The Zoo, a Going by J.A. Tyler by J.A. Tyler - Read Online

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The Zoo, a Going - J.A. Tyler

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The Lions

THE LIONS ARE FIRST. My mom and dad pull me up there, to the fence, the bars I put my hands on. The mama lion is sleeping and the dad is too and he yawns, this big lion, with those sharp teeth. His open mouth is big. He could swallow me. That is what my dad says, he says Jonah, he could swallow you if you aren’t careful. I don’t want to be swallowed. I don’t want to think about this lion swallowing me with his open mouth, those sharp teeth. I cover my ears. Sometimes I do that when my dad talks. I use the palm of my hands and I cover them up and then I can’t hear anything.

There was green grass in our yard when he told me that if I didn’t put up my hands like I was ready, the football would crack my face. He said This goddamn football is going to crack open your face if you don’t get your hands up.

It was when the tree had broken in a windstorm, that night when the house felt like it was lifting, and the next morning my dad said to me that bones could break like trees. Your bones can break like those branches you know. I covered my ears. When he said that, when he said I could crack my face open with a football and my arms or legs would break like tree branches, those were times when I used my palms to cover my ears. Another time when I don’t want to listen.

Once I flew a kite and it was up and going, and there he was, my dad. He was standing next to me and he was watching me like he watches those lions, and I didn’t cover my ears because he didn’t say anything. I was waiting for him to say something, because he was standing there next to me, and I thought he was going to say the kite would catch the wind and carry me into the sun, that I would burn up, that I could catch on fire and burn, but my dad didn’t say You are a fucking fire kid. He didn’t say anything. He just watched me fly the kite. He watched until the kite lost wind and did a nosedive into the yard. It was a sunny day and he stood there until the kite hit the ground. Then he went back into the house and slid the glass door closed.

The daddy lion closes his yawn. I look where he is looking and there is nothing. I thought he was looking at this little girl with a red balloon tied to her wrist, a red balloon floating above her, but the lion wasn’t looking at anything. I thought maybe he was looking at his own reflection in the glass, but he wasn’t. The lion was just looking out into nothing, like my dad was that day with the kite.

A Muntjac

WHEN WE TURN AROUND it’s rocks and glass, walls. I call them walls but there is no ceiling, so I’m not sure. I don’t know if walls need ceilings to be themselves. But inside of them, these walls or whatever they are, there’s an animal that looks like a deer but smaller, shrunken. I want to call it the shrunken deer or the pirate deer, but my dad says No. He says That is a munt-, a muntj-, but his voice goes out because he doesn’t know how to say it. A muntjac my mom says to him, and then to me: A muntjac. It’s like a case solved. Okay I say, and watch that pirate deer or shrunken deer as it stands by the water in the little pond.

When everyone was crying and drinking and they kept talking like I wasn’t there, that was called a wake. What is it? I said to my mom before we went and she said back to me A wake honey, it’s called a wake, and I said Okay. I was okay with it being a called a wake, but I didn’t want to wear a tie. The tie was black and skinny and made my neck itch. When I pulled at it in the car, on the way to this wake, my dad said Quit pulling at your goddamn collar, and I did.

At a red light I waited until the blinker was the only noise, its clicking sound, and I said You told me a wake was at the back of the boat, when we go fast. I thought that was a wake. My dad slammed his hand on the steering wheel and yelled Goddamn it, and my mom looked through him like she does, like there is something always behind him, past him. He slammed his hand, my dad, on the steering wheel, because of his brother and this wake. And they never answered my question, but I’m sure that a wake is those waves, behind the boat.

It would have to be a really tiny boat to make a wake in this pirate deer’s pond, in the water of this shrunken deer’s place. A muntjac. I don’t call it a muntjac in my head though because I don’t always have to do what they say.

The shrunken pirate deer has nice eyes, pretty eyes. I might call it the pretty-eyed deer. I don’t have to listen. I won’t. I can call animals whatever I want. This pond is probably too small for a wake anyway.

The Tiger

THERE IS A PATH with a hill where we go up, and at the top of the path are benches we never sit on. We never sit on these benches because this is by the start of the zoo and we aren’t tired yet. We have snacks packed too, so we don’t need to stop there, at the top of that hill, this path and those benches.

At the top of the path is the tiger. The orange tiger with black stripes and in front of it, what my mom calls a moat. She says Like castles. When I ask her why, she says To keep bad people out. And when I ask Why? again, she says I don’t know why honey.

But today the tiger isn’t here. I go to the short black fence with thick bars and I put my feet up on the cement, up on the step there, and I look into where the tiger should be. There are bushes and trees, rocks and more cement, but no tiger. Maybe it’s behind the rocks or in some of the shadows, but I look and don’t see it.

Where is the tiger? I ask, and my dad watches my mom, and no one says anything. There are a lot of times when no one talks, when I ask my mom or my dad a question and no one answers. They look at each other or at the floor or at me and no one talks. I don’t like that, when they look at each other or the floor or me and they don’t say a word. I want answers. I want them to talk to me.

Is it inside? I say,