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News & Features » November 2019 » “A Day at the Zoo” by Jennifer Furner

“A Day at the Zoo” by Jennifer Furner

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a day at the zoo doesn’t go as planned . . . 

A Day at the Zoo
by Jennifer Furner
Two-year-old

Parents: I unload Amelia from her car seat, gather her snack and water cups, and zip them away in the diaper bag. I place her sunglasses on her face and ask, “Who’s ready for a fun day at the zoo?”

Toddler: Amelia starts walking toward the playground that’s adjacent to the parking lot. “No, Amelia,” Chris says, “we’re going to see the animals.” Amelia points in the direction of the playground and pouts. “We can do the playground later,” I assure her, and scoop her up. She looks longingly over my shoulder toward the slides and swings as we move toward the zoo entrance.

Parents: The penguin exhibit has glass walls as tall as I am, full of water within a foot of the brim, open at the top. All the penguins are swimming in front of the glass, bobbing up and down on the surface or darting to and from the bottom, putting on a show. “Amelia, look at all the penguins! Look at them dive!” I say, awing at the frenzy of activity. Amelia walks right past me. 

Toddler: Amelia presses her hand on the glass of the next tank over and watches a single slow golden-orange fish putter back and forth, not unlike when we watch goldfish in their tanks at the grocery store. Then she takes off down a hallway, never stopping to see the penguins.

Parents: We chase Amelia to the tide pool, where every couple of minutes, a big “wave” splashes and churns up a cloud of foam. The octopus, its habitat adjacent to the tide pool, is usually impossible to spot, but today, it’s attached itself to the window, wiggling its tentacled arm like it is waving to us. I gasp. “Amelia, look at the octopus!”

Toddler: Though she usually doesn’t have the patience to hunt for the concealed cephalopod, she always delights in the big whoosh of the crashing tide. Today, however, she answers me with “No.” No to the octopus and the tide pool. “Back to penguins,” she demands. We head back the direction we came. “No,” she says again, “out the door.” She swiftly heads toward the exit as we canter to catch up. Once outside, she finds a family of penguin statues, all smooth bronze. She climbs in between them and gives the baby penguin a tender pat on its head, then smiles up at us proudly. She continues to pet the small penguin for an amount of time that starts to be uncomfortable. “You want to see the real penguins?” Chris asks. Again, she answers a curt “no” and pats some more.

Parents: I carry Amelia toward a fenced-in walkway where wallabies roam freely among the zoo guests. As we pull open the squeaky fence door, a young wallaby hops right across our path. Amelia’s eye lock on the bouncing creature and she smiles. Finally, I think to myself, she’s experiencing an actual animal. She scrambles to get out of my arms, and I’m certain she’ll creep over to this strange furry animal and pat it gently as she did the penguin statue.

Toddler: When her feet touch the concrete, she scurries over to the side, where a colorful banner hangs on the silver fence. “What’s that?!” she asks enthusiastically. Chris points to the smallest animal on the banner: “that’s a wallaby”; the middle animal: “that’s a wallaroo,” he reads; he points to the largest animal on the banner: “that’s a kangaroo.” Amelia repeats his pointing: “wallaby, wallaroo, kangaroo.” The wallaby hops within inches of Amelia, but she’s too busy admiring the banner. “Amelia look how close that wallaby is!” I say. She glances over her shoulder, then focuses back on the banner: “wallaby, wallaroo, kangaroo.” She chuckles happily.

Parents: “Let’s go see the farm exhibit,” I say to entice Amelia away from the banner. The big red barn is in sight, and chickens meander in front of us, clucking quietly as they scratch at the pavement. Goats, sheep, and cows all wait for excited children to come pet them.

Toddler: Before reaching the gate to the petting zoo, Amelia finds a staircase. She climbs up, holding firmly onto her dad’s hand. Once she reaches the top, she turns around and descends the way she came. At the bottom, Chris says, “Let’s go meet some goats,” to which Amelia gives her signature “no,” turns around, and ascends the staircase again.

Parents: “What do you want to see now, Amelia?”

Toddler: “Go to the playground?” 

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JENNIFER FURNER has her master’s in literature and she lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and daughter. She is a freelance writer and editor, a library employee, and is currently working on publishing her first memoir.

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Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Nov 26, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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