The Zoo Man, Pt. 2

Hannah couldn’t go to see the Zoo Man’s procession into town. Her mother had forbidden it, had told her that she’d needed to stay in the house and mind her little brother David. “We’re a good, hard-working Christian family, Hannah. Your father and your brother are out in the fields, I’ve got to tend the animals, and you’ve got to the watch David. We don’t have no time for traveling con men.”

She looked down at David, just five years old and grinning at her like the boys in school had grinned after they’d shoved someone into a mud puddle or put a worm in Sadie Wilkins’s hair, grinning that mean grin that said, “Yeah, I know I hurt you, and damned if it isn’t just the funniest thing ever.”

“But Mama,” Hannah whined, “can’t you just watch him for fifteen minutes? Just fifteen minutes so I can go see the wagons? I’ll come right back, I swear I will!”

“No, you won’t, Hannah Haller. You think I don’t know what little girls are like? I used to be one, you know. Now you stay in the house and mind your brother, and don’t make me tell you again.” And with that, Mama walked outside, a big bowl of scraps for the pigs cradled in her arms. Hannah watched her go, her fists balled up tight, thinking Why do I have to watch some little kid? I’m thirteen years old! I’m a woman! I want to go see the Zoo Man like everybody else.

Hell, I bet Mama’s going to go see the Zoo Man. I bet she’s going to feed the pigs, go see all the fuss, and not even feed the chickens or the goats until she gets back. I bet–

Behind her, David coughed. She turned and looked down at the child, frowned. “I want to play,” he said, looking up at her and grinning that mean-spirited grin.

She stared at him for a moment, then returned it. “I got something even better we can do.”

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