hobart logo

September 1, 2009 | Fiction

The Zoo: Two Stories

J. A. Tyler

The Zoo: Two Stories photo

penguins

For the penguins it is cold and sometimes it is cold like that in my bedroom, where I sleep, and the covers that cover me up aren't enough to keep me warm. This is summer, but there are times.

THERE ARE NO MONSTERS my mom she says to me but most times I don't believe her. It is a monster that I hear in the bathroom making a grunting sound like swallowing a kid whole. It is a monster that goes back and forth in the hallway, holding something in its hand and clinking it again the doors, rattling the knobs. It is a monster who says to me JONAH, YOU FUCKING AWAKE?

I pretend to hear things but I don't. The monster that I hear is not a monster at all. The things that I hear I don't actually hear. I make this up, these things, these noises, I am good at imagining everything.

Today I imagine a boat on a water making another kind of wake. Today I imagine my kite floating down from a tree. Today I imagine myself catching the ball, getting the hit, making the base. Today I imagine that the sun out here, it is baking the kid off of me that sometimes my dad, he doesn't seem to like. The cookie that my mom calls me. The kid I sometimes am without even being able to help it. Today the sun.

The penguins swallow their fish down whole like they have nothing better than these fish here in their trainer's hands, this girl bending down to feed them. My mom with a bottle, like an old memory that I only see through a hazy kind of rain, like it is faint.

Today, I am a boy called Jonah watching frozen ground where the penguins play. They eat and swim, dive, waddle their little legs under black and white feather or fur, whichever it is. I don't ask because I will learn it later, sometime, not everything has to be today.

They fly through the water. I watch them, my dad and my mom and me, mostly at the start here, only a few cages in, already the sun up and hot.

GO TO SLEEP my dad he says through the door when I call, when I am wanting to ask him questions. When I want a drink of water, when I want to be covered up again, when I am afraid that in my sleep I might die or I might wake up and they will be gone or I might never wake up and I won't know if it is death or something else happening to me. GO TO SLEEP he says and I do, crying sometimes, lifting myself as far up as I can, something I am sure under the bed and staring up at me through the mattress, its beady eyes, it breath.

I LOVE YOU I hear but can't tell if it is just imagined or really there. I don't know who said it. I didn't hear a voice, I just did or didn't hear some kind of sounds making those words, I LOVE YOU.

I am good at imagining. Some nights I am great.

The penguins swim and twist, the water almost ice. My dad and me, my mom, us watching pretend cold in our sun coming up.

 

the crane

On the edge of the lake is a turn of sand and dirt and there is a crane, fenced in by himself with his big wings and the feather on top of his head, walking along the fence back and again, looking like he is watching all the people go by.

This name of this crane is something I can't pronounce, but I know it is a crane so I just think of it like that.

CRANE I say, out loud but to no one, like I am learning today.

It has white wings with black tips and some red around its eyes. It looks masked, like it is ready go out warring, like it is painted. And when it walks the head moves out and back, like a chicken clucking, and its legs kind of jerk up and down, what it might look like if a bird were made like a machine. If this bird were a machine.

STRANGE BIRD my dad says and my mom she says CRANE and I stand in between the two of them, their hands not holding now, both of their arms crossed or in pockets, my mom's crossed in front of her and my dad's in his pockets.

I LIKE IT I say because it is quiet for so long, and then it just goes on quiet still. This is one of those times where they have nothing to say. I don't think they hate each other, my mom and my dad, they just sometimes are tired like I am tired, and it is nice just to be in quiet some days.

I cannot hold my mouth closed today.

IT'S LIKE A MACHINE I say.

IT'S LEGS LOOK MECHANICAL I say.

LIKE IT IS FULL OF GEARS I say.

GAS-POWERED I say.

I AM A BIRD I say.

PECK. PECK. PECK, I say.

And then I cluck like a chicken, slow and growling from in my throat somewhere.

My mom and my dad they just stand there, watching that crane go across and again the fence, watching us with little beady eyes and its war paint red. The feathers on the top of its head like tall dry grass. I want to be a lion crouched in the tall dry grass that are the feathers on its head. I want to chase down this crane and eat it whole. I want to swallow down its meat and its wings, the red on its face and those feathers.

I make the sound of a roar and then of chewing and neither of them laugh, my mom and my dad, but I go on like a lion, because sometimes I just am, and I can't help myself.

image: Ryan Molloy


SHARE