Another week, another fic challenge from Terrible minds.
He is on a bit of a random kick. This time, it is eight random words:
And you must choose four of these and incorporate them into a piece of flash fiction no more than 1000 words long, posted at your blog or online space by Friday, June 8th, at noon.
AHHH Heck. I used them ALL! But in a little more than 780 words.
He was leaning too far over the edge of the pit, in her opinion.
“Be careful!” She grabbed the back of his hoodie and hauled him backwards. Why did he even have a hoodie on? It was so warm today.
The drink in his hand sloshed in its container, the lid came off and liquid spilt down her leg.
“Ewwww. You spilt your milkshake all over me. Now I will have to have a bath when I get home.”
“Not my fault,” he wailed. “You grabbed me.”
“Of course I did. You could have fallen. You want to end up in a wheelchair?”
It was a rhetorical question. His eyes narrowed at her. “You’re a bully,” he declared. He shifted his shoulders sullenly. “I wasn’t going to fall.”
“I am a babysitter,” she corrected.
“Bully,” he mumbled. “I am not a baby.”
“You are a little kid. You are supposed to like the zoo.” She made it sound as if it was his fault.
“This zoo is wrong.”
“Wrong?” She wiped her leg with a crumpled tissue. She looked at it and clearly thought better of returning the now, soggy tissue to her bag. She looked around for witnesses and shoved it into a nearby flowerpot.
He glared at her. “A litterer and a bully.”
She rolled her eyes. “Always with the drama.” She gave him a second glance, and then sighed. “Why?”
“Why is this zoo wrong?” she clarified.
“Traditional,” she argued.
She glared at him again. She wondered why she could not have a normal kid to babysit. She had to get the ‘little professor’. And it was Samuel, never Sam or heaven forbid, Sammie.
“I am not a zoo heretic,” he expanded. “The cages are old, out-of-date, inappropriate and poorly maintained.”
Her mouth quirked. Heretic, honestly. “Uh-huh.”
“Look! That is a Bengal tiger. A forest creature, in a cramped concrete cage with a pond too small for it to get in, let alone swim through.”
She looked where he was pointing. She kind of saw his point. “Cats don’t like water.”
“Tigers do.” He took a breath. “The Bengal tiger,” he recited, “has a habitat of dry and wet deciduous forests, grassland and temperate forests, and mangrove forests.”
“Like a swamp?” That cage didn’t look anything like a swamp; it barely had any greenery. “Oh.” A pause. “The poor thing.”
“Indeed. That cage is singularly inappropriate for a Bengal tiger.”
“You’re right,” a voice interrupted them.
A man in a khaki uniform was looking at Samuel with admiration. “But you know what?” The man crouched down to be more the height of the small child.
Samuel shook his head.
“We have had a big fundraiser to build her a new enclosure.”
“It’s almost ready.” He looked around and then whispered conspiratorially, “Would you like to see it?”
Samuel’s face lit up. “Would I?” He grabbed her hand. “Come on, Jesse.”
The zookeeper gave her a smile.
“She’s my babysitter even though I am NOT a baby,” Samuel explained.
“I can see that. Babies don’t know about tigers.”
“No, they don’t.”
Jesse was dragged along as Samuel launched into a battery of questions. The keeper answered them all and didn’t talk ‘down’ to him or simplify his language.
“Thank you,” Jesse mouthed at him over Samuel’s head.
The more questions he asked, the more she understood that Samuel was not just an irritating kid; he was extremely intelligent, with a memory that bordered on photographic. She gained a new respect for him. He even looked uncharacteristically childlike as he bounded around inside the new enclosure pretending to be a tiger.
“Asperger’s?” the keeper asked her.
“Yes. That’s what his parents told me.”
A nod. “My little brother was like that, but his special interest topic was trains.”
She laughed. “He likes trains too. Especially-”
“Thomas the Tank Engine,” they both said. They laughed.
“He’ll get better with age. He may learn to be social.”
Somehow she doubted it, but now she half hoped she might be around to see it. “Thanks again.”
“You’re welcome. Bring him back later next week. The move day is set for Tuesday.”
“I’d like to do that.” She glanced at the boy. “And I know that Samuel would love to.”
He nodded. “Ask for Daniel.”
“Samuel! We need to go now.”
“I understand.” He prowled over and stopped in front of them. He held his hand out. “It’s been a pleasure,” he stated.
Daniel shook it earnestly. “Until we meet again.”
Jesse hid her smile.
Daniel winked at her.
Samuel told her even more information about tigers on the bus ride home. She listened carefully and asked questions.