Crocodiles Don’t Have Hair
by Rebekah Burcham
“Shh,” her mother said. That is adult for “How would you look without hair?”
“I’ll be bald like Uncle Mark. My head will be shiny. We’ll throw away all my brushes and buy a hundred hats.”
“Shhh.” That is adult for, “I’ll buy a pair of scissors from Acme on the way home, darling.”
Her mother cooed over a ring-tailed lemur that also smelled like hair. He shimmied from plastic branch to plastic branch, shaking his fur all over. Lacey sneezed on a zoo map. “Excuse me,” she said politely. Then on the map she saw a picture of a crocodile. Crocodiles don’t have hair.
“Let’s go see the crocodiles!” Lacey shouted.
Many other mothers looked at Lacey, and one nasty boy stuck out his tongue at her. She stuck her tongue out back, because the boy’s mother wasn’t paying attention enough to do it herself.
“Behave yourself!” Lacey’s mother put her hand on her hip. That is adult for, “Or else!”
Lacey followed her mother past all sorts of hairy mammals until they finally came to the crocodiles. The crocodiles were swimming in a pond that ran under a wood bridge. They were green-gray and yellow with gold eyes and toothy jaws that twisted like smiles. They had no hair, because crocodiles don’t have hair.
But Lacey could still smell hair even though smiling hairless crocodiles were swimming beneath her. They were too far away. They were bored, floating like logs. They would be exactly like logs if logs had teeth. They wanted company.
She jumped in.
“Lacey!” her mother shouted, which is adult for “You’re going to get wet!”
Floating bits of grass tickled her nose and elbows, and she sneezed and paddled and swallowed slimy mouthfuls of water. She hadn’t exactly learned how to swim yet.
The crocodiles stared at her.
“Hello,” Lacey said, remembering her best manners. But it is difficult to be ladylike when your hair is dripping in your eyes and you have water in your mouth. “Could you take me to shore?”
The biggest crocodile yawned and said, “Well. It isn’t quite a shore, because this is only a pond.” His voice was so low it shook her chest.
“Oh,” Lacey said. “Could you take me to the shore that isn’t quite a shore?”
The crocodile nodded, and she climbed onto his back. His scales were very warm with sunshine and slick with green pond scum.
“Lacey!” Lacey’s mother cried again. That is adult for, “Your underwear is showing! Pull down your skirt!” Lacey pulled down her skirt until it was quite modest.
The crocodile stopped at the shore that wasn’t quite a shore, and Lacey tumbled off into the mud. She sat up quickly and wiped the mud from her cheeks. But then the mud was on her hands, and she must never ever wipe her hands on her dress, so she leaned over and wiped them very gently on the crocodile’s scales.
“Well. Why are you here? Don’t you know we could eat you?” the crocodile asked. If he had eyebrows he would have raised them, but he couldn’t have eyebrows, because crocodiles don’t have hair.
“You don’t have hair,” Lacey said.
The crocodile nodded. “I understand. Hair smells very prickly on hot days. Well. You can’t stay here. You do have hair.”
Lacey reached up to her ponytail. “I could go bald.”
“But it would grow back,” the crocodile said.
“It’s very nice, despite it being hair,” the crocodile said politely.
“Thank you,” Lacey said, scrambling to her feet and curtsying like a princess, because it seemed the only proper thing to do to a crocodile compliment. Before she walked away she asked, “Why didn’t you eat me? Now that I think about it, you might have been hungry.”
“I’m on a diet,” the crocodile said gravely.
Lacey nodded. She walked all the way to the fence where a zookeeper was just coming, and he opened the gate for her.
When she stepped onto the bridge, her mother screamed, “Lacey!” Which is adult for, “You’re sopping wet!”
“I’m sorry,” Lacey said. “We’ll have to find a towel.”
As they drove home, Lacey reached forward and tapped her mother on her shoulder. “You don’t have to stop at Acme for scissors anymore. My hair would just grow back. Besides, it’s pretty nice, even if it is hair.”
1. What did the zoo smell like?
2. Why did Lacey want to cut off her hair?
3. What did Lacey ask the crocodile to do for her?
4. Why didn’t the crocodile eat her?
5. Why did Lacey decide not to cut her hair off?