_“Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo.” _The little boy smiled. He hummed the familiar tune as he made the light and tumble journey from the East side to the park. It was not raining or cold, “j_ust a fine and fancy ramble to the zoo.” _Not that he knew what a fine and fancy ramble was. Or a cross-town bus. He did not understand most of the words in the song, though perhaps, if he concentrated, he could spell them. But of all the songs on the radio, he liked this one best. Because it had animals in it, not many grown-up songs did. Today, it was also the most appropriate; he was off to see his animal friends at the zoo.
Tigers, giraffes, kangaroos and sheep… All of them loved it when the little boy came to the zoo. They had much to tell him, and tried to listen too. He told them about school. Counting was difficult; he needed more fingers. The elephants sympathized, the monkeys offered toes. The zebras helped him practice, while the hamsters cheered him on. The little boy smiled, he always smiled. He told them about the playground. The slides were painted yellow, the swings were red and green, but the seesaw was his favorite: blue. He did not ride the seesaw though, for that you needed two people. He put up his two pinkies to emphasize his point. The lion nodded gravely, the other animals understood. And the little boy who always smiled, even in his sleep, forgot to for a while. Just a short while, for just then the bear’s stomach grumbled. The antelopes scoffed, the cubs giggled. The little boy’s smile returned, cheeky this time. He looked right and left; no zoo keeper in sight. He pulled out some crackers from the pocket of his favorite navy blue coat. Big square crackers that he had snuck from tea. He gave his hungry friend the largest piece. He had enough for all of course; even the plotting pigeons got crumbs. His animal friends loved it when the little boy came to the zoo. But it was already twilight. His toes and nose were cold. It would soon be time for supper, and he should not be late. There might be waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast, but he hoped there would be cocoa and crackers; those he loved most. He wished his animal friends would visit. If they did, he would certainly share. The grown ups, he thought, would surely not mind; they never had cocoa anyway, or time to talk to bears. The boy waved his animal friends goodbye. The zoo, and the city, had gotten dark. Brave as he was, the little boy who always smiled, he was relieved to see the warm light through the kitchen window. He could even hear the kettle whistle. He had had a nice day, he reminded himself, with all his many friends. And if there were crackers and cocoa for supper, it would be a grand day. He would save some for the animals of course, and tomorrow, again, make the light and tumble journey to the zoo. But supper was even better than that, the day even grander! The cocoa, as usual, was on the kitchen table, all cream and froth in the boy’s favorite blue cup. But beside it, the crackers! He could not believe his eyes!
Instead of the big square crackers, there on the porcelain plate were his animal friends from the zoo! The tigers, giraffes, kangaroos and sheep. The elephants and monkeys, zebras and hamsters. The lion and antelopes, even his friend the bear! They had all come to visit, just as he had wished. What a cunning disguise! An animal cracker plot! So that was what the pigeons had been whispering about. The little boy gasped and clapped, and though there were grown-ups around, thanked his animal friends anyway. Disguised as they were, the animal crackers could not reply, but they too were all quite pleased. The little boy had the most marvelous supper, spilling cocoa down his chin for he was smiling ear to ear. Then when the grown-ups were not looking, he slipped the animals in his pocket and took them off to bed. There he chattered away to them till sleep caught them all off guard. The old man was still smiling when they found him the following day. He looked like he had been dreaming, in his favorite blue pajamas. They would bury him that same bright and sunny day, in the park by the zoo. And everyone would sorely miss him, the smiling old man. One mystery remained, that the grown-ups would never solve. In the pocket of the old man’s pajamas they found animal shaped crackers. Surprisingly uncrushed, not even stale. Yet they looked sad somewhat. The bear’s head was turned away.