“Zebra Tears”



When I was a little boy

A toddler of preschool age

I would summer at my grandparents farm

In Rhodesia

The summers were hot

But I didn’t know

I was a toddler of preschool age


The plantation was vast

My grandparents kind

The workers nice


Grandma was sweet

She drove a jeep

She scoured the veld for wounded game

She’d patch them up

All the while tsk’ing and tutting

Tutting and tsk’ing


Her curly silver hair would bob

And bounce


The last day after the hunters left

She brought home a zebra colt

Wounded and mad

My grandmother’s tears made the dusty soil dance

I didn’t like the zebras

It was their fault I couldn’t have a dog

A pet dog

Sure there were work dogs on the plantation

But they were trained not to scare the game

Until ordered to


“We can’t have you a dog little Willy.

He’d scare the profits away.

And I don’t have the time to train you a cur

I need more trained ones myself.”


“Ah ha!  I know!  You can have the colt as your pet.

How grand!

You’ll be the only boy on Long Island

With a pet zebra!

What should we name him little Willy?”


“Spot,” I meekly uttered


A round of laughter filled the room.

My grandfather’s face red

Grandma shaking her head

Bobbing her silver curls

The help laughed nervously

They regarded me somehow

But I didn’t know how

I was a toddler of preschool age


I know now the irony

Of naming a zebra “Spot”

But I wasn’t being ironic

I was a toddler of preschool age

And I wanted a dog


At the end of the season

My suitcases packed

I’d take my last walk with my pet zebra

I often thought he regarded me

As if I were a zebra

Or as if he were a human

I do not know

I was a toddler of preschool age


As we drove in my grandma’s jeep to the airport

Careful not to provoke the rebels


I remember the tears on my face

As wet as the ones that fall now

But, oh, so much more hot


Now I wonder so terribly

Was it from the Rhodesian heat?

Or just me regarding “Spot”?


What, just what, caused my rage?

But then I didn’t know

I was a toddler of preschool age.


(c) Bill Corrigan 2010