“Jean the Sloth” – Part 1

I wonder if you know just how much I hate you. In a moment of pure passion inspired rage, I could wipe your species off the planet. I’d finally have peace and quiet and not have to look at your perpetually dumb-founded expressions again.

In the Trundle Zoo, on a beautifully sunny day, in the middle of May, these thoughts raced through the mind of one particularly unusual resident.

The three toed sloth looked lazily at the group of elementary grade children, his expression completely blank. Behind this empty image however was a seething rage towards all those who came to stare. His eyes narrowed at every face and he wished for nothing more than to be free from the engulfing stupidity.

“Let’s get out of here. It’s just sitting there!” one little girl spoke. The Sloth was always surprised they could manage complete sentences.

“Yeah! Looks stupid! Tigers?” a different little girl said.

Then again, sometimes they couldn’t, the Sloth thought.

In an instant the group was gone and he was alone. In his small exhibit filled with branches and all the leaves he could eat, once he was in solitude he found perfection. With no eyes and gaping mouths to ruin his privacy, he could move amongst the tree limbs as slowly as he wanted. Slow, if you asked the Sloth, was the only true speed that mattered. Nothing that moved quickly could be taken seriously.

How could they? He thought. They move so fast, they can’t possibly experience anything in the detail a sloth can.

Though sloths cannot smile in the way humans can, when he was alone, he sometimes felt like he could.

“Hey there little guy!”

Just as soon as perfection comes, it departs. His silent oasis of leaves and branches was always fleeting. He turned his head and narrowed his eyes, and glared until the new visitor left.

“Whoa, sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt you,” the little boy was the only one in front of the sloth exhibit. In fact, there wasn’t anyone else in the general area either. It seemed the boring presence of the Sloth had kept people a safe distance away. He thought he was great company, but this happened often. Not that he minded. Silence was much better than gaping fools.

This new fool put his backpack down and sat on the bench opposite.

He stared back at the Sloth, an annoying grin on his face.

This one won’t go easily, the Sloth thought. His mind began racing as to how to make his dedicated audience flee. There had only ever been one surefire way…

“I don’t think many people think so, but sloths are my favorite animal,” the little boy spoke.

Favorite?

“Sometimes I wish I could be a sloth.”

Really now? This is a first.

“I’m always moving from one thing to the next. I wake up, I rush to the shower, I rush to school, I rush to gym, and then my parents rush me to piano lessons, and tennis class. After that I have to rush to get my homework and advanced prep work done. Even when I go to bed I feel like I have to rush to fall asleep just to get enough rest.”

The boy is in a living hell!

“I know you understand how terrible that must be. I’m only twelve! I shouldn’t already feel like this, right?”

You should never feel like this.

“My parents are even more hectic than me…sorry, look at me rambling! I haven’t even introduced myself. My name is Tyler Reed. Don’t suppose you have a name?”

“My full name is about thirty words long, so most just call me Jean.”

“Jean, eh? Not a name I would expect from a-“

The boy paused, and his expression changed several times. First he looked mildly shocked, than confused, than he laughed a deep laughter, and when the laughter died down there was horror on his face.

“Did you just talk?”

The Sloth stared back at him with expressionless eyes and tilted his head to the side.

“Of course you didn’t. I must be losing it!” Tyler said.

“The Lost and Found is by the entrance if you’ve indeed lost something,” Jean the sloth spoke.

“Ah, of course, I passed it on my way in-wait a minute! You just talked.” Tyler stood up abruptly at this. Jean didn’t like the sudden movement. Very un-sloth like.

“I never said I couldn’t,” Jean rubbed his head against the branch he was hanging from, relieving an itch that had been bugging him.

Tyler stood, this time only a single emotion on his face, though Jean wasn’t sure exactly what to call it.

Horror-confused-delight? Yes, that sums it up well.

Tyler fell back onto the bench, his hands hanging in-between his legs with pure horror-confused-delight spread across his face.

“Speak up Tyler. I’m curious as to what your first question will be,” Jean said.

“Why can you talk?” the young boy finally spoke up.

“That always seems to be the first question people ask. I was hoping for a change of pace and for you to ask something different.”

“…well? You will answer right? Because I don’t think I can continue a conversation with an elephant like that in the room.”

“The elephants are down the road on the right.”

“You know what I meant!”

“Fine, fine. I can admit that my case is rather unusual.”

“You don’t say?” Tyler rolled his eyes.

“I’ll have none of that. Most humans are much nicer to me after they find out they are talking to a Djinn.”

“A…Djinn? You mean, you’re a genie?”

“Yes, I am Jean the Genie. Clever, no?”

“Brilliant.”

“Thank you.”

Tyler sat quietly for a few moments, his hand brought to his chin in thought. Jean could read his mind if he wanted, but it was bothersome. The boy would speak up eventually, and if a sloth has nothing else, it has patience.

“On many accounts, I never expected this to happen,” Tyler finally said, “Never expected to meet a genie, never expected it to be a talking sloth, never expected to be granted wishes-“

“Wishes?”

“Yes, isn’t that what genies do? Don’t I get three wishes?”

“Three?! You must be joking. One wish is enough effort as is, but I refuse to live in the fairy tale world where I put in the work to give you three. I am a sloth first, and a genie second.”

“So I do get one wish?”

“I never said that.”

“So what do I get?”

“I always thought I was great company. Is that not rewarding?”

“Well, on the contrary, you are a delight-“

“Thank you.”

“Of course, but I just always imagined…more.”

Jean sat still, and began thinking deeply, though you wouldn’t be able to see a difference since he never moved much anyway.

“Alright, one wish. Make it count.” Jean said.

“I can’t believe it!” Tyler burst up and began laughing and jumping for joy. Everyone dreams about what they would do with a wish if they could, and Tyler was no exception. Though, now that the option was actually in front of him, nothing came to mind. Soon he stopped jumping and returned to sitting and pondered his problem.

What to do with one wish? He thought. He was about to speak up when he heard the last thing in the world he wanted to hear coming from behind him.

“Tyler, hurry up now! Your father and I have to go,” his mother called to him, “You know we both have that charity dinner tonight!”

Tyler’s heart sank and he quickly looked back and forth between his mother and the sloth.

“Believe me, Tyler, the sloth is not going anywhere.”

“You won’t go anywhere, right?” Tyler whispered to Jean, and the sloth’s head moved side to side very slowly.

“Can I come back another time to make my wish?” he asked. Jean’s head nodded just as slowly.

“Fantastic! I’d want to come back to visit you anyway. Coming mom!” And Tyler ran off. Jean could hear him ask her if they could come to the zoo tomorrow. His mother would surely be exasperated by that, but he knew he would see Tyler again.

Wish or no wish, Jean knew he was excellent company.

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