Second Choice Pet

by Roderick T. Long

[I have no memory of this piece, but I reckon it was written around 13, or 1977-ish, perhaps in Lubec, ME; it seems to have been for a correspondence school assignment,
to write about what animal I would most like to have as a pet. I suspect that what I wrote was not quite what they were looking for.]

If I could have my choice of any animal that I wanted for a pet, my second choice would be a trained attack serpent or Slikknargh (I have already written about my first choice in a previous essay). A Slikknargh is a fairly large snake-like reptile of the Cœlacanthus Erectus variety. It is found only along the Baagsward river in South Africa. It is about the size of a man’s arm in width, and measures over two meters long. The venom in its fangs causes instant paralysation for twenty-four hours. The Slikknargh can spray this venom for great distances. Its muscles are like tensely coiled springs, enabling it to leap high into the air. The Slikknargh’s firm spinal cord and excellent sense of balance allow it to stand straight up on its tail and to perform similar feats. It possesses the chameleon-like ability to change its color or to become almost invisible. Its hide is bullet-proof, so the Slikknargh is practically unkillable. Best of all, the Sliknaargh becomes an intensely devoted servant to the first human who feeds it after it breaks out of its egg. Also, since the Slikknargh is possessed of remarkable intelligence, it can understand and follow orders rationally. These are the qualities that make the Slikknargh attractive to me as a pet.

If I had a Slikknargh, I would wear it around my neck. Nobody would notice, as it would blend in to match the color of my shirt, or, if the coils were too noticeable, could change to tartan plaid and simulate a scarf, as, unlike the chameleon, the Slikknargh does not have to be touching the object whose color it is imitating. Then, when in a bus or some other public place, I would give a private hand signal which would order the snake to leap at bystanders and alarm them. I would also have my Slikknargh hide in desk drawers and other places where it could startle those who found it by accident. Most of these diversions would be solely for shock value, but the Slikknargh would also serve utilitarian purposes. By spraying its venom for many miles in all directions, it could immobilize an entire city. I could then walk into stores, “borrowing” whatever I wished, and pulling pranks on those I disliked (for instance, an enemy might awake the next day to find himself encased in pâté de foie gras). Also, I could pull off this jolly stunt to prevent my being late or missing a TV program (assuming the program was broadcast locally).

Needless to say, reaction to my pet would be less than favorable. People would see my pet as a threat to their well-being, and rightfully so. Authorities would attempt to take my Slikknargh away from me. When they discovered that this was impossible, they would try to have me assassinated. When that failed, they would try to pay me to give up the creature for use in the armed forces. I would decline the money, as I could steal whatever I desired. Finally, they would send a team to Baagsward River and bring back a whole team of Slikknarghs who would then be turned against us. We would die horribly.

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