This story was inspired by the Animal Man, a regular visitor to the very popular museum club I ran as curator.
I remember cowering at the back alongside a small boy as he brought out the python.

The children sat cross legged on the floor their upturned faces, looking eagerly at the teacher as she introduced their special guest, the Animal Man.

This annual visit was always a thrill. He brought with him familiar and exotic creatures for them to see and, in some cases, handle. He usually started off with small furry ones that provoked squeals of delight from the girls and a forest of hands wanting to hold something.

Gavin, a thoughtful child asked, ‘What happened to your hand?’ Thirty- two pairs of eyes looked, opened- mouthed at the hand holding the chinchilla. 

‘I lost this finger when the squirrel bit me and it went septic, 

and the tip of this one to the mongoose. I chopped off my thumb by accident.’ A chorus of aaargh filled the classroom.

‘Did you feed it to the python?’ Gavin asked. 

‘No, she prefers baby chicks. This finger,’ he lifted his other hand, ‘I lost to frost bite tracking polar bears.’ The class went silent.

‘Is your job dangerous?’ asked Gavin.

‘No, not when you know what you are doing.’

‘Counting must be difficult though,’ said Gavin waiting for the next animal to come out of its cage.