What Happened to the Corpse of the Lizard God?
Sweat glistened on young Juan's forehead, and his breathing came in fast, deep gasps as he made his way through the dense forest. He clutched tightly at several loaves of bread and an apple he had tied up in a T-shirt. Branches tore at him. There was about half a day between him and the town, but the panic wouldn't leave him until he got home.
Home was a large wooden platform lodged high in a tree. Above that platform was another, so that together they formed a high room without walls. Perhaps once a hunter's blind, Papa had led him to it and christened it home. He felt safe there, despite the occasional hunger and coldness. He only left the tree for sanitary concerns or when asked by Papa to go into town to steal food.
It was dark when he finally reached home. He had been gone for three days and was frantic to lie down in the dirty blankets that formed his bed.
"Papa! Papa!" he screamed with joy, scrambling up through the branches nailed up planks that formed the ladder up to the platform.
Papa was lying in a cigar box on top of several carefully folded and layered handkerchiefs. A blue and white scarf was tucked around his scaly body and tail, exactly as the boy had left him.
"Juan? ... Juan, my boy? Please hurry, son. I'm dying."
Juan unpacked the food and chuckled, enjoying the relief of being home again.
"Juan. ... please. Quickly... come close, son."
He did as he was told with a broad smile. It was the same thing every time he returned from a trip that took longer than a day.
"Juan. I don't have much time left, boy. ... I'm so glad you made it home in time."
"Oh, Papa. Please don't start. You've been dead for years now."
"...Juan, oh Juan." The words came from the lizard's unmoving, slightly parted lips. Then Papa lapsed into gentle sobs. Juan could feel his cold breath, the only sign of life in the stiff corpse. Juan smiled and gently stroked the hard, permanent curve of his tail down to the tip. Papa would be alright in a little while.
"Shhhh, papa, shhhhh."
While Juan comforted his father, his birth parents were packing to leave Austria. It would be the last false lead they would ever follow. After ten years of searching for their son, they were now emotionally prepared to give up.
Ungeheuer was separated from both of his birth parents at an early age and was raised by a free-thinking Uncle, who treated Ungeheuer as an adult and an equal. Many of Ungeheuer's stories involve the adoption of an extended family and, occasionally, downright bitterness toward blood relations. You can read more in his biography.