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Glass Crocodiles

Glass Crocodiles

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Published by A.J. Carroll
An unnamed father takes his infant son to the zoo while reliving moments from his own childhood. As he explores the exhibits he inadvertently discovers heights and pitfalls between fathers and sons as well as the nature of growing up, all wrapped up in the magic and banality of the Oregon Zoo.
An unnamed father takes his infant son to the zoo while reliving moments from his own childhood. As he explores the exhibits he inadvertently discovers heights and pitfalls between fathers and sons as well as the nature of growing up, all wrapped up in the magic and banality of the Oregon Zoo.

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Published by: A.J. Carroll on Jul 12, 2013
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07/30/2013

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Glass Crocodile
Fathers dream about being fathers. I am no exception. I dream of smoky campfires beneath the stars, army men littering the carpet like the trenches of Somme, things like that. Mostof all I dream of the zoo, particularly the Reptile House. With a face full of manufactured humidair and just the right amount of light play you find yourself standing in the middle of the
Amazon. It‟s as close as I‟ll ever get.
 James is cooing in his car seat, happily chewing on a plastic ring full of keys. He reallylikes the red key. Red must taste better, or something.
I don‟t have any red keys
on my key ring.I pull off the highway, following the flapping multi-colored banners featuring a variety of 
animals each proclaiming „
Welcome
to the zoo!‟
 
I‟m glad for their help
because otherwise I
wouldn‟t know the way. Now only if they could help find me a parking spot.The lot is jammed full of mini vans like there‟s some sort of Sin
gle Mothers Anonymousconvention in town. Happy little stick figure families plaster the back windshields as I drive by.They wave with immortal stick smiles as I search hopelessly for an empty spot.James is making a sour face.
Welcome to the zoo!
 Our hands are stamped by a less than cheerful teenager at the gate and the effect iscomplete.The zoo is exactly how I remember it as a child, right down to the grey clouds overheadand the mountain goats perched on their fake rocky outcrop. Families bustle around us like
 
lemmings, hyper children rushing around with glassy-eyed parents following lethargically in
tow. It‟s homegrown American bliss all around.
 James sits in his stroller contentedly while I push him along the serpentine path, the treadon the whee
ls making a revving sound against the smooth pavement as if I‟m about to peel out.
Abigail took the good stroller in the divorce. This one is for my weekends only. One wheel
doesn‟t match the other three and there is a spit
-up stain on the seat. I have no idea how it gotthere.A man dressed as what I think is Tony the Tiger is walking around waving at the kids.
James doesn‟t seem to like him much because he‟s beginning to whine
and squirm. Seeing myson, the man who would be Tony covers his eyes and mimes embarrassment. The parents aroundus laugh and point him out to their children. James is crying.
He‟s only fourteen months old.
 
I push the stroller along a little faster; pretty sure I won‟t be eating frosted flakes
anymore. Naturally the first stop is the naked mole rats, for what trip to the zoo is complete without
them. They‟re ugly little things, that‟s for sure, but I find a certain charm about them. Maybe it‟s because they don‟t know their ugly, or that they‟re
 being watched, for that matter.The mole rat enclosure is all the way at the back of the room, past the meerkats, weaver  birds, and all the other more interesting animals. A series of fake tunnels and chambers span before us through a plate of glass where the hapless little rodents scurry in blissful ignorance.
 
I hoist James from the stroller and point at the pink little sausages with legs. He watches
them with only mild interest. I can‟t tell if he‟s repulsed or bored by their wrinkly bodies and
 beady eyes. Maybe
he doesn‟t care because they don‟t look like Spongebob.
 One of the mole rats labors from its subterranean den and climbs out onto the fake strip
of African savanna, its nose testing the air. The rodent‟s large incisors flash like
Chiclets beforeit scurries back inside the tunnel.As a child those teeth fascinated me. I used to stand here for hours and stare at their oddlystructured mouths with teeth much too large for their heads and wonder why they needed them.Maybe it was true about God having a sens
e of humor and all. Maybe we‟re funny looking to
mole rats.
I point this out to my parents but they‟re too preoccupied staring in opposite directions. I
always tried to be the mediator in those situations.
“These must be Jabberwocks,” I said, for those large buck teeth reminded me of the
illustration in
Through the Looking-Glass
. These Jabberwocks didn‟t have waistcoats though.
 
“There‟s no such thing,” My father grumbled before shuffling off.
 My mother hung her head.The mole rats di
dn‟t care what they were called.
 
 Beware the Jabberwock, my son.
James has had enough of the stroller and insists on me carrying him, which I‟m ok with,
though it does make pushing the stroller very difficult with only one hand. He burbles in my ear 

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