“Look Grandpa, there’s a ‘publican,” Billy shouted, pointing to the Indian elephant house at the Houston zoo. It was ten-thirty and the zoo workers and volunteers were uncoiling water hoses and carrying long handled brushes as they began preparations for their daily task. One young man had on his game face as he pushed a wheelbarrow with a green coiled up water hose inside. A young college aged woman with her brunette hair tied back carried a bucket in one hand and a broom and snow shovel in the other. Another young man came in with a whistle and stick. He walked to the front one of the elephants which was chained to the floor at the ankle. The young man inside the cage turned on the water hose and began spraying the beast. The young brunette woman set the bucket down and squirted some fluid into the bottom of the bucket. The young man with the hose aimed the water stream into the bucket, filling it three-fourths full, and then turned the water back on the animals.
“It stinks here, Nanny,” Grandpa said to his wife. “Elephants are not Republicans, Billy.”
“Elephants have loooooooong noses, Grandpa,” Billy said. The zoo workers began to bathe and scrub the beast.
“But you said the ‘publicans are eh phants.” Billy was still pointing to the big Indian elephant but looking at Grandpa. “Didn’t he Nanny?”
“Well sweetie, what Grandpa was trying to say is that elephants are the symbol of the Republican Party.” She looked at her husband with a ‘now what’ look on her face.
“Party?” Billy’s eyes widened, he smiled, and then clapped his small hands. “We have eh phant party, yeah!” Just then a large bull elephant did what comes naturally, massively. Billy looked at his grandparents, tilted his sideways, and scrunched his face; but didn’t say anything.
A young couple stood nearby holding hands and watching the proceedings.
“Billy,” Grandpa said. “Elephants are what the Republicans chose to represent them.” He paused. “A long time ago there was an artist named Thomas Nast…” he was cut off by Billy.
“Grandpa it tinks here, pee yew!”
“Let’s walk on, Grandpa,” Nanny said taking Billy’s hand.
The three of them walked away from the elephant compound. The young couple followed several paces behind them. They stopped in front of the ostrich yard. A large ostrich walked over to the fence and looked directly at them through a chain-linked fence. It looked down at Billy.
“Not too close, Billy, ostriches can be mean,” Nanny said.
“Looks like Ted Cruz,” Grandpa said.
They walked on a little further, and then halted by the lions. The big male was lying on his side, his tail twitched occasionally. Two lionesses sat on their haunches nearby looking at the humans through hazel eyes.
“It’s a nion Grandpa, ROAR!!” Billy shouted. “He’s sleepy.”
“Just like Grandpa,” Nanny said.
“Yes Billy, those are lions; your tax dollars at work,” Grandpa said.
They walked toward the monkey house. “Monkeys Nanny,” Billy said.
They walked a little further through a bamboo door to a view overlooking a ledged amphitheater where the chimpanzees were kept. There were a couple of large trees without leaves on the top ledge. One tree had a chain tire swing. There were a few large boulders along the back. A moat ran parallel to and below to the visitor walkway along the front perimeter. Two chimpanzees sat on the lowest level beside the moat. The smaller of the two was a female who sat motionless looking up at the humans. A large male chimpanzee sniffed her all around then sat down in front of her. He smiled, showing teeth and bobbed his head, nodding yes. Back up the hill two young chimps played on a barren tree. An old bald male sat by himself in the back by the boulders; his long hands laying palms up on the ground. An old female sat to one side watching the young ones play. One of the young monkeys did a somersault.
“Are monkeys ‘publicans,” Billy asked?
“No Billy, monkeys are Democrats,” Grandpa said matter-of-factly.
“Grandpa!” Nanny said sternly then gave her husband a serious look.
Billy blurted laughter, “ha-ha.” He then looked at Grandpa for reassurance.
“Just kidding Billy,” Grandpa said, looking at Billy. “Monkeys can’t vote. “Oh Nanny, I was just joking with the little feller.” Just then, one of the young chimps yelled and then monkey walked over to where the old male was sitting in the back by the boulders. The youngster flopped its long hairy arms, and jumped up and down trying to get the old one’s attention. The old monkey turned his head and looked across at the humans who were watching him. He raised his eyebrows.
“Ha-ha,” Billy laughed and started jumping up and down and flopping his arms, mimicking the young monkey. He noticed that Grandpa raised his eyebrows. They watched the chimpanzees a little longer then walked out of the monkey house.
“Anybody hungry?” Grandpa asked rubbing his belly with both hands.
“There’s a hot dog cart just around the corner to the right.” The young man dropped hands with his wife and pointed. Grandpa looked at where he was pointing.
“Uh, ok, Billy would you like a hot dog?” Billy nodded his head yes. “Care to join us?” The young couple looked at each other. “Ok,” the young woman said, “but I have to warn you, we’re Democrats.”
“Do they sell bananas,” Grandpa asked, and then laughed. “Just kidding, my name’s George Smith, otherwise known as Grandpa. I’m retired,” Grandpa stuck out his hand.
“I’m Tom Johnson and this is my wife Rachel.”
The two men shook hands, “and this is Helen, otherwise known as Nanny. And we are glad to meet you.”
“Good to meet you too,” Rachel said.
“And this is Billy.” Billy looked up at the young couple and scrunched his face.
“Howdy, Billy,” Tom Johnson said. “How do you like the zoo?”
“Too many politicians,” Billy said. “I’m hungry.”
They all laughed; then the five of them walked along a concrete pathway underneath a canopy of trees, around to the right. There beside the path was a burro with a sombrero. He was hitched to a hot dog wagon with a sign that said, ZOO DOGS.
“Democrat!” Billy shouted excitedly, and pointed at the burro. Grandpa looked around to see if his new friend would make a remark.
“No, Billy, Donkeys are not Democrats,” Nanny said then scowled at Grandpa.
“Grandpa said they were. He said Democrats are jackasses. He said they go hee haw hee haw.”
The hot dog vendor was also wearing a sombrero. “Anybody want a zoo dog?” he asked. “How ‘bout this little monkey,” he looked at Billy.
“Hey, I’m not a monkey,” Billy said.
“We’ll have three zoo dogs,” Nanny said. The hot dog vendor lifted the lid on a wooden box on the cart and placed three paper wrapped hot dogs on a tray with napkins. “Here ya go, mustard and relish on the other side.”
“Two zoo dogs, please,” Tom said. They all walked over to a picnic table nearby and sat down; the young couple on one side and the Grandparents on the other with Billy between them.
“Have you been married long?” Nanny asked, then took a bite while looking at the young woman.
“Almost a month,” the girl shook back her brown hair. “We’re trying to get pregnant,” she said, then took a bite of her hot dog.
“We hope to have a Democrat,” her new husband said, then took a bite.
“Now that IS funny,” Grandpa said, and then laughed, “Ha-ha!” Billy was expressionless. He looked at the burro then at the young woman.
“Oh how wonderful, children are such a blessing,” Nanny said with a mouthful of zoo dog.
“Grandpa,” Billy looked at Grandpa seriously, “you said donkeys are Democrats, didn’t he Nanny?” Billy said.
“I don’t think that one can vote,” Grandpa said to Billy. Everyone laughed except Billy.
“You started to tell Billy about how the Democrats and Republicans became donkeys and elephants,” the young man said. “Who was Thomas Nast?” He took another bite.
Grandpa paused, and then spoke. “Thomas Nast was a caricaturist; a political artist if you will.” Grandpa settled himself on the wooden bench, cleared his throat and spoke to the young man. “Back in eighteen seventy four, Thomas Nast drew a picture of an elephant standing on branches over a deep pit which was a comment on fears that Ulysses S. Grant would run for a third term as President. This caused some Republicans to vote with the Democrats. Thomas Nast was a staunch Republican and he chose the elephant as a symbol of his own party because of the animal’s great size, intelligence, strength and dignity.”
“Interesting guy, this Thomas Nast,” the young Democrat said.
“And an incredibly talented artist,” Grandpa responded. Billy had laid his head down on one arm; his half-eaten zoo dog on the tray. “The donkey first appeared as a symbol for the Democrat Party in the eighteen-thirties when Andrew Jackson was President. Nast first used the donkey as a symbol for the Democrat Party in a political cartoon called ‘A Live Jackass kicking a Dead Lion, in eighteen-seventy four.’ He was making a statement on Northern Democrat’s dealings with Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln’s Secretary of War.”
“I told you he said Democrats were jackasses,” Billy said without lifting his head. “I need to use the restroom.”
“C’mon Billy, let’s go find the restroom,” Nanny said.
“I’ll go with you; I know where the restroom is.” Rachel stood up from the picnic table. The two women and Billy walked down the concrete walkway and threw the zoo dog trash in a convenient garbage can, then disappeared around a corner.
Thomas Johnson hesitated then spoke. “Did you ever notice how Gary Polland and David Jones look like those two guys in the sonic commercials?”
“Who are Gary Polland and David Jones?”
“They host a show on channel eight….”
“I don’t watch channel eight. But I do watch C-span whenever Louie Gohmert is on.”
“Oh my God, not Louie Gohmert; he dyes his hair.”
“Ha!” Grandpa blurted, “Louie Gohmert is bald headed. “”Gotcha.”
“He has a ring of hair. Look closely the next time he is on C-span, and he definitely dyes it.” Grandpa stopped smiling.
“Hey, let me tell you something, The TEA Party is our only hope of saving this country.” Grandpa slapped his hand on the wooden picnic table. “This country is seventeen trillion dollars in debt. If we don’t start paying down our debt, there won’t be any social security, Medicare, Medicaid OR gubmint jobs.” He patted the table for emphasis with each point; “much less any left over for to go after terrorists.”
“Or communists, right?” Thomas Jonson said.
“Oh, I get it; you are one of those anti-war lefty liberals that don’t believe in killing children. Live and let live, huh? Peace, love, and flower power. Back in my day, you would have been one of those long hairs that protested against the Viet Nam war. We called ‘em HIPPIES!” He slapped his palm firmly on the table and stared at him. “What are we gonna do when China decides it wants its money? Hmmm?” he hummed.
“Why did we go to Viet Nam?” Thomas Johnson spoke a little louder.
“Why don’t you ask the families of one of the fifty-eight thousand one-hundred and fifty-nine heroes with their names on the Viet Nam War Memorial?” Grandpa was breathing heavily.
Thomas Johnson met his gaze. “How ‘bout if I ask the families of one of the two million Vietnamese, would they be good ones to ask?”
“I’m not worried about the Vietmanese,” Grandpa said.
“Easy, Grandpa,” Thomas Johnson said. “I didn’t say I liked communists, although a little socialism is a good thing. After all, we are our brother’s keeper, right?” Neither man spoke. Two black guys walked by. A peacock call echoed through the zoo.
Grandpa took a deep breath. “Obama is the worst President we’ve ever had. What has he done for this country?”
“He killed Bin Laden.”
“The Navy Seals killed Bin Laden, next.”
“He got us out of Iraq, a war we didn’t have to fight; but did because of George Bush.”
“Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. He was a terrorist. He funded the people that flew jets into the towers. George Bush killed him. You can’t put a price on keeping America safe. What else you got?”
“Deregulation of the banking industry caused the housing collapse. I remember when the Republicans were selling the notion that everyone should buy a house. There were radio spots where George Bush said that affordable housing was now available because of easy credit.”
“That legislation passed during Clinton’s term.”
“Yes it did thanks to Phil Gramm and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. That’s what directly led to the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis which caused the recession. Barack Obama has had to dig us out of that one.”
“Obama is a Muslim and wasn’t even born in this country” Grandpa grinned.
“Now you’re scaring me Grandpa,” Thomas Johnson said. Both men sat silently. The burro with the sombrero turned his head to look at the two men. Both men laughed.
Just then Billy ran up with the two ladies trailing behind, smiling.
“Grandpa, we saw a hippopotamus!” Billy exclaimed.
“Don’t say anything about the mayoral race Grandpa,” Nanny said.
A peacock call echoed again throughout the zoo. Everyone laughed.
“We’re going to feed the giraffes,” Grandpa said to Thomas Johnson. “Want to come along? I’ll pay for the lettuce.”
“Sure,” Thomas Johnson said.
The two men stood up and they all five walked down the concrete pathway together toward the giraffe house.
Next Door Neighbor Delight by Izzy