by Virginia Schmidt
I still remember lying on my little brother's bed as I flipped through the pages of the book about the boy who collected reptiles. Stroking the soft scales of a Ball Python featured in Chapter Two, I had an epiphany: I too would become a collector of reptiles, and eventually grow up to be a very professional and daring female herpetologist. Her name was Samantha, and she was a native of Jackson Hole, Wyoming before she underwent her official induction ceremony into my reptile collection in the front seat my mom's Suburban on the drive back to Cody. Sam, only a baby Ball Python back then, was my first and always most-treasured reptile collector possession (every collector has her favorite piece); I loved her from the moment I felt her forked tongue tickle my ear as she wound gingerly around my neck. Later would come a King Snake, a Milk Snake, two Green Iguanas, a Leopard Gecko, an African Fat-tailed Gecko, a Bull Snake, and various wild Garter Snakes and Horny Toads caught from the acres of sagebrush ridden public land behind my house. I had to give them all away and let their memories go eventually, when I found out most people are extremely repulsed by a person who loves reptiles, and Sam, oh sweet Sam, she was the last to go; I can still feel her gentle constriction around my neck even as her memory squeezes love blood from my heart.
Virginia Schmidt is a 23-year-old Wyomingite now dwelling in Austin, Texas.