Short Stories

Volume 4: 3 shorts from The Zoo, a Going

By JA Tyler

octopus1The Octopus

>> from The Zoo, a Going (forthcoming from Dzanc Books, fall 2013)

Sucking in and out, the eight legs of this octopus go, making the octopus swim.

Octopussy my dad says, and then laughs, and my mom hits him, and he rubs his arm. It is the same as I’ve seen before.

At school on the playground I hit a girl named Susan on the shoulder and she didn’t laugh or rub her arm. She kicked me between the legs and I almost puked on the gravel and I had to sit in the nurse’s station for the rest of the day. The nurse too she made me take aspirin, and I didn’t swallow right away so it melted a little on my tongue, and the taste of Susan landing her foot on my testicles was exactly the taste of aspirin.

I say testicles because my mom, when she used to give me baths, I’d say My balls are itchy and she’d say Don’t scratch them. And we say testicles.

But that day with Susan, when I got home from school, she told my dad about what happened, and he said Racked in the nuts huh? and I had no clue if nuts was better than balls so I just said Yeah and we both went on with what we were doing.

The Fish that are Invisible

>> from The Zoo, a Going (forthcoming from Dzanc Books, fall 2013)

There are some fish in these smaller tanks that are fish who barely exist. These are the fish I feel like I am. I always spend an extra second or two with them, like they are my brothers here, away from home in this zoo, looking out at me like the one who has all the freedom.

My mother says with a wink Huh, I don’t even see anything in here because she knows it will make me laugh, and she loves to hear me laugh. I love to hear you laugh she says, but I already know she does.

They are right there I say.

I lost them I say then, and laugh, and we both see that my dad has moved on to another tank with another animal in it, and he calls us to come look. Come over and look at this one, and we go because we had a moment enough for us, right there, neither one feeling invisible for a second.

The Not-Swimming Frogs

>> from The Zoo, a Going (forthcoming from Dzanc Books, fall 2013)

What my dad is pointing out to us is a glass of frogs in and out of the water but not swimming anywhere at all. These frogs are just pushed against the glass we are looking at, so we see their bellies running up and down the transparent wall. My dad loves these frogs, and every time we come here he calls us over from somewhere else, from the four-eyed fish or the moon-jellies, saying Come over and look at this.

My dad always has money for ice cream, and a toothpick in his pocket, and with the toothpick he makes a sucking sound, his tongue, and my mom, she glares at him because she hates that sound. Then they’ll hold hands anyway because they do love each other, some days. It just takes these swimming frogs for him to call her over, and for her to come when he calls. I am just a boy in times like this, holding her hand and her holding his and us connected like a string of arms.