The Citizen (thecitizen) wrote in theshortstory,
The Citizen


OK, well, this community is almost dead. I know it just got started. But. Anyway, I guess I won't scrap it until the end of this semester, at least.

Anyway, here's the beginning of a story I'm working on. It's not remotely done yet, but I figured I should have SOMETHING in class just in case I have to read.

Jennifer hated the National Zoo. She hated it more than any other place she could name. She hated it more than Wal-mart, more than strip malls, and more than Chuckie-Cheese’s.
She didn’t always hate it so much. Somewhere in her mind, she recalled a distant memory of tumbling out of a minivan and dashing off to the exhibits, trying to climb over the railing and teasing the prairie dogs when they popped under their underground homes. How did her mother do it? She’d take seven children to the zoo at once, one in a backpack and one in a stroller, and probably with two others complaining of tired legs. It was all Jennifer could do to handle this one three-year old.
Just one angelic, blond three-year old with crooked teeth and big blue eyes. Jennifer though she was cute, at first, and was pleased to be tending Shirley Temple’s modern look-alike. Erin got less charming the longer you knew her, however, and by mid July Jennifer had daily feelings of loathing, weekly thoughts of quitting. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t, save for the weekly paycheck, and the few moments per day when Erin actually behaved like a human child, instead of some misplaced banshee.
Erin’s favorite thing to do was go to the zoo. If she took it into her head that she wanted to see the baby elephant, she shouted and fussed until it was no longer worthwhile to resist. Jennifer had tried to redirect the child’s attention, suggesting activity after activity, but nothing but the zoo would do.
"Get in the stroller."
"Get in the stroller or we aren’t going to the zoo."
"I don’t wanna!"
"You don’t want to go to the zoo?" Jennifer leaned a hand on the stroller’s handle, and turned it around. "Fine. Let’s go home."
"Then get in the stroller, already."
Erin hesitated further, until Jennifer simply picked up the girl and bodily placed her in the stroller, buckling the straps around her before she could squirm out.
"When I tell you to get in the stroller, you get in the stroller, do you understand?"
Jennifer had gone though this so many times before, but nothing would make Erin respect her authority. She was such a spoiled brat. Jennifer looked forward eagerly to when Erin’s mother would bear her second child, and Erin would learn that the universe did not revolve around her.
Jennifer put her ticket into the gate and pushed the stroller through onto the Mezzanine floor. She felt the plastic barriers click back into place just behind her, barely making it. Whoever designed the metro certainly didn’t make things easy for people pushing strollers. The elevators were out half the time, too, which meant that she would have to haul Erin out of the stroller, coax her onto the escalator, and then put her back in the stroller once on the platform. She sighed with relief when she saw that they were working, at the time.
Getting on the metrotrain was another hassle entirely. Erin’s stroller was an unwieldy truck, and two cyclists were already taking up the space at the front of the car. Jennifer at last wedged the stroller into the aisle, ignoring the glares she got from passengers who glared at her. If they wanted to sit at the back of the car, they shouldn’t have gone through the front door.
Erin took the seat near the window, clutching her Mrs. Beasely doll. Mrs. Beasely was possibly the ugliest doll in the universe. She had yellow shoes, a blue jumpsuit polka-dotted with white, and stiff yellow hair. It wasn’t the outfit that made the doll ugly, however, it was the forced-cheerfulness of Mrs. Beasley’s smile, and the too-wide blue eyes. Jennifer thought Mrs. Beasely looked as though she ought to be Chucky’s bride. Look who’s talking now.
When Jennifer finished locking the stroller’s wheels and sat down next to Erin, the child scowled.
"You can’t sit there," she said, poking Jennifer in the thigh.
"There’s nobody else sitting here."
"That’s Mrs. Beasely’s seat."
"Not anymore, it isn’t." There had been a time when Jennifer would try to reason with the child, but three-year olds aren’t very adept at logic. Especially this one.
"That’s Mrs. Beasely’s seat!"
"Erin, the metro is too full for Mrs. Beasely to have her own seat. Look at all those people who are standing up. It wouldn’t be fair if Mrs. Beasely was taking up a whole seat and making everybody stand. She’ll just have to sit on your lap."
Erin threw Mrs. Beasely to the floor.
"Fine, then, she’ll ride in the stroller," Jennifer said, picking the doll up and throwing it into the stroller seat.
"No!" Erin screamed, reaching over her nanny’s lap to retrieve the doll.
"Then keep her in your lap. And don’t throw her to the floor, that’s not how we treat our friends."
"Go away."
"Not until seven o’clock, Erin. You know the rules. And don’t you talk to me that way."
It was a long train ride. It was going to be a longer day.
The nearest metro stop to the National Zoo is Woodley Park/Adams Morgan, which is about three blocks downhill from the entrance. This meant pushing a 40-pound three year old in an 8-pound stroller up the dilapidated sidewalk, inhaling the exhaust from the cars that inched along Connecticut Avenue. The air was, as the weathermen in the DC area liked to say when they thought they were being cute, the 3 H’s, hazy hot and humid. Jennifer thought that the weather in Hell must be very much like the weather in the district. And the weathermen there will probably be just as smug.
"I want my bubble water," Erin demanded when they were halfway to the zoo. Bubble water was her parent’s term for the diluted seltzer water the girl guzzled in large quantities. She was probably the only three year old in the world addicted to seltzer water. Nasty stuff. Jennifer couldn’t stand it. She dug through the stroller’s pouch until she found the cup, and handed it to the girl.
Erin shook it. “I want bubble water with ICE."
"I don’t have any ice."
"But I want it!" That was Erin’s answer to everything. Her want was the highest law, and it didn’t matter that it was impossible for Jennifer to obtain ice, standing there on the side of Connecticut Avenue. She wanted ice, and so she must have it.
"You’ll just have to deal without it."
"JENNY! I WANT ICE!" Erin strained against the straps that bound her in the stroller.
"I don’t have any! There was ice in there when we left, it probably just melted. It’s still cold. Just drink it."
Erin threw the sippy cup down onto the pavement before her.
"Erin Jane Branaugh, don’t you throw things," berated Jennifer, picking up the sippy cup and cleaning the top with the bottom of her shirt. She tossed it into the stroller’s pouch, and began pushing the girl up the hill with renewed vigor.
"Give me my bubble water!"
"No, you’re just going to throw it again."
"I won’t!"
"That’s what you said when you wanted Teddy this morning, and then you threw him down the stairs."
"I want Teddy."
"We left Teddy at home. You threw him down the stairs."
"Erin, are you going to act like this at the zoo?" Jennifer stopped the stroller, and walked around in front of it to kneel down and look the little girl in the eyes. "because if you are, we’re turning around and going home RIGHT NOW."
"I don’t want to go home." Erin looked precariously close to tears.
"Then you have to be a good girl. Tell me you’re going to be a good girl, or I’ll turn around and we’ll take the train home."
"I’ll be good."
"Okay, now say you’re sorry."
"I’m sorry."
"Better. Now do you want your sippy cup?"
"Alright, then. Tell me when you do. Your mom doesn’t want you to get dehydrated."
Jennifer began pushing the stroller up the hill again. It was pretty unlikely that Erin would ever get dehydrated while at the zoo, no matter how hot it was outside. She spent the entire time in the stroller, being pushed around by Jennifer.
Even once when the front wheel on the stroller broke, Erin wouldn’t get out and walk, so she had to push the stroller so that it was cocked up on its two back wheels, but not so far that Erin would be afraid and scream "Put me back down!". Erin was doomed to be a fat, lazy teenager, Jennifer decided. And her mom would do her homework for her, since Erin’s mom was even more of a pushover than her dad was.
She could just imagine the four of them being put in the zoo, themselves. The plaque on the side of their cage would read "Dysfunctional family and incompetent Nanny. Do not throw food or taunt."

I should stop being quite so autobiographical in my stories....
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