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       Sunshine Zoo #1: Monkey on the Loose, p.1

           Sir Ryan Dale
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Sunshine Zoo #1: Monkey on the Loose
Sunshine Zoo #1: Monkey on the Loose

  By Sir Ryan Dale

  mailto:[email protected]

  copyright 2013 Ryan Dale Deardorff.

  For Mom

  Chapter Zero: Inner Ear Infection

  Mr. Chisum, Sunshine Zoo’s curator, tore open the zoo director’s door, panting for air. His clothes were torn in long gashes, his black hair was full of mud, and his face was filled with red scratches. He held up a few envelopes, and then said in a frail voice, “The mail’s here, Chief.”

  “Good heavens, Mr. Chisum! What happened to you?” The zoo director jumped up so fast from behind his desk that his safari hat nearly bounced off his head. Moving rather quickly for a short, round fellow, he ran over and helped Mr. Chisum slide down into the chair in front of the desk.

  “I’ve just been doing this and that, Chief,” said Mr. Chisum, setting the mail on the director’s desk.

  “Might you be a little more specific? I mean, you look like you’ve been run over by a pack of lions.”

  “No, that was yesterday, Chief. Today it’s just been the usual stuff. That monkey’s still on the loose, a few more animals are out of their cages, and the train bridge is in need of repair. Oh, and Cornelius still needs to take his medicine.”

  “Who’s Cornelius?” asked the director.

  “The African elephant,” said Mr. Chisum. “You know, the one with the inner ear infection. He’s a bit wobbly, so I’m having a hard time giving him his medicine. He almost sat on me twice today.”

  “Well, I can give the elephant his medicine as soon as I’m done going over the mail.” The director sat back down behind his desk. “You just worry about getting those animals back in their cages, and find that monkey if you can. He’s the one letting the other animals out of their cages, you know.”

  “Sure thing, Chief,” said Mr. Chisum. “Anything else?”

  The director let out a sigh. “I don’t suppose so, but I do want to thank you for all the hard work you’ve been doing lately. I know you’re understaffed and the zoo is in bad shape. Sometimes I think I got in way over my head when I bought this place a month ago.”

  “We’ll manage, Chief,” encouraged Mr. Chisum.

  “I sure hope so,” said the director, glancing down at his mail. “We’re out of money and running low on food for the animals. I just don’t know how…” The director paused and then picked up an envelope that had caught his eye. He then held it up for a better look and his eyes widened as he noticed that the postmark was from Africa.

  “Whatcha got there, Chief?” asked Mr. Chisum.

  “Perhaps the answer to all our problems,” the director said with a smile. “It’s a reply from my brother.”

  “Your brother, the famous conservationist? The one who’s trotting around Africa, helping wildlife?”

  “That’s the one!” said the director. “I sent him a letter about a week ago, asking for help. I just knew he’d come through.”

  The director promptly tore the letter open and began to read it aloud.

  “Dear Carl,

  I’m very sorry to hear of all the troubles you’re having at Sunshine Zoo. It is with deep regret that I inform you that I will be on safari in Africa for most of the year and cannot directly help. However, I know someone who is more than capable of assisting you in getting your zoo back in tip-top working order. I have asked my daughter, Beverly, to assist you. She has grown up around exotic animals and knows them from head to toe. She’s only ten, but I have no doubt she will someday be a shining star for the conservation of wild animals. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.


  Your brother,

  Alan Trail.”

  The director curiously looked over an enclosed photograph which showed his brother and his niece standing next to a tiger, presumably somewhere in Africa. Both appeared very happy with dirty faces contrasted by their sparkling white smiles. Their dark brown hair seemed a trait in his family, but the director’s brother was notably more handsome than he was, being a foot taller with broader shoulders.

  “That’s good news,” said Mr. Chisum.

  “I sure hope it is,” said the director, wearily rubbing his eyes with his palms. “Let’s just hope my niece is a chip off the old block.”

  Chapter One: Sunshine Florida

  “Wake up, Miss,” a pleasant voice stirred me from my slumber. “The airplane’s landed.”

  I wearily opened up a sleepy eye and turned it up to gaze upon a flight attendant. “Where are we? Ghana?”

  The flight attendant swayed her dangling curls as she shook her head. She then smiled and said, “We’ve landed in Florida.”

  I let out a yawn, stretched, and then said, “Thank heavens I finally made it! You wouldn’t believe how many layovers I had to make to get here from deep within the Congo. Not to mention the trek I had to make from our village to the airport in the first place—first by foot, then by raft, next by jeep, then a single-prop airplane.”

  “I can only imagine,” said the flight attendant with a smile.

  She helped me to my feet, and then pointed me to the front of the airplane.

  “Where exactly in Florida are we?” I asked, before stepping off the airplane.

  “Sunshine, Florida,” she answered.

  I wearily followed the other passengers down a corridor and out into the crowded airport. Despite being half-asleep, I knew I needed to find the luggage drop, so I paused to look around for directions. I quickly spotted something very peculiar—a lady wearing a safari hat was holding a sign with my name on it. She didn’t look like any limo driver. She was tall and pretty, perhaps three times my age, and had blonde wavy hair that brushed her shoulders.

  “That’s me,” I said, as I walked up to her. “I’m Beverly Trail.”

  “I’m Ashley Cambridge. I volunteer as a veterinarian at Sunshine Zoo,” she smiled, shaking my hand. “But please just call me Ashley. Sorry to rush you but we have to hurry up and get going.” She suddenly grabbed my hand and tugged me along, jarring loose whatever cobwebs that still hung in my sleepy brain.

  “What about my bags?” I asked.

  “There’s no time,” said Ashley, leading me out the sliding doors at the front of the airport.

  Waiting at the curb was a jeep with the Sunshine Zoo logo on its side. The logo consisted of a cat, shaped like the sun, ready to pounce. We both rushed towards the vehicle.

  “Why are we in such a hurry?” I asked, as I opened the door to the jeep and crawled inside.

  “It’s your uncle!” said Ashley, as she jumped into the driver’s seat. “He’s been hurt.”

  My heart leapt in my chest. “Is he ok?”

  “I’m not really sure. There was an accident at the zoo. An elephant sat on him.”

  “Sat on him?” I repeated. “That’s horrible!”

  Ashley put the jeep into drive and stomped on the gas. I sank back in my seat like an astronaut being launched into orbit.

  “That’s not all,” she continued, as we sped out onto the highway. “Some of the animals have gotten loose from their cages. There’s a particularly playful monkey who seems to be letting the other animals out of their cages.”

  “What kind of monkey?” I asked.

  “A howler monkey.”

  “Those can be playful,” I said. “They’re indigenous to Central and South America. Their howls can be heard from miles away.”

  “That’s right,” said Ashley. “You must know a lot about monkeys.”

  “Not just monkeys, but most wild animals,” I said, proudly.

  Ashley suddenly let out a howl of her own and then slammed on
the brakes. The jeep fishtailed to a squealing halt in the middle of the highway. One look out the window and I could clearly see the reason for the sudden stop. There, in the middle of the road, stood a giraffe.

  Chapter Two: Girard

  “I’m guessing he’s one of the animals who’ve gotten loose from Sunshine Zoo,” I said, looking at the giraffe in the middle of the highway. “Wow! What a beautiful creature he is!” I exclaimed, as I quickly got out of the jeep and looked up at the majestic animal.

  “A beautiful creature that’s about to get run over unless we can capture him and take him back with us to the zoo,” said Ashley. She went to the back of the jeep and began to rummage through some items. “There’s got to be a rope in here somewhere.”

  The traffic in both directions had come to a crawl as drivers and their passengers craned their necks to get a better look at the giraffe.

  “What’s his name?” I asked, watching him as he stretched his neck up towards the top of a tree that overhung the highway. He then pulled off a few leaves with his long tongue.

  “He’s Girard,” said Ashley, walking up next to me while tying a lasso with a rope she had found. Ashley twirled the lasso and then sent it sailing up in the air towards Girard’s head. But the lasso fell far short of its target.

  “You’ll never catch him that way,” I said. I turned and looked around at the traffic that was weaving by. I held out a hand to stop a car, and then ran over to the side of the road. I then grabbed hold of a limb that had fallen from the tree. Quickly, I bolted back over to the jeep and climbed upon its hood.

  “What are you doing?” asked Ashley, who was now tiring from trying to lasso Girard.

  “Just got to get him down to our level,” I said, holding out the branch. I then puckered my lips and let out a whistle.

  Girard looked my way. I waved the limb, which was full of juicy, green leaves, back and forth in front of him. He finally swung his head around and lowered it to take a bite.

  “That’s a good boy,” I said, lowering the branch a little more and then patting him on the head.

  By now, Girard’s head was low enough for Ashley to fling her lasso over it. The lasso then dropped to the base of his neck.

  “Sure hope our bumper holds,” said Ashley, as she tied the other end of the rope to the back of the jeep. We both hopped back into the jeep before slowly taking off again.

  I looked in the rearview mirror, excited to see the giraffe walking behind us. It was obviously going to take longer for us to get to the zoo now that we had a giraffe tied to our bumper. It had been only a few minutes since I’d touched down at the airport and things had already begun to get interesting.

  Chapter Three: Face to Face with a Rhino

  It took us quite a while to finally get to Sunshine Zoo. I know Ashley was in a hurry to get back and help out, but, as we found out, you can’t travel very fast with a giraffe tied to your bumper.

  “Hurry and go find Mr. Chisum,” said Ashley, as she untied the rope from the bumper and began to lead Girard back into the zoo. “He’s the zoo curator. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to see you.”

  “Will do,” I said, turning and running under a large archway that read, “Welcome to Sunshine Zoo.”

  I ducked under the turnstile and ran past the gift shop before rounding the corner and coming face to face with a massive black rhino. The big animal blocked most of the path in front of me. It lowered its horn and began to snort.

  “Umm, nice rhino,” I said, taking a couple of steps back.

  The rhino took a couple of steps forward.

  I was beginning to grow concerned for my life when, seemingly out of nowhere, a lasso suddenly sailed over and wrangled the beast around its horn.

  An older man, covered in mud and lined with scratches, appeared from behind the rhino. “Sorry about Alice,” he said, walking up and patting the rhino on her side. She’s just one of many I haven’t gotten back into their enclosures yet. I can’t keep up with that darn monkey. As soon as I put an animal back in its cage, he lets another out.”

  “We came upon a giraffe on the way from the airport,” I said. “We brought him back with us.” I pointed toward Ashley, who was leading Girard down a path off in the distance, presumably back to his enclosure.

  “Girard got loose too?” asked the man, taking off his safari hat and wiping his sweaty brow with his sleeve. “I must confess, I didn’t even know he was missing.” He shifted his focus back to me. “If you came from the airport, that must mean you’re Beverly Trail, correct?”

  “Yes, sir, I am. And you must be Mr. Chisum.”

  “What’s left of him,” puffed the man. “But really, I think I’ve gotten most of the animals back into their cages by now—at least all the dangerous ones.”

  “Can I be of any assistance?” I asked.

  “Sure can. If you see any animals on the loose, help them back into their homes. Also, keep a lookout for that monkey. He’s been quite the troublemaker lately.”

  “Will do,” I said, watching him turn the massive rhino around and lead her off down the pathway. “And don’t you worry,” I added. “I’ll catch that monkey too.”

  Chapter Four: Sad Charlie

  I began to explore Sunshine Zoo for the first time. With a pond full of pink flamingos to my right and a field of bison to my left, I didn’t know where to begin. I thought it wise to explore the map of the zoo, which stood on a display just in front of me.

  My eyes widened as I looked at the map. It was full of winding trails leading to different sections of the zoo, each home to different types of animals from all parts of the world. There were ice cream shops, soda stands, first aid stations, and bathrooms. There was even something I had never seen at a zoo before—a railroad that circled the outskirts of the entire zoo. I was so wrapped up in studying the map that, for a moment, I forgot why I had started to look at it in the first place. Still focused on the map, I spotted a pathway that led down the center of the zoo and forked off in every direction. I decided to follow it.

  Running down the pathway, it didn’t take long to come upon an open gate. I ran over and looked at the display to see exactly which creature had occupied the now empty pen.

  “Galapagos tortoise,” I read aloud. “Oh! Those are giant!”

  It even gave a specific name for the animal—”Sad Charlie.” I looked down and spotted some rather large, muddy footprints leading from the pen and heading down the path. I followed them until I caught sight of the tortoise.

  “You’re huge,” I said, as I ran up to him. He looked more like a slow-moving boulder than any tortoise I had ever seen. “You’re going the wrong way, Sad Charlie. You have to turn around. Your home is behind you.”

  I tried turning him around by pushing on the side of his shell, but he was simply too heavy for me to budge. I then crawled upon his back. He didn’t seem to notice that he had gained a passenger. He simply continued his slow crawl forward.

  “Turn around!” I urged him, but he didn’t listen. Sighing, I said, “I guess I’m going to have to get clever with you, Sad Charlie, if I’m going to get you back home.”

  After crawling off his back, I ran back to his pen. I then found what I was looking for—his dinner bowl. I grabbed a handful of leafy, green plants, and then ran back out to find the tortoise again. Sad Charlie had almost moved off the path by the time I returned to him, so I instantly began to lay down a trail of leaves in front of him, steering him in the direction of his enclosure. He hungrily began to munch them and then turned, heading back toward his pen as he followed the trail of leaves I was laying down.

  Once he was back in his pen, I closed the gate and said, “Hope you enjoyed your field trip, Sad Charlie, but I must be off to help out what other animals that may be wondering about.”

  As if on cue, a train whistle sounded from behind me, followed by a shrill shriek. I recognized the shriek as coming from a monkey—specifically, a howler monkey. “That’s got to be the troublesome monkey
everyone’s been talking about,” I said, before quickly turning around and running in the direction of the sound.

  Chapter Five: Runaway Train

  Once I got back to the top of the hill, I saw Mr. Chisum standing there, scratching his dirty head while watching a train chug away down the tracks.

  “What’s going on?” I asked, as I ran up to his side.

  “It’s that monkey!” he said. “He’s hijacked the train and is taking it for a ride.”

  I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Sounds like he’s full of mischief,” I said with a smile. “Even though he’s on the train, at least we know where he is right now. I’m sure he’ll grow tired of riding the rails and then we’ll grab him.”

  “Wish it were that simple,” said Mr. Chisum, “but he’s in a lot of danger. There’s a problem with the track up ahead.”

  “What kind of problem?” I asked.

  “The bridge is out.”


  “Yes, the bridge that runs over the waterfall at the far end of the zoo is out. It’s in need of repair, along with just about everything else around here. Once that train reaches the bridge, that monkey is going to find himself falling a good thirty feet to the rocks below.”

  “He’ll be killed for sure,” I said. “Can’t the train be stopped?”

  “Only from the engine room,” said Mr. Chisum. “There’s a red kill switch but you’d have to be on the train to push it.”

  “Then we’ll have to catch that train,” I said.

  “I don’t see how,” said Mr. Chisum.

  “Well, we at least have to try.” I looked around. “Isn’t there anything we can use to catch it? A golf cart, a scooter, anything?”

  “I’m afraid not,” said Mr. Chisum. “And that train goes faster than we can run. We’d never catch it in time.”

  “I’ll find a way,” I said, taking off and running up to the zoo map. I looked at the map, searching for a horse to ride. Heck, I’ll even settle for a zebra, I thought, or… It wasn’t the ideal animal to ride when running down a train, but I quickly spotted one nearby. It just might work! I then tore down the path towards the animal.

  “Where are you going?” asked Mr. Chisum, yelling after me.

  “To stop that train!”

  I ran down the winding path until I came upon the animal. I hopped over the fence and ran up to him. “I hope you have fast legs,” I said, as I crawled upon the back of the ostrich.

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