex-boyfriend’s position on the hood of my truck.

“I’m on parole too mother fucker… let’s get it on!”

Lonestar

I turned and walked back into the apartment. I asked Annette if she had a baseball bat, a set of golf clubs… anything that I could use to walk down to my truck. She had nothing.

“I’m gonna call apartment security, he’s not even suppose to be on the premises”, Annette said.

As she’s on the phone hanging on the kitchen wall, I heard the first loud pound. The floors and walls shook. Then a second loud pound. I looked toward the door and saw plaster cracking and wood splintering. These guys were ramming the door. It was a matter of time before they were inside.

“Hang up… call 911!”, I shouted to Annette.

I immediately walked to the door. At this point, the top and center hinges were breaking away from the door frame. I took my left hand and braced it against the door. The force from the next ram of the door caused my wrist to bend and flex. This pressure to my wrist caused my watch to come loose… which then slid down my arm toward my elbow. Quickly in one motion, I dropped my hand by my side, slid the watch off and returned it to the door to brace against the shoulder rams of the 1.0 and 2.0.

The door itself was now bending inward. I could see both of them. Their cowboy hats were off. Maybe this was a Texas thing? You know, the way good ole’ boys back home take there shirt off to throw down. I kinda respected that.

“Jason… I’m gonna kill you!”, 1.0 said.

I believed he was serious. I could see that both of them had a long neck bottle of beer, upside down, holding it by the neck. Hell yeah… they were serious. But now… I was seriously scared… but seriously pissed off. Survival mode had just kicked into high gear.

Not far from the door was a pass-through window to the kitchen. There was a wooden wine rack. I grabbed a bottle of red wine… hoping it was a good year. I grabbed it by the neck. Fuck yeah… my bottle’s bigger than yours.

wine rack

The door flew open and 1.0 was slightly off balance when I hit him over the head with the wine bottle. To be honest, I don’t know if the bottle broke over his head or simply exploded when it crashed onto the tile foyer floor. His forward motion carried him to the back of the very sofa where I had met Arnie. I started pounding the side of his head with my fist. These were hard punches. I was totally expecting him to be knocked out after the 3rd or 4th punch. Then I realized the soft fluffy headrest of the sofa was helping his Texas head absorb my blows.

About the time my 4th punch was landing… I saw shards of brown glass and golden liquid passing by both sides of my peripheral vision. For a split second I thought, “Damn… this other guy just busted a beer bottle over my head and I didn’t feel a thing… cool.”

As I raised my fist for another crashing punch, 2.0 grabbed my arm and proceeded to latch onto my back with his crooked Texas teeth. I have no idea if his teeth were crooked, but I’m taking another liberty here. And this… I did feel! So 2.0 ended up resembling a snapping turtle more than little Arnie did. Apparently fight or flight adrenaline shields you from beer bottles being busted over your head… but bites were fair game.

I twisted around fast enough to free myself from his teeth, and I could feel my skin burn as I did so. As I faced him he turned to run out of the doorway back outside. As he started down the first of the stairs, he was once again facing me about 8 feet away.

2.0 stopped less than a quarter of the way down the stairs. Apparently he got his courage back. He started back up the stairs sideways, keeping his eyes on me.

“You want some of me?” 2.0 said.

“You’re damn right!”, I responded.

I remember taking one step… maybe two steps toward him. Just as he had rounded the rail separating what use to be Annette’s door and the stairs. My fist was in a cocked position and I was about to bring the hammer down. Only somebody brought the hammer down first.

My eyes were open, but I saw only blackness. I was on my knees now. My right hand which had been in a cocked position was now open-palmed on the floor. It was the only thing that kept me from crashing over like a Georgia Pine. I remember an overwhelming sense of peace. A feeling that it was okay to just lay down and sleep. A feeling of, “Just let whatever happens next happen…“.

And at that moment, it dawned on me that I was about to die. My soft cotton Alabama t-shirt was sticking to my back. I felt warmth surrounding my back and chest. I still saw darkness. And then I thought to myself… No way in hell was I gonna die in a cheesy Dallas apartment with an Iguana named Arnie. Fuck that!

I shook my head like it was on fire and my vision slowly came into focus. I stood straight up and immediately turned around to see what had just hit me. There was nothing there. I was confused.

As I swiveled back toward 2.0, his eyes were as big as golf balls. He seemed as stunned and confused as I had been. I stood up and was back in the game. Put me in coach… I’m ready to play.

2.0 started down the stairs and by this time I apparently had lost my mind. I flung myself over the rail… landing on top of him. We tumbled down the stairs. I was throwing punches with every step we rolled down, not knowing if any of them were hitting their mark. I was certifiably insane.

stairs apt

As we reached the bottom, 2.0 bolted into the darkness… thus leaving my life forever. Goodbye my forever foe. Where was 1.0? I would soon find out.

“Jason! He’s got a knife!”, Annette screamed from the balcony patio.

I looked up and saw 1.0 walking toward the stairs… something in his hand. I reached for my truck keys, which usually dangled from my front pocket. They were gone! Somehow during the fight… they had vanished. I had a 9mm under my seat. I bought it within a week of turning 21 from a Dallas sporting goods store.

I bolted to my passenger’s side door. Never before or since have I been grateful that someone attempted to steal from me. About 2 weeks before, someone had completely demolished the key core on the passenger side of my truck. To get into my truck simply required grabbing the key core with your fingertips, pulling it out and giving it a twist. I did just that. I leaned across and reached under the driver’s seat.

I chambered a round just as 1.0 was crossing the sidewalk. Boys grow up thinking of moments like these. Those Dirty Harry moments where you get to say something super cool like, “Go ahead… make my day!

To be honest, nothing cool or macho came to mind. All I could muster was, “I swear to God I’ll shoot you.”

As I heard sirens entering the complex, I surveyed the knife in his hand. It was a butcher knife. It was one from the wooden knife holder that had been next to the wine rack at the pass-through window.

“I don’t think you got it in you mother fucker!”

“I swear, I will shoot you”, I responded.

We stood there in a brief stand-off. Maybe 20 ft apart. I surely would have shot him had he came toward me. I think he knew this. But suddenly my peripheral vision saw blue lights.

police lights.png

I realize as I see blue lights and hear dispatchers talking over radios… I’m holding a loaded gun at someone. I made it through one hell of a fight with 2 guys trying to kill me… and now the police are gonna shoot me. Nice.

I pointed my gun toward the ground and slowly shifted it to my left hand while still keeping the barrel pointed downward. I held up my right hand open-palmed in a stop motion toward the direction of the police cars. I never took my eyes of off 1.0. I remember this part vividly.

“He’s got a knife…”, I said. “Get him and I’ll drop the gun!”

1.0 turned to his left, which was my right. “Fuck you… n****r!”

I wasn’t sure if that was directed toward me or the cop. I watched as 1.0 turned and sprinted into the darkness. I assume at that particular moment… the cops had their gun sites on me.

I knelt down quicker than I should have, taking care to gently lay the gun on the ground… I turned toward the cop. The last thing I remember thinking was… That cop’s white. Why did he use the N-word?

Now I felt like I could sleep. I laid down. I might have even passed out briefly. The crimson print on my t-shirt was no longer visible. It blended with the blood which saturated it. I heard one police officer say, “This guy was getting ready to unload on someone… it’s cocked and ready.

As I’m being loaded to go to the hospital, I turned to Annette. “I need you to go pick up Salena from work… can you do that?”

The nurse dialed the number and handed me the phone. Salena and Annette were both in the emergency room with me.

“Hey Mom… it’s me. I’m okay… but I’m in the emergency room.”

“What’s happened?”, she asked.

“I got into a fight. I got beat with beer bottles”, I said.

As I hung up, Annette filled me in on what actually happened. Later, the ER doctor would confirm. I did have shards of glass in my scalp. But the big wound… the gaping wound… was a stab wound from a knife.

When 2.0 was fleeing, he saw 1.0 rise up from the back of the couch. As 2.0 confronted me, 1.0 grabbed a butcher’s knife… and in a downward motion hit the back of my skull. The blade slid under my scalp into the left side of my neck. No wonder it felt like a brick had fallen on my head. Then 1.0 went to the kitchen and jerked the phone off the wall while Annette was on with 911. This is why I saw nothing when I stood up and looked behind me.

The doctor repeated several times how lucky I was that the blade missed my neck and spine. I was pissed. Had I known he had already stabbed me once… I might have shot him in the moments before the cops arrived. But I didn’t. And things happen for a reason. All in all… I was ok. The only wounds on the front side of my body were my knees. Jumping over the rail and tumbling down the stairs had produced holes in my jeans and bloody knees. All the other damage to me… was from behind. I’m actually proud of that.

I heard Salena was dancing again some 15 years later. Not sure what stage name she was using. She would have been about 34. Never spoke with Annette again. Although I think about Arnie often. I hear captive iguanas can have a lifespan exceeding 20 years.

Skinny-dipped with Nashville dancers
Had a hell of a time
I took a knife in Dallas
Over some ole’ boy’s wife
I’ve gone to bed in a penthouse
I’ve woke up to a rooster’s crow
We were all just living…
On the high side of low

High Side of Low – Written in ’94