The Mermaids Visit the Zoo Chapter 6

Chapter Six


            It was a sunny blue day in the ocean. Shell was excited that morning because her family was taking a trip to the beautiful Sandy Aygo Zoo. A day at the zoo with all of the wonderful exotic sea animals sounded like a great adventure. Shell gathered her pencils and sketchbook, Sandy got her camera and Brine retrieved his sea cow-boy hat. 
            While Mom and Dad were packing the merstation wagon, the children discussed which animals they would visit. “The leafy sea dragons, lionfish, the zebrafish, the hermit crabs in the petting coral…” mused Shell, “everything but sea snakes,” she shuddered. Sandy continued, “the sea monkeys, the turtles, sea leopards, maybe the porcupine fish.” “Can we see water buffaloes and seahorses?” asked Brine who was wearing his holster and sea cowboy hat. “We’ll look for them Brine,” said Shell. “Do you want to play with hermit crabs in the petting coral?” she asked. “Just stay away from the sea goats, they eat everything.” Shell remembered the time her school class had visited the zoo and the sea goats tried to eat everyone’s name tags. Brine nodded, hand on his squirt gun; he would protect his sea cow-boy hat.
            “Get your coats kids,” called Dad. Sometimes the wind blew and it got cold in Sandy Aygo. The family piled into the merstation wagon and went to Pearl’s sand castle to pick her up. Pearl’s dad Dock had just returned from the Bonneville Sea Salt Flats where he had broken a speed record on one of the custom mertorcycles he built. Oyster said Pearl could spend the day at the zoo with the Planktons. The adventure began.
            Dad drove to Seaway 101 and headed south. As they glided along the coast, they sang silly songs like “Don’t Sweep your Sand in my Sand Pan,” and “The Whales on the Bus Go Round and Round.” The children watched for the familiar landmarks that showed they were getting close to the zoo. When they spotted the sign around Enseanitats with funny sea creatures they knew they were not far away.
            The Sandy Aygo Zoo was in Bubble Park, in the midst of giant kelp from Australia. The kelp forest was a wild and exciting place where urchins and abalone hid during the day, then came out at night for an algae feast. Crabs, octopus and cuttlefish roamed with seahorses and fish and brightly colored sea stars decorated the fronds. As Dad parked the merstation wagon, the children prepared for a wild time at the zoo. Mom put a water whistle around each child’s neck in case they should get lost while Dad bought the tickets. The children swam into the zoo and the fun began!
            Right inside the gate there was a tide pool where brilliant bright pink glowfish and rosy barbs were enjoying the sunny day. The children could hear the sea monkeys chattering and the sea leopards and lionfish roaring in the distance. They swam to a brass sculpture of a large seahorse and the children took turns posing on it as Dad snappered a few pictures with his underwater camera. Off to the left was the Sea Reptile Sand Castle where sea snakes, viperfish and lizard fish lived. Shell peeked in but, she was not fond of the giant sea snakes and was glad when they moved onto the Petting Coral.
            In the Petting Coral lived a school of gentle sea animals. Gentle, but they could be pesky as Brine found out when a sea goat tried to nibble his sea cow-boy hat! There were sea turtles, and sheepshead minnows to pet, and frisky baby seahorses that swam around playing tag. Two baby sea cows ambled by and squirrelfish chattered along the fence looking for crumbs to gather as they kept an eye on the catfish that purred in the sun. The children enjoyed their encounter with the creatures in the Petting Coral and reluctantly left to see the exotic animals in the Lost Kelp Forest.
            They soon forgot their hesitation when they encountered silly sea monkeys that swan in their enclosure, now and then stopping to pose for the visitors. An orange clownfish named Otis brought his toys over to show the children as they took pictures and sketched the animals. There was a large sea bird sand castle nearby filled with squawking parrot fish and deepwater cardinal fishes. Regal peacock mantis shrimp paraded, showing off their beautiful colors. They gazed at  zebra turkeyfish and kelp perch. Searobins and ravens circled overhead and a bit farther down the trail was the Lost Kelp Forest.
            “Let’s pretend we’re on safari,” they agreed as down an underwater canyon they swam. The explorers stopped when they reached the lair of the tiger shark who was pacing back and forth watching the merchildren.  Brine had his hand on his squirt gun in case danger arose. “I’m glad they can’t get to us,” whispered Sandy. The tiger shark yawned and showed his sharp teeth. The merchildren swam on. Around the corner they found elephantfish and venomous lionfish having their lunch. “Mom,’ said Brine, “I’m getting hungry.” The Planktons and Pearl swam to the picnic sand. Dad brought out the seagrass picnic basket. For a special treat, he had gone to the Twin Fins and picked up a sea chicken dinner. The meal was creatively packed inside a loaf of salt-rising bread, one of Abalone’s favorites! Mom had also brought a bag of seas puffs, goldfish crackers and water melon, which her merchildren loved.  Sitting on the warm sand in the sun with a full tummy made Brine sleepy. He curled up and before long, was napping. Dad carefully put him in the waterstroller, Mom put away the picnic and the adventure continued. 
            “I need to find an animal that isn’t moving too much so I can draw it’s picture,” announced Shell. She was in luck, the combination of warm afternoon sun and full tummies made many of the animals sleepy like Brine. “Let’s wait until he wakes up to visit the water buffalo and sea cows,” suggested Mom, “maybe we can find some quiet animals to look at.” “Not sea monkeys!” said Sandy, they, like Shell and Pearl, were always chattering.
            They made their way to the “It’s A Jungle Out There: Rainforest of the Ocean,” the coral reef. Octopi, colorful tropical fish and co-inhabited with brightly colored coral. The merchildren oohed and aahed as they enjoyed the bright hues of the coral and fish. They watched the fluid motions of the ballet-like interactions between plant and animal. Shell studied the creatures and made sketches. Sandy snappered photos.  They watched an octopus blush and hide in a crevice, a school of beautiful angelfish swim along and an eel tie himself in a knot! There were triggerfish doing silly stunts and clownfish acting like, well, clowns. The coral reef was very pretty and very amusing.
            Brine stretched and woke up when he heard his sisters laughing. He wanted to go to the Wild West enclosure. In the undersea desert, among the tumble seaweed, anemones and sea urchins, a porcupine fish slowly ambled by, sea cows circled the pen and a water buffalo watched from above. A Venus flytrap sea anemone snapped at a water flea. Brine wanted to ride seahorses, but Dad said he could do that another time.
            There was one more stop to make before calling it day. The Australian Great Barrier Reef Exhibit was home to the leafy sea dragons and crocodile fish. Parrotfish whistled and colorful butterfly fish flitted past. It took Sandy a while to find her first leafy sea dragon. The seahorse-like animal with frilly fins was so well-hidden in the kelp that it was almost impossible to see. Shell loved the leafy sea dragon, she liked its name and its wavy fins. She filled a whole page in her sketchbook with leafy sea dragons.
            One the way out of the Great Barrier Reef, there was an Antarctica exhibit. Black and white penguins had their own special space where they could dive and slide across the ice floes. They waddled like old silent movie stars in tuxedos and they raced back and forth on the ice.
The sun was setting on the ocean when the zookeepers started feeding the animals their dinner. It was time for the mermades to go home for dinner too.
Here are directions for making a pocket sketchbook to take to the zoo.
You will need:
2 twelve inch scrapbook papers
2 plain white 8.5″ x 11″ papers for each booklet
miniature colored pencils from a craft store
gluestick or glue
grommets, punch and setter or sewing machine
twine or ribbon
To do:
1. Attach the scrapbook papers together back-to-back using the adhesive.
2. Cut into 4″ x 12″ strips. Decide which will be the outside, lay the paper with the outside down. Fold 2” of the bottom edge up toward the center and crease. Punch holes and use grommets in the corners or stitch to make a pocket.
3. Bring the top edge down to the bottom fold and crease the center, it should be 5″‘ x 4″. Set aside the cover.
4. Fold the white paper lengthwise into 4.25″ x 11″. Cut into three strips 4.25″ x 3.66″ Stack the six sheets and punch holes on the crease, about an inch in from each edge.
5. Lay the white papers on the cover, center them and punch matching holes in the cover. Tie together with twine or ribbon.
6. Tuck pencils into pocket and give to darling little merpeople.