Toads: Lessons for Today

I once had a pair of toads as pets.

A pack of elementary school friends was playing army behind Tarun Gupta’s house. I think the Minister of Propaganda may have been there, but I really don’t remember - and it really doesn’t matter. As I was frolicking through the woods (notice the straight line set up there for the Maximum Leader), I came upon a pair of toads and took them home.

I kept them in an terrarium.

I named them Shake and Speare.

Shut up. Just ’cause you were an unoriginal putz who named your dog “Spot” doesn’t make you morally superior to the intellectuals in your midst. I also had Edgar, Allen, Poe, Abdul the Damned and Gromyko the turtles, Lenin the Hermit Crab, Trotsky the garter snake, and Shiller the fish. Today my dog is Kermit Roosevelt. I guess my Scottish cow had a common, non-historical name, but that was just so I could squint, impersonate Willy the groundskeeper, and say “Aye, she’s a Bonnie lass!”

Shut up. I’m warning you. I was not a geek!

Shake and Speare were cool pets. I taught them to jump through hoops. They slurped worms up like spaghetti. If you fed them lightening bugs, the lightening bugs would light up inside their bodies, glowing redly through toad skin. If you fed Shake and Speare several lightening bugs and then let them hop around, the blinking lights would make them look like moving Christmas trees.

I always wanted to have them lay eggs and hatch tadpoles, but over three years never had any luck, even though I had a male and female pair.

Shut up. It’s not that hard to sex toads, you perv.

You just pick up a toad and rub the belly. A female will squirm around. A male will squirm around and squeak.

You see, toad sex occurs when a male wraps his arms around a female and squeezes out her eggs. He then releases his sperm into the water and his sperm fertilize the floating eggs.

During mating season, things get really hectic. “Toad balls” develop as males struggle to be the one closest to a fertile female. As a defense mechanism, the squeak is the way one male toad lets another male toad know: “Get off! I’m not a girl!”

Try it with the next toad you find. Impress your friends.

One of my favorite childhood memories was when the local boyscouts put on a kid’s pet fair at the branch library.

I took Shake and Speare.

Shut up. I was not a geek.

So there I was, an eleven year old with his toads. They announced a best pet trick contest.

I entered.

There were over a dozen dogs, a few cats, and Shake and Speare.

So the announcer calls each kid up on stage, they do their pet trick, the audience applauds, mom and dad snap pictures, and the duo climbs down from the stage dreaming of winning the trophy.

I was last.

I strode up to the announcer, asked to borrow his megaphone, put Speare to the mouthpiece and ordered him to “Speak, boy, speak!”

Tickled on his belly, driven by millions of years of Darwinian selection, Speare croaked out his “stop molesting me” cry.

We brought down the house. All the adults laughed uproariously and the kids who had worked so hard to train their Benjis and Spots stared at their shoes as I was awarded the trophy.

Heh.

Why am I telling you this?

Shut up. I’m not a geek.

Shut up. I mean it.

The Maximum Leader linked a Beautiful Atrocity post based on a My Pet Jawa riff. Their comments threads are full of guys exhibiting shower rage: raw, violence-spawning fear of the possibility that a gay might look at, or even hit on them.

Men who have gay rage are morons. Why engage in fisticuffs when a simple “no thank you” will do?

Toads do it all the time. If a gay man comes on to you, simply say “no thank you.” If anything, be flattered by the attention.

It’s not that horrible. Gay men have made passes at your Minister of Agriculture on several occasions. I seem to set off gaydar. One frustrated suitor told me that he had made an assumption about my orientation because I violate the “straight line” when I dance. Evidently most white heterosexual men will not raise their hands above their shoulders when dancing. My arms fly around with wild, spastic, uncoordinated abandon. Each and every time, when I declined by saying “no thank you, I’m straight,” they left me alone.

They did not try to convert me. They didn’t drag me into an alley. They all got a little sheepish grin, apologized, and went away.

You know that little sheepish grin.

It’s the one you get when you ask a girl to dance and she says no.

Excursus: The Foreign Minister is my personal hero for many, many reasons. One of them is because when one girl shot down his offer of a dance in a particularly snooty fashion, he deadpanned back: “I’m not being picky. Why are you?”

Men who can’t handle unwanted attention should think about what women have to put up with every day. I’m sure that the Lovely Annika and the lovable Celibate turn down invitations from unattractive men all the time. Women don’t seem to suffer emotional trauma when they turn away undesirable suitors.

So men who suffer from gay rage are actually demonstrating that they are emotionally weaker than women. Not that women are emotionally weaker. But knuckledragger types who suffer from gay rage probably hold chauvinist views about the “weaker sex.” Misogyny and homophobia seem to be clustered phenomena, no? So I’m just hoisting them on the petard of their own misguided ideology.

Repeat after me, guys:

Be like a toad:

Squeak! No thank you. I’m straight. Squeak!

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