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A Trip to the Zoo

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October 1, 2001
Francine: age 8

So far it has been a pretty great birthday. Bob had made her chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, even letting her put a big pile of whipped cream on top. Then there had been her class’s birthday celebration in the morning, where the teacher, as she did for all student birthdays, had brought in juice and cookies for the whole class. Everyone sang to her and it made her feel so special. The birthday cupcake in her lunch box had been like a cherry on top of a sundae.

Only half an hour after lunch, the loudspeaker crackled on and called Francine to the office. She was extremely confused. Francine slowly made her way to the front office, not sure of as to why she was going there. Her confusion only grew when she got to the office and didn’t see either of her fathers, but rather—

“Uncle Tommy!” Francine exclaimed, running over to give him a hug.

 

“Hey there, passerotta,” Uncle Tommy scooped her up.

“What’re you doing here?” Francine asked.

“Your pops asked me to take you to your doctor’s appointment,” Uncle Tommy told her.

Francine frowned, “I didn’t know I had a doctor ‘pointment.”

 

The secretary gave Tommy a look.

“Yes she did, I even have a note, kids these days,” Tommy replied looking at her.

The secretary sighed and shook her head, but began writing Francine’s name in her excused absences book.

 

“Come on, passerotta,” Tommy led her out of the school.

“Do I really have to go to the doctor?” Francine asked, wrinkling her nose.

Tommy chuckled, “Nope.”

Francine cocked her head, clearly puzzled, “So where are we going?”

Francine practically skipped the rest of the way to the car.

Her excitement grew and grew and they drove to pick up a reluctant Nick and then off to the zoo.

Francine was extremely excited about going to the zoo and made a point of listing off all the animals she wanted to see.

“But my very favorite animal,” Francine was saying as they pulled into the zoo parking lot, “is a zebra because they’ve got stripes and I love stripes.”

“Yeah?” Tommy raised his brow, “Well I like penguins because they’re always dressed sharp.”

 

Nicky was unable suppress the urge to roll his eyes. Francine had the opposite reaction and giggled.

 

“Do you have a favorite animal Uncle Nicky?” Francine asked.

“Elephants,” Nick rumbled.

“Gentle giants,” Tommy snarked.

“Just like you!” Francine laughed.

“But dangerous to be around if they’re angry,” Nick added in an undertone, directed at Tommy.

“Noted,” Tommy replied, “Just trust me here, Nicky.”

Once they got their tickets and entered the zoo Francine wasn’t sure where she wanted to go first. Tommy was perusing the schedule of shows and feeding times.

“There’s a bird show in twenty minutes,” he said, “and then after that they’re feeding the sea lions.”

“Do we really have to do all that?” Nick raised his brow.

The look in Tommy’s face said ‘duh’ and Nick heaved a resigned sigh. Francine didn't seem to mind and happily followed Uncle Tommy towards the avian section of the zoo.

"I wanna get a good seat!" she declared.

It continued that way for the rest of the day. Francine practically skipped her way through the zoo, going to every show and feeding Tommy could think of. The only time they stopped was to grab ice cream at one of the shops where they could sit and watch some penguins swim around in their enclosure.

 

“I guess penguins are pretty cool,” Francine told Tommy as they sat on the bench in front of the penguin tank, her legs swinging beneath her.

“Your dripping,” Nick told her gently.

Francine licked the droplet of chocolate ice cream off of her hand.

"So are you enjoying your birthday surprise?" Tommy asked.

“Yeah!” exclaimed Francine, “I’ve never been to the zoo on my birthday before.”

"Better than school wasn't it?" Tommy asked.

“Much,” Francine agreed.

The day finally ended with a stop at the gift shop where Francine was told she could pick one gift and it didn't matter what it was. Francine took this decision very seriously, concentration clear in her eyes as she carefully scrutinized everything in the store. Then at the back of the shop she found a plush giraffe that was nearly as tall as she was.

Francine threw her arms around the giraffe’s neck.

“This one!” she said, “I want this one!”

“You has to say anything,” Nick grumbled at Tommy, “No way we’re hiding this from Frankie and Bob now.”

“They’ll get over it,” said Tommy, flapping a hand in dismissal.

The three of them then went back to Tommy's car to take Francine home. Francine chartered the entire way home about all of her favorite parts, the stuffed giraffe buckled into the seat beside her. As they pulled up in front of Frankie and Bob's place, Frankie was walking out the front door.

“Daddy!”

Francine was out of the car as soon as they pulled to a stop and immediate ran over to her father.

“Uncle Tommy and Uncle Nicky picked me up from school,” she said.

“I see that,” said Frankie, “Interesting that you’re home now, since school just ended.”

Tommy was coming up the walk with the giraffe in hand, "Is it so wrong to want to take her out for her birthday?"

Frankie raised an eyebrow.

“And when exactly did this happen?”

“After lunch!” Francine said.

Frankie gave Tommy a look, "Seriously?"

“It was just one day,” Tommy shrugged.

"Tommy, you may not see the value of elementary school but that doesn't make this okay," Frankie added.

“It’s not like she missed much,” Tommy scoffed, “Plus, we were at the zoo, which is totally educational.”

"I guess," Frankie sighed.

“That’s the spirit,” said Tommy, slinging his arm around Frankie’s neck and pulling him in for a noogie.

“Alright, alright,” Frankie grumbled, pushing him away.