Read an Excerpt
Some Kind of Weasel
Zucchini was born in the rodent house at the Bronx Zoo. When he was six weeks old, the rodent man put him in a cage of his own, separating him from his mother. It was time for him to become independent.
For days, the tiny ferret huddled in the corner of his glass-enclosed cage, refusing to eat. He wanted nothing but his mother. He would wait for her return. The zoo people had placed her at the far end of the rodent house, but noting Zucchini's condition after three days, had moved her to a cage directly across from her offspring. Zucchini picked up his mother's scent instantly and moved to the front of his cage. He peered questioningly through the thickness of the glass that separated them.
"You'll do well," his mother told him with her eyes. "You're growing up. It's time to become independent."
"I don't want to be independent," said Zucchini. "I want to be with you."
"Be patient," said his mother. "That will change."
As the days passed, Zucchini began to feel more comfortable. After all, there wasn't much that could happen to him in his tiny cage with its orange light and fake ground. No need to panic. He could survive. Then on the seventh day, his mother was again moved to the far end of the rodent house.
I'll be all right, thought Zucchini, but still he was lonely. He had no one. No brothers or sisters, no friends of any kind. The cage on his left was empty, and the one on his right had bats. Zucchini didn't like bats. He could hear them endlessly flapping around, banging into the walls, and he couldn't figure out what they were after.
Across the way lived aMexican pocket gopher and a restless groundhog. The pocket gopher spent her time tunneling through an elaborate network of passageways while the groundhog paced. Zucchini could sense that they both would rather not be interrupted, so he left them alone.
Sometimes Zucchini would catch a glimpse of the rodent man. His name was Rex, and he wore a faded green uniform. Mostly, Rex would stand around, leaning on his shovel, staring into space. Zucchini often wondered why Rex had a shovel. (There wasn't anything to dig.)
'Zucchini passed his days in boredom. The big event of the day was when Rex dropped a carrot into his cage and gave him fresh water. Sometimes Zucchini would try to think up new activities, but the possibilities were few. He could walk in circles, back up, take a nap, eat, clean his fur, make up stories, drink his water or hide inside his log from the people who looked into his cage.
Every day people would come and peer at Zucchini through the glass and point their fingers.
"What's that?" someone would usually ask.
"Beats me," another would answer. "Must be some kind of weasel."
"What kind of weasel?"
Each day the people would mutter in confusion because the rodent house was dark, and Zucchini's sign was poorly lit. Also, some of the letters bad come off. The people who took the trouble to bend, squint, put on their glasses or get out their flashlights only came up with F RR T ZUCC NI, which wasn't a lot of help. Rex noted the confusion with a wry smile and silently cursed the maintenance department. Those guys never get things done, was his feeling.
Zucchini adjusted to his surroundings, but deep down be felt there must be more to life. At night he. would sometimes dream of open places, places with light and air and different smells and beautiful colors, but when be woke up he could barely remember.
Where was I? he would think. Was it real? It was nice. Not like here. What is this place? So dark and cramped and pointless. Is this where I belong? I'm so lonely. I'm not having a good time, and I'm not doing anybody else any good. Something's wrong.
These feelings built up in Zucchini until he had no choice but to share them.
I'll try the groundhog, be thought. I'll interrupt him for once. This is important.
Zucchini waited until nighttime, when the rodent house was quiet and free of people.
"Excuse me," he said in a somewhat timid voice to the pacing groundhog. "Could I speak to you for a minute?"
"Suit yourself," said the groundhog.
"I'm sorry to bother you. I know you're busy, but I'm young and tiny and you're older and you seem to have things organized."
"Get to the point," said the groundhog.
"Yes," said Zucchini. "Well, I've been wondering about something."
"That's your first mistake," said the groundhog.
"Wondering. It'll get you nowhere."
"I don't do it on purpose," said Zucchini.
"Well, stop," said the groundhog. "One, two, three. Where's your willpower?"
"I don't have any," said Zucchini.
"Rubbish," said the groundhog.
Zucchini waited a moment, then gathered his courage.
"Do you ever get the feeling there's more?"
"More what?" said the groundhog. He was circling his rock, heading back in the direction of his water bowl.
"More things," said Zucchini, "more than we see. This rodent house, the cages, the orange lights, the water bowls, the rocks, the bats, the people staring in at us, Rex-is that all there is?"
"What you see is what you get," said the groundhog.
"At night I see other places, places with light and air and different smells and beautiful colors."
"You're dreaming," said the groundhog. "It's all in the mind."
Zucchini thought about what the groundhog had told him, but could make no sense of it.
It's all in the mind, he thought, but is that the only place it is? Maybe it's in the mind and also in other places. It's all in the mind means that everything is in the mind, but isn't everything also everywhere else? I should have asked him. He didn't make it clear.