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The Short Form

“At the Zoo”

Caitlin Horrocks

Excerpt

“Most of the time animals don’t say much worthwhile,” the grandfather explains. “Anteaters just say, ‘Ants! Ants! Ants!’ And owls say, ‘Fly! Hunt! Fly!’ And mice say, ‘I’m small! I’m frightened! Oh no! An owl! I’m fright—slurp.’”

I’m small! I’m frightened! The boy thinks that this is what he feels sometimes, like when other children in daycare take his crayons, when the kids at the dentist threaten to bite. He pictures mice and thinks first, “I’m sorry you’re small and frightened; we are the same.” Then he thinks, “Not the same. I am much bigger than you. I could hurt you. Perhaps you should be frightened.” The boy is startled to hear these thoughts inside of him, this excitement at the capcity for harm. “Ants ants ants ants ants ants ants,” he whispers on the way to the next enclosure, making a long nose with his arm. He waves the anteater snout in front of him. 

“You want to go back to the elephants?” his mother guesses.

The boy is disappointed in her. “Anteater,” he explains.