Khy and Alea wanted a blog post, but I had no idea what to post about. When I asked for suggestions, they suggested tapirs. Except I didn't know anything about tapirs. I've only seen one once, peeing in a pond at the rainforest exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo. But I am flexible, not unlike a tapir's nose. So, here goes:
"I'm going to need you to take the boys for the afternoon."
There should be a rule that after you get your driver's license, you shouldn't have to play chauffer to younger siblings for at least a month. Maybe two. But I have three little brothers under the age of thirteen. So even if there was such a rule, my mother would break it.
"Do I have to?"
Mom sighs. "Danielle, I wouldn't ask if I wasn't important. Mrs. Hannaford next door has a doctor's appointment or she'd watch them."
"Fine." Even though it's not fine, it's not like I have anything better to do. Everyone is gone. Ema is at performing arts camp in upstate New York, Bria is at work, and Alea is spending the summer with her dad in Michigan.
She hands me her debit card and our membership to the city zoo. Okay, this won't completely suck.
"Come on, rugrats." I tuck the cards in the pocket of my jeans and grab the car keys. "We're going to the zoo."
* * *
My brothers take off the minute we get inside the front gate. Ben, age eight, will go to the monkey house, buy cotton candy, and then go to the playground--where his sticky fingers will attract a metric ton of dirt. Tommy, age eleven, likes the reptiles. And Sam, nearly thirteen, will go wherever he thinks he might find girls. He's recently made the transition from the cootie stage.
"Meet me back here at four!" I call after them, as I head for the rainforest exhibit. I like the tapirs the best. I have no idea why. I just do.
Inside, the warm air is heavy and damp and I can feel my carefully flatironed hair starting to curl. I lean against the railing, watching one tapir pulling a banana into its mouth with its flexible nose. The other is standing in the middle of a shallow pond built into the habitat.
"Did you know that tapirs can walk underwater?" a voice from my left asks.
I turn to find a boy leaning against the rail beside me. He's got dark brown hair that hangs in his eyes. Gray eyes that match the gray t-shirt that hugs his shoulders in a very appealing way. He smiles at me and suddenly I'm hyper-aware of the fact that my hair is getting frizzier by the second and that there might be a toothpaste stain on the front of my red tank top. I nod. "I did know that."
"And did you know they have four toes on their front feet--"
"And three toes in back." I interrupt, smiling.
"Okay." He rakes his fingers through his hair, pulling it off his forehead. It falls right back into his eyes. "But do you know how tapirs have been around?"
"About 20 or 30 million years," I say. "Since about the Oligocene epoch."
He turns and lifts himself to sitting on the top rail, hooking his Adidas sneakers behind the middle rail. "What's your name?"
"Danielle. What's yours?"
"Matt." He extends his hand and I shake it. Wrapped around his wrist is watch on a thick brown leather strap and a silver bracelet that looks like it's made of fishing swivels. "I bet, Danielle, that you didn't know there's a World Tapir Day."
"I did. I mean, I do. It's April twenty-sev--It's today."
He leans toward me. "I think that's cause for celebration, don't you?"
If my friends were in town we'd have a World Tapir Day slumber party. "Of course."
Matt flashes a wide smile that sends the butterflies in my stomach on a little spree. "So what time should I pick you up?"