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Grade
12

                      I Ain’t No Cowardly Lion

            I angrily threw fish at the seals as their scales slapped the water. I was having a bad day so my seventy-year-old coworker, Joanne, gave me a novel that could apparently be used as a great self-help book. But I didn’t like long, flowing prose that rambled on for three hundred pages. I didn’t like my coworker. I didn’t like waiting. Most of all, I didn’t like being alone.

           My promotion at the zoo was eating up too much of my time so there wasn’t room for me to start dating again. I knew this was just an excuse. I hated excuses. I hated myself for making excuses. But most of all, I hated dumb men.

            Dumb men were at the root of my problems. The guys who hit on me were never the ones I wanted to hit on me, obviously. The guys who hit on me were generally trash. I either thought they were creepy right away and dismissed them or I’d get bored with them after two weeks.

            I was an independent woman, I told myself day and night. I didn’t need a man to keep my bed warm because I had two-hundred-twenty pounds of body heat all by myself– God bless my rolls. There would be too much heat under the sheets and I would get too hot. If I had a man, I wouldn’t have enough space in my bed. I was proud of my pot belly. Why should I have to suck in? My body fat protected me from the weight of everyone else. I didn’t want to be smushed up against some twig all night and I did not like cuddling.

           Spooning was always a struggle. It was never fun because the men I dated were consistently too small for me so, after a long time insisting on being the little spoon, I had to be the big spoon. It’s not that I didn’t like big, buff guys– I did. It’s just that the ones I picked out were typically short and scrawny. And I didn’t want to shrink myself for them anymore. I only grew.

           So last week, I took a sliver of Joanne’s advice for once in my life and put an ad in the personals. I had Tinder but Joanne kept telling me that the personals were classier and attracted more nice Jewish boys. I wasn’t Jewish and didn’t care about religion. However, I caved after a month of Joanne’s typical grandma nagging.

           I didn’t care at this point anyway. I had been single long enough and it was time to put myself out there. Although I enjoyed my reign as my own king and queen for a little while, the loneliness was eating away at me. My demons gnawed off my dignity a long time ago. So I put my ad in the personals loud and proud. I made a killer presentation of myself, in my opinion.

           Now I was waiting for the phone to ring and the seals to sing. The paper came out last night and still no calls. It had been a long seventeen hours for Greta. A crowd was gathering around the seal pool, as it generally does at around 2pm. The audience wanted to see the seals clap and dance and do tricks. I never felt like I had to clap and dance and do tricks for them though. I was the ringleader.

           I relished rallying my troops and training the little animals like they were juvenile delinquents that had been sent off to the woods to reflect on their behavior. But the seals did nothing wrong, obviously. Their only behavior was their existence. They were seals. I still enjoyed playing my little games.

           A little noise in the background blended into the seals’ shrill barking. At first, I didn’t pay attention because it was time for their big trick, their grand finale. I was holding the biggest, juiciest tuna fish by the tail and waving it over their heads. They all had to vy for their prize when I threw it into the water. For them, this tuna was the biggest reward of the day. The noise persisted and I soon recognized an upbeat little song playing. Was that my ringtone?

           I had to pick up the phone. My legs were numb from when my tray table fell on them while I was watching Survivor last night so I couldn’t feel it vibrating. I also had a substantial amount of flesh on my legs to shield my limbs from feeling any kind of sensation– I was proud of my thick skin. But I was pretty sure that “Pick Up the Phone” was lightly playing in my pocket.

           I hastily pulled out my phone and held my index finger up to the crowd, signalling for them to wait.

           “Hold up. Gotta take this,” I announced to my adoring fans.

           It was a number I didn’t recognize, which was a promising sign. Some nine-year-old started booing me. I stuck my middle finger up at that little brat. Kids who grew up with iPhones in their cribs had some nerve. He and his mother stormed out in insulted struts, but that was their issue.

           I cleared my throat and flipped my hair before I answered the phone: “Oh, hello. Greta speaking.”

           I pretended to be caught off guard. The person on the other end stuttered in this deep, manly voice: “H-H-Hi. Greta. Hi Greta. I’m Dreyfus. And I was reading the newspaper. And I saw your ad in the personals. And I, uh, admire your, um, gumption. Your gumption, yes. So I was wondering if I could take you over the bridge– Because I live in Jersey; that’s not a creepy sexual metaphor, I just– I’d like to take you out. You can come to Jersey.”

           “Jersey? Why would we go to New Jersey?” I retorted, genuinely confused.

           The poor guy laughed nervously as he fumbled for a response, “No, no. We don’t have to go to Jersey. We can go wherever you want, really. I didn’t mean to impose on you. I just– I just live in Jersey so it was my first thought. But I’m moving to Brooklyn in a week so, if that’s a turn off, then it won’t be. Soon.”

           Dreyfus was a good boy. A smile cracked open my face. I might as well throw him a tuna. Truth be told, Greta liked her men nice and submissive. So this was the most thrilling surprise of all. I didn’t know who was more impatient to grab something by the tail and devour it: me or the seals.

State
NY
Zip Code
10533