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This was a neat exercise for a writing class.  One meeting we were told to write twenty opening sentences without any regard to finishing the story.  The next meeting, the assignment was to take one of the sentences and write a story.  I picked the one least likely to make a story.

Black and White Taxi

They didn’t actually see the zebra in the cab.

But if they hadn’t seen it there, the pile it left behind gave strong evidence of it; or so their noses claimed.

“Did you see it go?  Which direction?”

“I think it turned left at Monkey Island, out toward the Lion’s Den.”

“Not again!  I wish we had never taught the damn thing to open doors.”

“Big laugh, huh.  Opening a door without opposable thumbs.”

“Don’t knock it.  We won the ten thousand on the TV show.”

Bill and Toddy were slowly walking to the Lion’s Den when the Administrator came up behind them.

“Who left the cab in the middle of the walkway?  People can’t get through to buy peanuts for the Elephant House.”

Bill blustered up and said unconvincingly, “It wasn’t our zebra.”

Toddy jabbed Bill’s shoulder, sighing, “Good job!  Don’t you have any sense?  Don’t you?”

“The zebra, you say?  I thought you blokes had learned your lesson last year with the giraffe that could limbo.  That reminds me; did you ever cover the cost of the neck braces?”

“Well that’s why we taught the zebra to open doors.  You know, to win enough money.”

“And what does that have to do with the cab?”

“Well,” Bill traced arcs in the gravel with the tip of his toes, “he, ... the zebra, I mean, likes to visit the Lion’s Den.  And, well, he doesn’t get a lot of exercise and it’s too far to walk.”

The Administrator was becoming a little hot, “What about…”

The vendor from the Elephant House came running up, “Did you see where he went?”

All three asked in unison, “Who?”

“The damn zebra!  I’ve been missing a box of jumbo peanuts every day for the last week.   Last year, I caught the giraffe sneaking them out by putting his head under the swinging doors.  I replaced them with full doors with locks.”

Bill asked, “How do you know it was our…I mean, how do you know it was the zebra?”

“Once you smell that, you know who did it!”

The vendor and administrator started arguing about who’s going to pay for the peanuts while Bill and Toddy ambled toward the turn at Monkey Island.

As soon as they turned and were out of sight, they broke into a run but came up short when they spotted the zebra.

Clyde, the zebra, was up on his hind legs leaning over the wall, looking down at the lion.

The large, shaggy maned cat was pacing back and forth, watching the zebra.  He didn’t appear to be mad; instead, he appeared to be waiting for something.

Clyde reached down to the opened box of jumbo peanuts and using the awkward looking contraption on his right hoof, he picked up a peanut and threw it at the lion.  The peanut bounced off the lion’s nose.

The lion roared and the zebra whinnied and somehow neither Bill nor Toddy felt there was any animosity in either animal.

The lion sniffed around until he found the nut and crunched it briefly and swallowed; it returned to pacing below the zebra, who tossed another goober.  This time the lion was on alert and snatched it in mid flight.  Both the Lion and zebra seemed to laugh at that.

Bill and Toddy felt hands sliding onto their shoulders. They turned to see the glare of the administrator’s eyes.  He wasn’t laughing.

“Well, this explains why the Lion hasn’t eaten meat in a week.  What is Clyde trying to do, make him into a vegetarian?”

Toddy said, “Yeah.  He thinks that the world would be a better place if everyone were vegetarian.”

Bill added, “He's going to convert the world, one lion at a time.”

The administrator stood between the two, turned them around and started walking away from the Lion’s Den, “You two have done enough harm for now.  You’ll have to go back.”

Bill squirmed and the administrator’s hand clapped down harder.  “Do we have to?  How long?”

“At least a month.  Besides Monkey Island isn’t the same without you.”

Bill asked, “Can we go through the tunnel?” and received another jab to his shoulder from Toddy.

“Thanks, I forgot.”  The administrator held out his hand, “Key, please.”

Toddy was downhearted, “But that means we will have to swim.  We don’t like the water.”

“That’s why the water is there.”

They approached Monkey Island exhibit. and the two walked ahead of the administrator, their arms entwined.

Bill whispered, “Do you think he knows about the duplicate key?”

 ©February, 2005 Fred (Woody) Hendrick


Let me know what you think and don't worry, I have a thick hide.  Woody