Friday, August 5, 2011

Meggy & the Meerkat

Her mother had barely put the minivan in park before Meggy was unbuckling and clamoring to get out of the childlocked doors. It was Meggy’s birthday, and thus, the family’s annual trip to the zoo. But this year, the cake, presents, and balloons weren’t what had Meggy in a tizzy. This year, Meggy was prepared. As the family arrived, she had finished reading the last page of Doctor Dolittle.

As her parents paid for the tickets, Meggy hopped from one foot to another, waiting for the moment when she’d be set free to conduct her experiment. After what seemed like a-whole-nother year, the short gate swung open, and Meggy took off sprinting, her pigtails flapping wildly in the wind.

Meggy arrived at the giraffes on the shaded, wooden platform, panting for air. She saw a giraffe poking its head over the guardrail, eagerly accepting crackers and lettuce from a passel of small children.  “HEY!” she screamed, dashing to the group. “HEY YOU!” The children looked at her with wide eyes, paralyzed with terror. But Meggy wasn’t talking to them. She was talking to the giraffe. “TALK TO ME!” she yelled. The giraffe batted his long eyelashes and chewed his cud, mulling over the possibilities for handling this brazen imp. After a few seconds, he turned and plodded away.

Meggy was furious. This was supposed to work! She made a mental note to find John Dolittle and sue him for false advertising.

But Meggy was a tenacious little whippersnapper, and she ran from exhibit to exhibit, vehemently demanding that each animal engage in conversation with her.

By the time she got to the meerkats, she was exhausted, and she was livid. She pressed her nose to the plexiglass and pounded it with her fist. “TALK—TO—ME,” she bellowed, using her fist to emphasize each word. The meerkats paid her no attention whatsoever; they continued their designated activities.

Meggy had had enough. She plopped down on the sidewalk, banged her forehead against the plexiglass, and shrieked.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

At that, all the meerkats stopped what they were doing and looked at her. A couple of the young pups darted into their holes. And suddenly, Meggy was making eye contact with a pudgy meerkat with his nose pressed against the plexiglass, staring at her.

“Would you please stop that infernal screeching?” he said quietly.

Meggy didn’t know what to say, so she merely stared back, her mouth hanging open.

“What on earth possessed you to reach that decibel and frequency?” he asked. Meggy was pretty sure he had his little paws on his hips. Was his foot tapping, too?

“I’m sorry,” she finally managed to say. “I just wanted to be able to talk to animals, like Dr. Dolittle.”

“Well,” the meerkat replied, “I don’t know who this Dr. Dolittle is, but his methods are highly ineffective. And I can assure you that the rest of the animals in this zoo won’t tolerate this behavior as diplomatically as we have.”

Meggy looked at the rest of the meerkats gathered behind him, and noted that they were all nodding their heads in agreement. “I’m sorry,” she said, standing up. “It won’t happen again.”

“I would certainly hope not,” the meerkat said, crossing his paws over his chest. “Good day.”

Dazed, Meggy wandered back to find her parents. She had been most unimpressed with her first conversation in the animal kingdom, and a vague sense of annoyance began to settle over her. She shrugged and kicked a rock. “Who cares what some stinky little rats have to say, anyways?” she muttered to no one in particular.


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