Animal Expert, by Blythe Roberson

Hello, Mrs. Henning’s fourth grade class. My name is Jeff Zambrzycki and your teacher asked me here today to talk about some of the exotic pets I raise and train even though they have never offered me anything in return and are probably a net negative for the world. You can just call me “Mr. Jeff.”

This is a leopard gecko. Leopard geckos are naturally found in the deserts of Pakistan and northern India. I named this gecko Jeff Jr. after myself because I genuinely cared about and even loved him, but he doesn’t respond to that name. Jeff Jr., or as I now call him, This Random Gecko, prefers hiding under a fake rock and eating literal maggots to hanging out with me. In fact, look at how when I pick him up, he tries to run off my hand because he would rather fall to his death than touch me for two seconds. Leopard geckos, unlike other geckos, possess moveable eyelids.

Here is a toad. You might think, But Mr. Jeff, that toad looks like any other toad I would see in a run-of-the-mill dirty lake. Well, for as boring and selfish as this toad is, he might as well be any old toad, but it turns out this is a Pipa pipa toad, or star-fingered toad. It comes from South America and must really hate living here with me in northern Illinois because it is very ill-humored. As you can see, it looks like a brown leaf, and I honestly wish it were a brown leaf. One time I picked up this toad to whisper soothingly into its external eardrum and it pooped on me.

This is an African trapdoor spider. It looks disgusting because it is disgusting. If I had just stumbled upon this spider in my house I would have immediately tried to kill it with a large pot, maybe a boot. However, in real life I paid $24.99 for it and I pay much more to house and feed it. In the wild this spider hides under a makeshift trapdoor and then surprises its prey by leaping out and eating it. This spider is deceitful and it is evil.

This is a Texas Giant Centipede. I wish this centipede had never been born; I wish no centipedes in the entire world had ever been born. Centipede comes from the Latin for “100 legs.”

This is an Arizona bark scorpion. This kills people! This animal does no good in the world that I can think of, and it can kill you. I don’t know why a loving God would create such an animal, and that is why I stopped going to church after I acquired this glorified bug. Arizona bark scorpions are native to the Sonoran desert and can live as long as six years.

Here is a bearded dragon. “Whoa, that sounds so cool!” “I love Game of Thrones!” “Dragons are interesting!” This is not that kind of dragon. This is just a big lizard. It’s a big, beige lizard who doesn’t fly and breathes normal air. Huh, and I guess you guys are 10 so you probably aren’t allowed to watch Game of Thrones. I can’t imagine even one reason you would care about this animal.

Okay, here’s a chameleon. You may have heard of them. Chameleons have the ability to change color to blend into their environment, due to tiny nanocrystals embedded in their skin. This keeps them safe from predators. But to what end? I mean, what are they really contributing to society, you know? I can answer that question because my entire job is to stare at these horrible, horrible animals all day. The answer is that they are contributing nothing.

This is a green iguana, this is a rhino iguana, this is a Cuban rock iguana, this is a desert iguana. They all eat leaves and cost me $800 a month in electricity bills for their g.d. heating lamps.

Here is a boa constrictor. It is from North, Central, and South America and has a highly distinctive color pattern. I live in constant knowledge that it will one day strangle me in my sleep unless I strangle it first.

This is a tortoise. Or is it a turtle? I don’t care.

Alright class, that’s all the time I have today. Before I leave, does anyone want to take an iguana off my hands? Okay. I can’t blame you. I’ll just leave one in case anyone changes their mind. Thanks for having me, bye!

Blythe Roberson is a writer and improviser living in New York.

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Animal Expert, by Blythe Roberson