You Run Into Some Real Animals At The Zoo

, , , , , | Friendly | November 20, 2020

My family rents a large house for a week on Cape Cod to celebrate my grandfather’s seventy-fifth birthday. There are about fourteen of us staying here. I, as the oldest of my grandfather’s grandchildren by far, am the one looking after my younger cousins the most, but I don’t really mind, since most of the kids pair up quite nicely age-wise with one of their cousins.

One day, as a day trip, I take my aunt’s new ten-year-old stepson — [Cousin #1] — and my seven-year-old cousin — [Cousin #2] — to the zoo, which is about an hour away. They are surprisingly well-behaved so the drives there and back are quite uneventful.

It is worth noting here that [Cousin #2] was born with several disabilities, including severe lazy eye, missing fingers, and limited use of one leg. She cannot take more than a few steps at a time and usually prefers to use forearm crutches, as she was on that day.

We get to the zoo and spend most of the day there. We pick up some cheeseburgers from a drive-thru on the way to eat at lunch. We sit down in a quiet area away from the crowds to eat lunch.

As we are eating, an old lady who is there with what appear to be her toddler grandchildren walks over to us. She begins talking to [Cousin #2], saying quite rude things about how little children shouldn’t be wearing glasses, how her hair is too long to be becoming for a little girl, and how her very pale complexion indicates she ought to go outside more.

Then, she notices my cousin’s crutches, which she has propped up against the bench right next to her, and the obvious brace on her leg.

Woman: “You should stop eating that burger, dearie. Otherwise, you’ll be too heavy to use your crutches.”

Perhaps it is the really calm way in which she says it, or perhaps it’s that [Cousin #2] is really absent-minded, but she very politely and enthusiastically says:

Cousin #2: “Actually, I have a really high metabolism. That means that I eat a lot of food just to keep my body warm. My mom says that when I become a teenager I’ll probably be eating double what she eats.”

The woman looks taken aback, which the kids seem to interpret as confusion.

Cousin #1: “No, metabolism is a real thing. My dad says it’s not fair because I eat like two teenage boys and never gain weight and he eats like a normal man and is kinda fat.”

The woman doesn’t seem to have noticed [Cousin #1] up until this point. She looks at him, a short, skinny black kid, and then at [Cousin #2] and me, very pale kids with similar shades of blond hair and rather similar faces. About the only thing we have in common appearance-wise with [Cousin #1] is that his glasses looked quite similar to [Cousin #2]’s. The old woman turns to [Cousin #1].

Woman: “Are you all right, dearie? Have you been kidnapped by this man? I’ll call for help, shall I?”

Cousin #1: “No, I’m their step-cousin. My dad married their aunt.”

[Cousin #2] raises her hand, which is missing a few fingers and has a rather unconventional shape, and points at [Cousin #1].

Cousin #2: “Yeah, he’s our step-cousin, but we usually call him just our cousin because…”

She trailed off as she saw the old woman’s eyes grow wide at the sight of my cousin’s hand. The old woman picked up the toddlers and walked off in a hurry. That did hurt my cousin a bit, but after some ice cream, she seemed to have gotten over it.

Indeed, that evening after dinner, she confided in me that she had a new idea for her Halloween costume. “I’m gonna be a pirate,” she said, “because if my normal hand scares adults away already, then if I get a hook hand, I can scare all the adults! Then, my friends and I will get all the candy!” She then attempted her scariest evil laugh, which would have been more threatening if she weren’t wearing glasses, her mouth had all its teeth in it, and she wasn’t giggling while she did it.

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