The Inherent Creepiness of Flamingos

8 Mar

Let me set the scene. The place: Zoo Atlanta. The year: 2000, ish. The characters: a large group of kids, a harried teacher, and one scared little boy. Ready for the story?

After staying a moment too long with his 7-year-old nose plastered to the glass window at the far side of the flamingo enclosure, the tow-headed child turned to see his classmates had vanished.

This is a big deal when you’re a kid. Remember that feeling when you lost your mom in the grocery store when you were young? Yeah, imagine that feeling of aloneness, and add a flock of birds standing on one leg just over your shoulder.  Got it? Ok, let’s continue.

This is a world-savvy kid, so once he edged away from the avian pool, he found an official looking sort of man in a khaki vest. The boy told the man his plight, and the man leapt into action (if your definition of leapt means talking quickly into a radio). The man lead the boy a few feet away to the elephant viewing platform, and together they watched the African beasts nibble on freshly planted trees.

No one came for the boy. Minutes passed and no frantic teacher came rushing around the corner. More minutes passed and no chorus of child voices could be heard calling his name. A few more minutes passed, and the man began to get uneasy.

He looked at the boy and thought for a minute. He put a hand on the child’s shoulder and led him to a kiosk of brochures. Near the kiosk stood a souvenir penny machine. The man dug out a penny and two quarters, and fed the machine. He motioned for the boy to turn the crank, and they watched as the gears smashed the coin flat and engraved the face of a gorilla. The coin dropped into the vending tray. The boy knelt and retrieved it.

It was the coolest penny he’d ever seen.

That penny still sits on my now-grown brother’s nightstand. And yes, we eventually got him back from that ill-fated field trip. He’s still uneasy around flamingos though, for whatever reason.

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