A trip to the Zoo!

Chapter One: The Zoo Trip

It was a beautiful day outside, Josh look out the window, the amazing sun was just rising over the
East. His days of school were through for the summer and he had 3 months of fun ahead of him. His
dad would be home too so he could play baseball with his dad. His dad had been sick a few years ago,
real bad when he was about 4 years old. He doesn’t remember it much but he sees the pictures of his
dad when they let him leave the hospital. He loved his dad but worried about him, some days he wasn’t
feeling well and would stay at home because it was easier for him. Today was different, today they
were going to a zoo .
Sometimes he would go down with his dad to Chucky Cheese and they would play race car games and
other games like skeet ball. He would get a lot of tickets but it seemed like he never got anything really
cool, maybe a spider or a sticker but never anything really cool. He had a Wii at home and a few other
games but he certainly wasn’t spoiled. He went to a great school though, the school was a Jewish
school and he has gone there for a few years now. His best friend David was fun to play with, especially
when they started doing kick fighting. Today was different though today he was going with his dad to
the Zoo. He went to the zoo before when he was a little boy but doesn’t really remember it too
much..the zoo he went to was in San Diego and had lots of cool animals to look at. He especially liked
the flamingos which were right at the entrance to the park. They had so many neat colors on them and
there were also a lot of monkeys in the zoo. Spider monkeys were his favorite but he also liked the
baboons and gorillas. So who knows what he might see today!

He and his dad loaded up the car and stopped by the gas station and got gas….”Dad’? he asked.
“Why do you have to put gas in the car, it has an engine doesn’t it? “ His dad laughed and said “Of
course Josh but we have to put gas in it so it can run, they don’t use rubber bands or anything“. He
laughed and put the gas cap back on as Josh leaned out over the car door. Running back around he got
back in the car and started it up..”And…..we’re off!” Josh was excited it had been so many years since
he had been to the zoo. He absolutely loved animals especially the primate ones. He learned all about
primates from his teacher, Mrs. Butterfield. She was a great teacher, she taught the class how to do all
kinds of fun stuff like making pictures with their hands and writing their own stories. Last year when he
was 8 he wrote a story about his grandfather Tom. He did really well and won 1st in the class for
stories. That was exciting! His dad veered on the freeway and they started driving, passing buses and
other cars and even some cars that were pulling big boats. “Josh, you have to promise me something,
when we go into the zoo you have to stay by my side. There are lots of people there and I really don’t want
to lose you at all!” Josh looked over at his dad, smiled and said “Of course dad, I won’t get lost and Ill
stick right close by”. They kept driving for what seemed miles and miles and miles. It was 2 hours of
driving nonstop and josh was already getting tired. His dad looked at him and could see his eyes starting
to close. He let Josh sleep for another half hour until they finally pulled into the zoo! Josh’s dad nudged
And said” We have finally arrived!”

Chapter two: Zoo At Last

Josh woke up with a jolt and looked out the window. There was
the zoo in all it’s glory! The Big sign that sat over the front of the zoo said “Welcome to the Asheboro
North Carolina Zoo!” “WoooHOOo” yelled Josh and jumped out of the car and jumped up and dad
waiting for his dad to get out.” “C’mon dad let’s do this!” He learned this in his karate class…sometimes
he would try and get his dad to fight and would say “Let’s do this dad” His dad usually laughed and let
Josh hit him a couple times and then he would have to sit down. His dad was 48 but he wasn’t as fast as
he used to be from what he always said. Josh didn’t mind, he was just glad they finally made it to the
zoo. It was just opening and he and his dad were the first in line to get tickets. “That will be 42 dollars”
said a face behind the glass. Josh’s eyes got wide…wow that was almost half of what he had in his
savings account. He actually had about 110.00 he had saved from this and that and sometimes his dad
would look at him and give him 5 dollars for no reason. He usually said that’s ok but his dad gave it to
him anyway. The zoo was amazing! They walked in through the gates and the first thing they saw were
the really colorful looking flamingos. They all stood on one leg and had all kinds of water around them,
it was a pond and some of them were actually in the pond standing on a leg. They looked like flowers on
a stick poking up out of the water. Josh leaned in over the railing to look at one and he thought one of
them actually cocked its head to one side and looked at him. “That was cool!” he exclaimed. His dad was
busy looking off something else that looked like a donkey or something pulling a little wagon. Distracted
Josh looked at the donkey and saw the wagon and sitting in the wagon was a small monkey with a hat
on its head. The hat looked like a little sombrero and sure made the monkey look funny. Josh laughed
and his dad did too. Monkeys are so funny he thought and the monkey looked up and caught Josh’s
eye. Immediately he looked down in the wagon and grabbed something and looked back up. The little
monkey pulled his arm back and threw a peanut at Josh, then another and another. It didn’t hurt but
Josh’s dad sure got a good laugh out of it. Josh looked at his dad, grinned and said “Hey, that wasn’t
funny dad”! His dad just laughed and said “OK, let’s go see some more stuff!” Joshed took one more
look at the funny monkey and ran to catch up with his dad… He really liked monkeys! “Let’s see some
more of those crazy monkeys dad! They are sooo funny!” He yelled. His dad replied “OK let’s head won
to the monkey place, but first we need to get some peanuts so we can feed them.” “Monkeys love
peanuts so maybe we can feed them.” “Yea cool, let’s do that dad”.

Chapter3 The Monkeys

The monkey pen was located way down this path that seemed like it took forever, they walked and
walked, a bus carrying people passed them and Josh’s dad looked up at everyone and saw they were
waving at them… With a cloud of smoke the bus rolled on down the path leaving Josh and his dad
watching as the people smiled and waved from the back of the bus. “How much farther dad”? Josh
said. He was starting to get a little tired but not even too tired. He had too much to see and too much
to do. He really wanted to take a look at the monkeys and maybe even get to look at some other cool
animals like elephants and giraffes. He had seen some giraffes on TV and even his teacher had shown
the class some of them on a movie they had watched. The necks were so long and they had all these
spots and stuff and Josh really thought they were so cool. They were unusually tall and seemed to have
a lot of spots too. The spots were brown and their legs looked so skinny. He really wondered how
those legs could hold up a big tall giraffe but they did. They continued down the path until they finally
could see another part of the zoo. The path had wound down and around through trees and shrubs and

finally it spilled out into the part of the zoo that had all the animals that had hair. There were
monkeys, type and all kinds of different types. Some of the monkeys were big and others were oh sooo
small. Josh liked the small ones, especially the monkeys that climbed around and swung from branches
and even had swings in the cages, he was having such a great time and he had just gotten to the zoo.
“Dad, he said breathlessly” when are we going to see the monkeys?” His dad looked over at him, out of
breath himself from walking fast down the hill. “We are there, just around the bend I think.” They
continued walking a few more feet and there they were, at the end of the path. This was the area of the
zoo that all the crazy monkeys were but his dad wasn’t sure which way to go, left or right, so he took out
the zoo map, the one he had tucked in his back pocket and studied it for a minute. “OK, he said after a
minute, “We just need to follow this map to we have to go left and then the monkeys are about 200 feet
down. “ They followed the map, Josh was excited and started to run leaving his dad gasping for air as he
tried to catch up. Josh could run pretty fast and had even ran 4 races before back home with his dad.
The races were 3 miles and he beat his dad every time, he was a quick runner and really liked running a
lot. In fact he liked most sports except fishing because that was boring and the worms smelled so bad!
They finally rounded a bend and then they saw it, a huge cage with lots and lots of monkeys all swinging
from branches of little trees. The cage was gigantic, like a little monkey city where they could swing
from trees and eat bananas and throw peanuts at people. The trees were big, almost all the way to
the top of the cage and as Josh looked he could see a monkey way on top of a branch. The monkey
looked funny up there, he was so small and had little beady eyes that looked all down around. It saw
Josh and all of a sudden started chattering. The noise was so loud even josh thought his ears would
burst. The monkey leaped from a branch and swung down on a limb closer to josh. He looked hard
And then jumped the cage even closer to Josh’s face. Josh’s dad half yelled “: Look out”! The monkey put
Its long arm through the cage trying to get something. It was the bag of peanuts they had bought on the
way down the path. Josh’s dad laughed as the monkey grabbed at thin air trying to get the bag of
peanuts. Josh moved back and put the bag behind his back leaving the monkey staring at him in
disbelief. The monkey jumped back on a branch still looking at josh and started scratching under his arm
with his other long hairy left arm. He was so funny Josh thought but he really wants my bag of peanuts.
He grabbed a handful of peanuts and threw one at the monkey. The furry little primate grabbed the
peanut with a long arm and stuck it in his mouth and Josh could hear the crack of the shell as the peanut
cracked in the monkey’s mouth. How fun this was for Josh, he loved the zoo, he never wanted to leave!
The monkeys in the cage were all crowding around the other monkey looking for peanuts. Josh grabbed
some more peanuts and one by one threw peanuts at the monkeys. One by one they all grabbed the
peanuts and munched them down. Finally Josh noticed he had run out of peanuts for the monkeys. He
really liked feeding them, they were so funny as they grabbed the peanuts with those long hairy arms.
“OK, son, where to now?” His dad said. “How about the elephants or we could go check out the
Giraffes.” “Giraffes, giraffes!” Josh almost screamed. He really wanted to see the giraffes, they looked
like they were so big and had those long long legs. “OK, let’s g see some giraffes” his dad replied
quickly. He looked back at his trusty map and started walking back the way they had come. Josh
followed looking eagerly for where the giraffes were. His dad said” “We have to go down here”.
Pointing to a path that led down another path to the left. Josh followed quickly and they followed a
path down down until it finally took them out to a place that looked like a big clearing. It looked like it
was a big field but he couldn’t see any giraffes. He saw huge trees, gigantic trees that looked more like
Eucalyptus trees or something, they were very tall and had leaves all over them. But he saw no

Chapter four: “Giraffes at last!

Josh craned his head to look for the giraffes over the barrier they had set up. It was a long fence actually
and about 4 ft. tall. He looked and looked but nowhere did he see a single giraffe. His dad said quietly
“Shhhhh, I hear something”. Josh continued looking over the barrier and although he saw nothing but
a huge clearing and then a whole bunch of trees he could hear something ever so faint. It sounded like
footsteps but it was more like the ground was shaking then really a noise. There were other people
around too but they were being very quiet too. The ground began to shake and Josh heard what
sounded like thunder. There was a guide there who worked for the park but he was smiling and looking
off into the clearing. All of a sudden three huge animals came trotting out into the clearing on gangly
legs that made them look like they were wobbling. Josh never saw such a site in his life. Three huge
giraffes, two of them about 2 feet taller than the last one. Josh gasped “Wow!” He had seen giraffes on
TV and eve in a movie his teacher had shown his class but never knew they were this big. They had to
be over 15 ft. tall and their necks were ginormous! Josh’s dad looked down at his son watching him as he
marveled over the size of the huge animals. All Josh could do was look as say “Wow”! They were
absolutely beautiful he thought. “Now those are really cool” his dad said and smiled as he looked at the
large giraffes. The giraffes stop at one of the big trees and the rumbling ground became quiet once
again. They ripped of leaves and began munching on them. Josh couldn’t believe how long their necks
were and the legs looked so skinny. He still wondered how they could possibly hold themselves up. It
really was amazing. The zoo guide finally spoke. “Hello folks, welcome to the zoo, these giraffes have
been with us since birth and have enjoyed living here for years. The smaller one is actually the offspring
of the other two giraffes and is now 6 years old” Pretty big for a six year old huh’? He laughed at looked
at Josh “And how old might you be young man?” Josh looked up “9 years old sir!” The guide said
“Wow well, you’re older then Sally, do you know what a giraffe uses his tongue for?” Josh shook his
head. “Well, a giraffe actually uses his tongue so he can get rid of bugs and it helps so he doesn’t get
hurt while he’s eating leaves. They also eat a lot of leaves every day, like over 25 pounds!” Wow! Josh
exclaimed that’s alot of food. “Yes it is young man and the male giraffe is called a bull while a female is
called a cow”. If you look at the information card there on the rails you can see some other really
interesting facts about giraffes, they really are very neat animals and are also very gentile.” Thank you so
much for r coming to see us!” the guide finished by giving a wink to Josh. Josh really liked the giraffes, they
looked so big but they were really friendly. He never knew they were so big and that was really cool.
His dad spoke up. Ok son well, that was a lot of fun, whatcha want to do now?” Josh could feel a
rumbling in his stomach, it had been early morning since he ate and he was totally starving! “Let’s go
eat! I’m starving dad.” His dad looked around and then pulled out the map, checked it out real quick and
said “c’mon”.. They walked down the laid out path again away from the giraffes which Josh had to look
back at once last time “Bye Giraffes, bye Sally!” The giraffes continued to pick leaves off the trees and
Josh and his dad headed down the trail to find their own food!

Chapter 5 Snake pit

Josh and his dad were starving, the zoo was fun but it sure tired them out with all the walking around
and taking in all the sights. The monkeys, flamingos, the giraffes, wow they were so cool. Josh never
knew that there was so much to see, so many places to investigate and so many animals that he had
never seen before. He felt really lucky he and his dad could come to the zoo. “Thanks dad” Josh said and
they walked to the food court. His dad looked at him and said, “Aww that’s ok, this is fun. Josh smiled,
it wasn’t often his dad felt good enough to go and actually have fun, usually he spent his time cleaning
the house or doing something that really didn’t seem like a good time. He had gotten really sick and
although he was better he still felt sad some of the time because he had gotten sick before. They were
having a good time and that’s all that mattered. They both ate like pigs, hot dogs, French fries and large
cokes. They sat and looked around, at the zoo, all the people and all the food stands. This was a really
big place thought Josh. He really loved this zoo. He never wanted to go home! They finished eating and
his dad was studying the zoo map. “I say we go to the snake exhibit!” We have to go back up the path
but that’s ok, there are lots of other things to see.” He said as he folded up the map. “Cool dad, is it
scary?” Josh said, feeling a little rumble in his stomach that wasn’t from being hungry, whenever he
Got a little scared he would get a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. Hopefully this wouldn’t be too
Scary, he had seen snakes before, not real ones but he had seen them in books before and they looked
scary! They had long tongues that flickered out and their bodies were long and slithery. As they
walked up the path Josh saw a big building with a big door that was the entrance. This had to be the
entrance to the snake pit. They called it a snake pit but he knew it really wasn’t a snake pit, just a place
where they had snakes in aquariums. There was no way he would go into a place that had snakes
without being in some kind of aquarium or something. He edge closer to his dad and they neared the
entrance to the building. “It will be ok, just hold on to my belt when we go in. It might be a little dark
but it will be ok Josh”. His dad always said stuff like that when he got a little nervous about stuff, he
sometimes got nervous if he didn’t know what was happening and he usually stuck close to his parents.
It wasn’t that he was scared; he just got nervous sometimes…but not often. The guide who was at the
building opened the door and they all started walking inside. Josh held on to his dad’s belt…it was so
dark, he couldn’t see much at all and everybody was moving forward. They rounded a short bend and
Josh saw a glow, not really bright but just a glow which revealed a room. On all the sides of the room
were lots of aquariums and it looked like the walls were actually rocks. The aquariums looked like they
were inside the wall with just the front showing. They had lights inside of them and as he moved closer
he could see what looked like a long fat snake curled up around a rock. It wasn’t moving and there was
a sign on the glass that said “Do not touch” There was no way he was even going to come any closer
and he tugged on his dad’s belt feeling a bit nervous. “It’s ok, its inside and it can’t come out” his dad
said. Feeling relieved he looked back at the snake sitting in the aquarium. Wow that’s pretty cool he
thought. The snake sure looks weird.
The Alligators

“Ok son” Josh’s dad said as they left the snake pit. “We need to find the alligators. Alligators
are somewhere around here but I’m not exactly sure. If we can find them I’m sure we will be able to see
something really cool.” Josh was getting a little tired but it was so much fun at the zoo he forgot that he
was so tired. He hoped behind his dad, happy that they were at the zoo, that his dad was feelingbetter
they were having so much fun! His dad pulled out his trusty map which by now was getting so wrinkled
he could barely make out the pictures and words. “Ok, Josh we head back to the back side of the snake
pit, round a bunch of trees and bushes and then we are at the alligator watering hole. “Why do the call
it a watering hole dad?” I’m not sure son, I guess they call it that because alligators love the water, they
usually just float around and swim in it and probably here they just wait for the trainer to feed them”
His dad replied quickly and the rounded a bend towards the alligator place. “I’m sure we are going to
have to be very very quiet, alligators can get pretty agitated if they are disturbed” . “I’ll be quiet dad I
won’t say a word, in fact I really like alligators, our teacher showed us a film of alligators in the wild.
They looked really crazy because they were so big and it seemed like they were mean”. Josh said. “Just
stick close and I’m sure the alligator handler will help us.” They rounded the bend and low and behold
they came upon the alligator watering hole. It was huge, bigger than any swimming pool Josh had ever
seen in his life. “Oh wow dad, this is big, but I don’t see the alligators.” There were all kinds of weeds
and moss growing around the pool for the alligators and Josh could see 2 rocks in the middle of the pool.
It really was a pond, except the pool had rocks and moss and the rocks in the middle had a couple turtles
lounging on top of them. Josh was getting excited; he could tell his dad was too, they had never been
to an alligator place before and he knew this would be something he would never forget. A trainer came
up to a group of people gathered around and Josh and his dad stood watching with the group. The
trainer spoke “hi everybody, my name is Mike, I am the keeper of these alligators which…ha-ha…you don’t
see”. Alligators usually stay in hiding for the most part unless they are being fed which you’re lucky
enough to be able to watch today. It’s their feeding time and today we are feeding them uh…rats and
some chickens.. don’t worry folks the chickens and rats won’t feel a thing. “He threw a bucket
containing the alligator lunch in the pool and all of a sudden, the water started churning and there was
a surge of water as an alligator came up and snatch his lunch. “Wow!!” yelled Josh and quickly turned
red as all of the other guest turned to look at him. They all laughed and said their own wows and
ooohs!” @ other alligators came up and joined in the feeding frenzy, one of them twisting and turning
and making the water even more brown then it already was. Josh’s dad was smiling at the alligators,
Josh looked up at him and could tell he was really having fun. He was happy to see his dad smile, his dad
was usually not ffeling like doing anything but he did play football with him and sometimes he played
fun games with him. His dad took out the camera and started taking more pictures’. The alligators
splashed and the people were in awe at their power and how they swam so fast. The alligator keeper
spoke again. “Folks did you know that the alligator is the official state reptile of Florida?” Yep it’s true
and also the American alligator was once close to extinction but it has made a remarkable recovery.
These 3 alligators are about 15-20 years old and about 12-14 feet. “! Josh watched as the water started
to calm and the alligators sunk back into the water with just their eyes and their noses above water.
“Dad, that was cool, those alligators eat quick too!” “Yes they were Josh, wow, that was really fun but I
think I got soaked from all the splashing!” his dad remarked looking down at his soaked shirt. Josh
laughed and looked down and noticed he was soaked as well. “Well, let’s go see something else and
maybe get something to drink, this has made me hot, I need to hydrate.” His dad said wiping his brow.
“Sure dad lets go” Josh said smiling at the alligators as he walked off.

The Gondola

Josh’s dad walked down the path with Josh trailing behind. His dad walked up to a concession stand
got two sodas and gave one to Josh. “Thanx Dad” said Josh grinning up at his dad. Sometimes his dad
did a little trick with French fries where he put ketchup on a napkin and then sprinkled pepper on it and
ate French fries. His dad says he learned it from his own dad, Josh’ grandfather who died before Josh
was born. “Dad, where are we heading to now?” Josh said eagerly sipping on his drink. His dad looked
around and something up above caught his eye. “Aha, let’s go for a ride on the Gondala!” The Gondala is
almost like a big swing or tram that carries people over the zoo. It looks more like a ski lift that carries
skiers way way up to the ski slopes. His dad looked for the ticket booth and hurried up to pay for two
ticket. “Two please he said as he passed the money through the hole in the booth. The gate swung
open and a man inside opened a door to the gondola they were to ride in. They got seated and the man
pulled a bar over them so they wouldn’t fall of something. After a few minutes they felt a lurch and the
gondola started to move up up up and above the zoo. Above the trees, above the elephants and way
above the alligators too! Josh looked over the edge as they were high above the trees and all the
animals…”Whoa dad, I can see everything” he exclaimed as he watched the zoo from above. He could
see elephants walking around and the giraffes and he saw all the other water animals and it was just so
amazing he felt like he was on top of the world. “Wow dad, this is the best, I can see almost everything I
can even see the whole city”! His dad looked around and just said “Whew”. It was definitely a site to
see, the tress, the animals and all the food stands and he could see different places as the gondola
continued on its path above the zoo. “Josh this gondola has been at this zoo ever since I was a young
boy. In fact when I was 10 I had a picture taken of me at the train ride which maybe we will go next.
The train ride is so cool, it even has a small tunnel.” “Wow dad this zoo must be old if it was here when
you were a kid”. His dad chuckled at Josh and to himself. “Yep I was a kid once too son, just like you and
I when you get older you will remember when you were a kid….sooo don’t grow up too fast!” “I won’t
Dad” Josh said as he marveled at the scenery from above”.

Time to leave

It was getting close to closing time, the zoo was beginning to wind down and josh could see a lot of
people heading for the park entrance going to ca. He really didn’t want to leave, the zoo was so fun and
it was such a good time. “Josh, I guess we should leave” His dad said, looking out into the parking lot.
“I think if we hurry we can stop by the beach and see the sunset.” “Oh cool dad!” Josh said as they
walked out into the parking lot past the entrance gate. The sun was starting to go down. It was close to
6:00 pm and the gates would soon be closing, tucking the animals in for the night. Josh looked around
and saw his dad’s car sitting in the lot. They walked to the car and josh jumped in, still looking back at
the zoo. They sat in the car and Josh’s dad said “Well son, if we take the road leading out and head
about 5 miles to the west we will be at the beach.” The beach was close and they started the drive
towards their destination. There were lots and lots of cars all driving in the same direction and some
that were going the other way too. “This freeway was built a long time ago Josh, it was here even when
I was a little boy” My dad used to drive me in his car which was an old van, I think it was a 1961
Econoline van, the van was blue and had some really neat headlights on it. When I was a boy we used to
go to the beach and my dad taught me to surf, I really liked surfing when I was young, like your age. But
when people get older other things become more important, like working, and having a family and stuff
‘like that” his dad said. “Oh, like when you and mom had me, did you surf then too’? “No son, not back
then, I was pretty busy with work and stuff and mom was working too so when you before you were
born we really were just working a lot. Then when you were born we moved away from the beach way
out to the desert area. We only stayed there for 2 years then we sold the house and moved to where
we are now.” Josh’s dad said. ‘Well I’m almost ten now so maybe I could learn to surf just like you did
when you were my age” Josh added. “Maybe son” his dad replied. He knew that the chances were
slim, he wasn’t young like he used to be and when he got sick he had to stop working because the
doctors told him it would be best. He sighed and continued. “Maybe I will teach you son, I’m sure I may
have some surfing left in me but it’s really all about you going to school now and trying to get good
grades, that way when your older, much older you won’t have to work so hard and you can find
something that’s fun and plus you can make a living at it”. Josh sat in his seat in the car and thought. “I
know what I want to do when I get older, like 15 or something”. Josh said quickly. “His dad laughed as
he looked ahead concentrating on the road. “I want to be a zoo keeper and take care of animals, maybe
even alligators” Josh said full of enthusiasm. “Well, that is a big undertaking, and I’m sure you will have
to go to school to learn how to become one” His dad said grinning. “But it is a good job and I’m sure
you would be good at it.” They continued their trek towards the beach and eventually saw the vast
ocean with it’s waves crashing on the shore. They parked the car and got out, Josh ran towards the
beach his arms flailing out catching the air as he ran. The waves were big and Josh looked out and could
see some people in the water sitting on surfboards. “Dad, those waves are ginormous”! he said as he
cupped his hands around his eyes and looked out to sea. A person on one of the surfboards layed
down and started paddling for shore. A wave behind him caught up and the surfer jumped to his feet
and started riding the wave. “Dad look at that!” Josh said as the wave brought the surfer in to the
beach. His dad watched and a tear came to his eye, remembering when he used to surf a lot, his mind
brought him back 30 years before when he as a young kid used to surf every day. He remembered his
own father who had taught him to surf on a longboard and how he had surfed so much in his early days
and really loved the sport. He thought about how his dad had gotten sick, much as he had gotten and
how his own father had died when he was young. He wondered why life could be so hard yet filled with
moments of hope and fun. He looked at his son and could almost see himself as a little boy again in the
boys bright eyes..”Dad, did you see that? That guy rode that wave all the way to the beach”! Josh
yelled. “Sure did son that was totally awesome. “ they stood and watched as the surfer paddled out
into the waves again and the quickly setting sun dropped on the horizon. It was getting late, the zoo had
been so much fun and Josh was really feeling tired. All that walking and watching the animals at the zoo
and then seeing all the cool surfing was wearing him out”. Dad, I’m tired, can we go home”? he said,
kicking the sand beneath his feet. His dad looked at his son, looked out at the ocean which was getting
darker, the sun setting on the flat horizon and said “Sure son, let’s go home”. They loaded back into the
car which was an older jeep from the 1980’s. Josh’s dad had never had a new car his whole life and had
been on his own before he met Josh’s mom. He had done a lot in his life, he had been a Marine and an
electrician and had always worked hard. But he never really had a lot of money. This made him sad, to
think that he had worked so long but had always been poor. Even now they were still poor. Josh went
to a good school but it was hard to afford and his dad was sick a lot, sometimes he would just sleep all
day because he got so tired. His dad started up the old jeep and they took off towards the freeway
once again. The ride home was a quiet one, Josh could feel himself dozing off as he looked at the
dividers in the rode and the hum of the car made him sleepy. His dad kept driving onto the freeway and
towards home. It would be a 2 hour drive and they wouldn’t get back until 9:00 P.M.

Back Home

The ride back home seemed long to Josh, he woke up a couple times and saw his dad at the steering
wheel, focusing on the road. He really had fun and wished it could be like this always. He was young
but had been through a lot so far, from his dad’s illness which happened when he was only 3 years old.
By now he knew his dad was not well but he still wanted to have fun with him. His dad had been there
for him all the time and he really didn’t know what he would do without him. He thought while he was
sitting there in the car and felt safe while they drove down the road. Soon they came to the street
where they lived. It was a long winding street which Josh knew and was familiar with. It was usually
pretty quiet and he like that. Sometimes he would go out and play on the tennis courts or even go to Ty
quan do but usually he just stayed at home played in his room..The car drove around the winding street
and into the parking spot. Josh wearily got out of the car and head drooping and bleary eyed walked
into the house behind his dad. He went to his room, got in bed and laydown looking up at the ceiling for
minutes before dozing off. His last thoughts were, “I sure would like to be a zoo keeper”.

The next day came bright and early and Josh woke up to the sun coming in through the window. He
walked out to the living room and saw his dad was already up looking at the newspaper with the
Television on. “Morning Josh”> his dad said with a smile. Josh looked at him and thought about the day
before. “ I think I really want to become a zookeeper dad as he pilled his books in his bag for school. He
was in the 4th grade and was almost halfway through the year. It had been a long year but he had
learned so much already. He loved school but sometimes it was boring and other times it was just plain
hard, especially when he had to do homework that just didn’t make sense. His mother was up and it was
time to go to school almost. Josh looked at his mom who had breakfast ready and sat down to eat.
‘mom wait till I tell you about our trip!” he said full of excitement already. His mom smiled and got her
things together to take him to school. There wasn’t a school bus that took him to school, he went to
private school and they didn’t really have a bus for that. He ate his breakfast grabbed his bag and
headed for the door’. “Hold on a minute” his dad said. Josh turned around to his dad who’s arms were
outstretched. He gave his dad a hug and said “Thanx” and headed out the door after his mom.

School Bells

He arrived at school at 9:00 am and he was excited about telling his his fun adventure at the zoo and
the beach!! He got in his seat and his teacher said quickly “Ok class, today we are going to be going out
in the schoolyard and look for some treasures. It may be anything you can find, a rock, anything that
you think is worth calling a treasure. Josh liked it when they had these types of activities at school, they
were fun and it didn’t take him long to find something real neat. The whole class got up and followed
the teacher outside to the schoolyard. There was a lot of forest on the outskirts of the school which was
built right in the middle of a forest clearing. The school was big and had huge ceilings and even had a
center for doing other things like walking on treadmills or lifting weights. Josh had been going to this
school ever since first gradeand had a lot of friends especially his best friend David. David was the son
of a doctor who was one of the doctors that helped Josh’s dad when he was sick in the hospital. “I went
to the zoo yesterday David” Josh said as they started digging looking for treasures in the soil. They knew
there would be something good they could find because the teacher always hid something that was
neat, like a necklace with a rock or an arrowhead, something that would be worth looking for. “Oh your
lucky, I’ve been to the zoo once when I was 5 but don’t really remember it “ David said as they
continued digging. “My dad took me and it was so cool.” Josh said as he threw some dirt up in the air.
Some of the dirt landed on top of David’s head and he laughed. Josh was digging thinking about how
much fun it was to go to the zoo and how he had wished it would never end. His dad had told him that
he too used to think that was but now he didn’t feel good too much and how he wasn’t excited
anymore. Josh looked down at the dirt as he thought about the zoo and how he was lucky to have
parents that were there for him. One of his classmates didn’t even have a dad, he had died or
something when he was young. All of sudden Josh felt something in the ground as he was digging. He
pulled it up out of the ground and low and behold it was a rabbit’s foot on a chain..”WooHoo!” yelled
Josh as he looked at the rabbit’s foot. He showed it to David who said “you’re so lucky Josh, I wish I could
find something…Josh smiled and looked at the rabbits foot, looked at David and handed it to him. “Here
you go David, I don’t really need it. I have enough things already. “Oh wow, thanks Josh, are your sure?”
Josh nodded and smiled to himself, he really did have all he needed.

The Surprise At Home

Josh went home that day and told his dad about the rabbit’s foot he had found and hugged his dad
again telling him thanks for taking him to the zoo. His dad had been home that day resting, it seemed
like he rested alt Josh thought. There was always something to do thought Josh but his dad worried all
the time about bills and stuff. Things Josh didn’t really understand. His dad never got mad, just sad
about things sometimes and josh didn’t really know what to say. So today was another day that his dad
was tired he thought but his dad sometimes played tricks on him and sometimes surprised his son with
things he never expected. Sometimes it was just a note or a book or a toy from the store up the street.
Josh had a lot of toys and really didn’t need anything extra but I was fun to get something new. His dad
got up from his chair and said ‘so, I have something to show you son”. Josh looked at his dad with a
puzzled look on his face. “Whatever could it be dad?” His dad smiled and just said ‘Follow me out to
the garage”. Josh followed his dad and his dad opened the door and sitting just inside was a bright shiny
new surfboard. “Whoa dad, who’s is that?” Josh said knowing it was probably for him. “This is yours,
Josh, one for keeping up with your school and two just because.” Josh looked at the new surfboard and
was amazed how new and shiny it was. ‘Oh cool dad, can we go surf”? he said full of excitement. “We
sure can, in fact I think this weekend we will pull my old surfboard out that your mom bought me so
many years ago and hit the waves”. He smiled at himself and his son staring at the new surfboard. “I
think it would be a great thing for us to go to the beach and maybe even I’ll be able to teach you how to
paddle this thing. “Wow dad you know how cool that would be, maybe we can even catch some big
waves”! Josh said gleaming. “Maybe,” his dad replied, “but you really have to be careful in the water
which means you have to listen to me when we go.” Sure dad, no problem” Josh said like any typical
boy in the 4th grade. He looked at his new surfboard and thought about going surfing. It sure was great
to have a dad that did this for him. Last year he even went on a trip to see his grandparents at their
huge house. It had a pool and his grandmother always had a lot of good food for him to eat. He really
did have a good life” He only wished his dad would get better, more than anything else.

The Doctor Visit

His dad had been scheduled to see his doctor, they were trying to figure out why he had such a
difficult time remembering some things and other things he seemed fine. He had been close to death
from what Josh had been told when his dad was put in the hospital. Josh didn’t remember because he
was so young but he had seen his dad sometimes forget things like birthdays and stuff like that. There
was a chance his dad could get sick again too so the doctors always watched to see how he was doing.
His dad had been a Marine so sometimes he would go to the Veteran Hospital for checkups. He always
came back with a bandage on his arm where they took blood out. Josh really didn’t know why they did
it but his dad told him it was to check to see if all his blood was fine. He guessed it made sense but
really didn’t understand it after all he was just a 9 year old boy who really just wanted to play and have
fun. The day after he got his new surfboard, his dad went to the doctor for a checkup, it was a usual
checkup that he did just about every three months. It usually only took a couple hours and he was back
home to play or talk to his son, maybe read a book. This day was different though. His dad went to the
doctor and he didn’t come right back home. Josh came back from school and his mom sat him down. “I
just got a call from the doctor’s office.’ They want to keep your dad in for a few days to run some tests”.
Josh looked at his mom and was confused. His dad had seemed so full of life just a couple days ago
when they went to the zoo. “What’s the matter with dad?” Josh asked looking perplexed. “Hopefully,’
his mother answered. “Nothing at all, but the doctors want to make sure he is ok”. She looked down at
The table and stared. She knew that something wasn’t quite right but tried to stay calm despite her
son’s questioning. “We will just wait and see what happens.” she said. Josh looked his mother and his
face dropped. “Don’t worry son, everything will be fine” she said with a weak smile. “”Please do your
homework and I’ll take you out to play Joshy”.

The Phone Call
The next day was Friday, Josh went to school thinking about his dad and got sad wondering where he
was and if he would be ok. He did his usual assignments and even played basketball outside with his
friend David but felt like something was not quite right. His dad had always been home, even if he did
go to the doctors, it was never for very long. He finished his class, and his teacher asked him to stay for
a minute afterwards. “I’m sorry about your father hopefully everything will be ok, I’m sure it will Josh,
just stay positive”. Josh looked at her and said “I know, he’s a fighter Mrs. Butterfield, he’s a marine
too!” Josh left the room walking out to his moms waiting car for the ride home. They drove mostly in
silence except when Josh said “Dad’s supposed to take me surfing tomorrow mom.” His mom
hesitantly replied “I know Joshy, maybe it will be a few more days later than we thought”. They
continued to drive in silence and got home and went inside. His mother checked the answering and saw
a light blinking. “Maybe the hospital with good news?” She thought to herself. She checked the
message and in fact it was the hospital calling to please call them back. She called after a few minutes
and was silent for a moment after she hung up the phone. “Joshy I think we may need to go to the
hospital”. Josh looked up from his homework..”Is he ready to come home mom”? he said hopingly.
“She looked at Josh, his bluish green eyes much like his dad’s filing with tears. “I’m not sure, we need to
go see him”. She said as she picked up her purse. They left as they came 20 minutes later and drove to
the hospital where Josh’s dad was. The doors to the hospital were glass and to Josh it looked like a scary
place. It was a ginormous hospital with so many floors and stairs and although there weren’t many
people in there at the time josh felt its intimidating presence. Once inside they checked in at the desk
and his mother was given a piece of paper with the room number her husband was in. They went
together to an elevator, a big elevator with big doors and they swung closed as she pushed number 9.
They went up and Josh could feel the surge of the elevator as it took them up to the top of the hospital.
The floors were shiny, like hospital floors Josh guessed and wondered how long it took someone to
actually shine them. He could see himself sliding on these floors like a slippery slide. He walked with his
mother down the aisle of the 9th floor of the hospital until they reach a room, number 943B. His mother
looked at Josh and said “Just be quiet, I don’t know how he is, he may be resting”. “Josh nodded as he
followed his mother into the room. Inside was a nurse sitting beside the bed josh’s dad lay in, a hospital
bed with wheels and all kinds of things hanging from it. Josh looked at the bags hooked up to the bed
with something in them that looked like water. Then he looked down and saw his dad lying on the bed,
his eyes closed. “Is he asleep’? he asked his mother. “Yes, I’m sure he is”? his mother replied quietly.
Josh’s dad had suffered a stroke while on his visit to the hospital. He had been told he was in danger of
this and had been doing what he could by exercising and doing all he could to improve his health. Josh
’s mom looked down at her husband laying on the bed and could only shake her head as a tear dropped
on the sheet tucked up below the neck of her husband. She sat down in the chair and wept as josh
looked hopelessly at his dad who was supposed to take him surfing. He thought about their trip to the
Zoo, how his dad had seemed so fine except when he got a little tired. Josh looked to his mom “Will he
be ok’? The nurse looked up and smiled at Josh who by now was confused and wanted his dad to wake
up. “All we can do is wait honey” the nurse said as she fiddled with some papers and looked up to the
feeding tubes in Josh’s dad’s arm. “All we can do is wait”. Josh nodded and looked at his dad laying on
the bed. He felt hopeless, like he wanted his dad to get up, walk out of the hospital and go play with
him. He remembered when they used to do fun stuff like play on things like park rides, seesaws and
bouncing things that looked like animals. He felt he might cry and got up and turned towards the door
leading out of the room. His mom just looked at him as she took his dad’s hand and held it. Josh walked
outside and went to drink some water. His mom stayed inside until the doctor came and delivered the
news, good or bad. The doctor did come after about a half hour and spoke for a while to his mom while
he sat quietly out in the hallway. After a while he came out and smiled at Josh as he walked away
towards the elevator. His mom came out tears flooding her eyes. “Let’s go home Joshy”. They left the
hospital, driving back home quietly, his dad would have to stay in the hospital until they could figure out
what to do. The news from the doctors wasn’t good, his dad had suffered a massive stroke brought on
by living a life that was mostly struggle. He had worked hard his whole life but also had lived hard too.
He had had a hard childhood, his life mostly consisted of survival in a crazy world josh knew nothing
about yet. All he knew was that his dad was laying in the hospital bed and didn’t look good. Josh went
home with his mom, the house felt empty, like nobody lived there. His books and toys were still there,
in fact everything was still there, but not his dad. The one who always made a joke no matter how hard
things were for him. He always made josh laugh, even if he didn’t feel well. Josh went to his room and
lay down on his bunk bed looking up at the ceiling, at all his things around him he felt relatively safe but it
felt lonely. He was still thinking about his zoo trip with his dad, all the animals and the alligators and
how his dad had smiled and looked so happy. Maybe his dad knew he wasn’t really well, he wasn’t sure
but he felt so lonely right now, even though his mom was there. He lay there thinking and eventually
drifted off to sleep, visions of the alligators and the surfer surfing the wave swirling around in his head.

Peace at last
The next day Josh woke up to the sound of his mother crying quietly in the living room. He lay there
collecting his thoughts and realized he had no school today. It was the weekend and he was supposed
to go surfing with his dad. Then he remembered almost instantly the night before, the hospital and his
dad lying on the bed with all the things hooked up to his arms. The drip drip of the bags which seemed
to feed something into his dad’s arms. The doctor and the nurse who were there and the vision of his
dad seemingly resting peacefully. He again heared the soft crying in the living room and slowly got out
of his bunk bed and walked out carrying his small blanket which he had since he was small. The tattered
remains dragged behind him as he walked out in his pajamas and saw his mom sitting on the couch
crying. “Mom”? he said as she looked up at him tears filling her once bright eyes. She looked at her son
as he walked up to her dragging his little blanket behind him. “Joshy”, she said looking at her son. Your
father went away last night”. “ “Huh”? Josh said as he sat on the couch next to his mom. “Your father
died in the hospital last night”. She said and looked down at her handkerchief and blew her nose, her
face flushed and red from crying.. Josh stood and could only stare at his mom. He didn’t understand
how his dad could be gone. He really even didn’t know what dead meant, only that it on meant people go
away to heaven or something. He did know it meant he wouldn’t see his dad again. He could only stand
on look at his mom crying on the couch. He couldn’t believe it and he felt a flood of sadness come over
him as he looked at his mom. It seemed like yesterday they had just gone to the zoo, he had just got
the new surfboard, the shiny new surfboard his dad had bought for him. He left his mom and walked
out to the garage opened the door and stood at the entrance. The new surfboard stood tall, shiny and
new waiting to be ridden. It wouldn’t happen he thought as he touched the shiny exterior and ran his
hand down the deck of it. He stood at the entrance of the garage just staring at the board and began to
cry. It wasn’t supposed to be this way he screamed inside his head as the tears streamed down his face.
It had been such a wonderful time at the zoo and the beach. He had always had fun with his dad, even
if they were just playing something silly like a computer game. It was at this time Josh began to realize
that life wasn’t always fair. He still could not believe his dad would not be coming back, like it was all
dream and he would wake up and his dad would be sitting on the couch waiting for him to come home.
But it wasn’t a dream, his dad was gone forever, it just didn’t seem real. He went back inside and his
mother stood up and hugged her son tight. He stood there feeling helpless as most children his age
would and he let her hold him as they both wept quietly.

Author’s note

As I write this on this day of April 18th 2012 I have experience what you have read in some way. In
2004 I was hospitalized with Meningitis and came very close to dying. My son was 3 years old at the
time. I myself was raised in a biker town in the 1970’s. My upbringing was very difficult and my mother
Was an alcoholic which my father divorced in or around 1966. I was raised by a stepmother who verbally
and physically abused bit my brother and I for ten years from the early 1970’s to the early 1980’s. In
1980 my own father who himself was a United States Marine and played in the Marine Corps marching
band. He was a workaholic and after his time in the service went on to a successful career as a pianist in
San Diego California. He had bought 3 houses by the time he was 30 years old and tried his best to raise
my brother and I. Unfortunately in 1980 he committed suicide by jumping of the Coronado bay Bridge
in San Diego California. He was 42 years old. My life after my father’s suicide had its ups and downs. In
1981 at the age of 17 I like my father joined the Marine Corps and spent 4 years active duty as a postal
worker in Yokohama japan and at Camp Lejeune NC where I received my honorable discharge on
February 12th 1985. I also reentered the military in 1988 and spent 2 more years as a maintenance
technician for the Navy Sea fox boats at north island San Diego California. In 1998 I started a four year
apprenticeship program with the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego Caliph division. I
graduated in 2002 as a journeyman electrician. I have also gone from being homeless after my Marine
Corps enlistment to completing electrical schooling and buying 2 houses and working as an electrician.
In 2004 when my son was 2 years old I travelled across country back to North Carolina to raise him. It
had been over 20 years since I had been stationed at camp Lejeune and had not lived in North Carolina
since 1985. I began working only to become quite ill, losing weight consistently over a 6 month period. I
was diagnosed with pneumonia and went back to work as a fire alarm technician. In July of 2005 I
collapsed after losing 60 lbs. and was rushed to UNC hospital where my wife was told I had maybe a
couple days to live. After 3 long weeks of being hospitalized, undergoing 3 blood transfusions and a
couple spinal taps; I was diagnosed with AIDS and an opportunistic infection Cryptococci Meningitis. My
wife was informed I may be brain dead or wheelchair bound if I survived and that my prognosis was not
good. After my hospitalization I actually went back to work but unfortunately due to the cognitive
damage suffered I had to quit voluntarily. I do not remember much of my hospitalization and prior to
this my temperature was 104 for a while, I was sweating profusely at night and was losing the ability to
focus and concentrate. I have since my hospitalization continued to remain the father of my son and
see this as my job in life, to see him grow into a young man at least. I am 48 years old and have
experienced a lot, lived a lot, gained a lot and lost a lot. In the end I have also come to the realization
that this life has nothing to do with material possessions, the strive for more or the need for more. In
the end I have come to realize all people really need is empathy and patience to have a life worth living.

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