I really wanted to do this story snip it! I hope you all love it as much as I do!
Told you I might do a few more! Just too good to leave!
I gave Anthony the toy and quickly went to answer the door. It was one of the few days that I got to babysit him. A day that I could bond with the boy, though we were closer than he was to his mother or father.
"Hello?" I said as I opened the door.
My jaw dropped and I stared at the men in the hallway in utter surprise. Six of them stood out in the hall in front of me. Six rather handsome men as well, especially in normal, everyday dress. Something I've rarely ever seen them wear, quite the treat. They smiled at me happily.
Dugan held up a hand full of red tickets, "Would you and the boy care to go to the zoo with us?" He asked.
I nodded swiftly, "Would we ever?!" I opened the door wide and gestured for them to enter. "Come in gentlemen. I can't believe you guys are here, much less here with zoo tickets," Now I just couldn't stop rambling through my excitement. "Not that you guys don't seem like zoo men, but well you're…intimidating looking. You might scare the animals yourself." I looked pointedly at Sgt. Fury, "Especially if you don't smile at them. They might see you as an opponent."
Montegomery threw his arm around the Sergeant's shoulder with a laugh, "Now I would deeply enjoy seeing that, pay for it too. That'd be quite the exhibit." He let go and held out his hands in front of him, making a sign in his minds eye. "Mr. Smiles and Burt the bear. Not to the death of course, no one would enjoy that."
The men smiled and Fury smiled at him, shaking his head. "I would not be the one stupid enough to climb in a cage with a bear. Honestly, all you have to do is look to Gabe if you want a bear fight, he's the bear."
We all laughed, especially since Fury was joking around. That was a sight you never saw until now.
"Liberty?" A small voice asked behind me.
I looked behind me, the men slowly shutting up. Anthony stood behind me, looking up at the daunting giants standing in front of us. He grabbed onto my leg with his left hand and held the toy convertible close to his chest, partially hiding behind me.
Anthony was maybe six years old, still a little runt. He was very shy to new people, especially men.
"It's okay sweetie," I said, rubbing his hair. "These are the men I told you about. The Howling Commandos."
Anthony's eyes lit up like it was Christmas and a smile slowly crawled into place. "The Howling Commandos? From the stories you tell me at bedtime?" He looked at each of them, pointing with his convertible, "The Moo-stache," Pointing to Dugan. He knew how to talk but some words still needed some work such as mustache. "Big Ears," Pointing to Jacques. "Shorty," Pointing to Jim. "Big Bear," Pointing to Gabe. "Baldy," Pointing at Montgomery.
I eyed each of them, worried they would take offense for the names I made for them but they all smiled at him and nodded, laughing lightly. Dugan rubbed his mustache, looking stoic and proud. Jacques held his ears, pulling them out and crossing his eyes. Anthony laughed at him, a small and cute laugh that you couldn't help but smile at. Jim looked glum but smiled, he hated being called shorty but he understood. Gabe growled playfully at him and Montgomery rubbed his head, asking Jim if he were that bald which he shrugged.
I kneeled down beside Anthony, "Want to go to the zoo?" I asked him.
He nodded quickly, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." He looked up at the Commandos, "Can they come too?"
I laughed, "They're bringing us there, so yes, they are coming too."
Anthony went to Fury's side, pulling on his jeans. "Can I sit by you Ser-gent?" He asked kindly. Fury smiled and nodded, patting Anthony on the head.
The ride to the zoo was quick and uneventful. Anthony had fun sitting up front between Dugan and Fury. He looked up at Fury with something of a look of respect and honor. He must have remembered the stories I told him of the Sergeant, he was after all very influential in my stories.
I sat between Gabe and Jim and Montgomery sat in the way back. I hated riding between these two because every time the car turned it was time to make a Phyllis sandwich.
Even though I may not be the happiest of people, I did, to everyone's surprise enjoy the times I had off. I may be grumpy in the field but that doesn't necessarily mean I'll be grumpy normally as well. Though, I'm not surprised that surprised them. I'm more surprised that Anthony liked me, which made me wonder what Phyllis told him about the missions we went on.
The group walked through the zoo, walking around the monkey cages. Anthony sat on Montgomery's shoulders looking in at the monkeys. He made some monkey noises and scratched at his armpits. Phyllis stood beside Montgomery, handing the boy some banana chunks for him to throw into the cages.
People walking by looked at our group oddly, ever curious about the six men who if anything seemed like they were guarding Anthony and Phyllis. It wouldn't surprise me if that were what people thought; it's kind of how it seemed.
"Would you like some cotton candy?" Jim asked me. "I'm going to go and get some from the vendor quick. Want some?"
"Nah, I don't much like it, too sweet." I said shrugging.
Jim nodded and ran to catch up with the small cotton candy vendor that walked around, wheeling his cart along. I'm fairly certain he was at the Alligator enclosure too handing out cotton candy to kids.
"Get one for me," Gabe yelled after Jim. He laughed and shook his head. "Shorty has too much of a sweet tooth to be good for him."
I laughed, "That is very true. Didn't he just have some ice cream and candy bits earlier?" I asked. "I don't think he's going to be able to hold much more sweet's down if he keeps going after them like that."
"Agreed," Stated Jacques. "He will not be feeling well tonight."
Montgomery put down Anthony and Phyllis took his hand and they raced around the corner to the children's park. We meandered our way over, taking our time and waiting for Jim to get back. He carried an armload of cotton candy, giving one to Gabe and to Dugan even though he didn't ask for one. Dugan and Montgomery shared it, not minding that Jim had given them one. Jim was munching on one and held another, looking around in confusion.
"Anthony's on the playground," Gabe said. "You may want to wait until he's done before you give him that."
Jim nodded and continued eating his.
All of us sat down at the playgrounds benches, taking up two of the three of them. Dugan felt awkward and he and Montgomery decided to take a walk. Jim handed me Anthony's cotton candy and caught up with them.
"It's amazing how much she loves that boy," Jacques said as he watched Phyllis play with Anthony. "Isn't he the reason Howard left Phyllis? And yet she see's him more than Howard it seems."
Gabe nudged him in the side, "She was asked by Maria to keep the boy safe. You know that."
Jacques nodded. "I know. It just surprises me that she so willingly takes care of the boy. She has no reason too."
"Howard's changed since she left him-completely. I saw him the other day and he grunted and just kept walking past. I tried saying hello but he didn't want to." Gabe shrugged, "Phyllis no doubt notices this the most. Wasn't that why Maria asked her to help in the first place, was because of Howard?"
Gabe looked at me and I nodded.
Phyllis held Anthony by the hands and spun him in a circle, lifting him a few feet above the ground. They both had big smiles and were laughing happily. Some of the parents looked at them with jealousy, wishing they had that bond with their children. Yet Anthony wasn't hers… It was, as Jacques said, amazing how much she loved that boy and everyone here could see it.
"I think Anthony is more her child than there's," I said. I ripped a chunk off of the cotton candy I held and ate it. "She doesn't care about the facts, she just cares about the boy. Everything else is, in a way, meaningless."
She and Anthony fell on the pebbled ground and laughed loudly. Anthony stood, swaying a bit from dizziness. He grabbed her hand and pulled on it, making her get up as well. She smiled and waved at the three of us and followed Anthony as he dragged her to the monkey bars. They were way too tall for him so she lifted him up to them. Strong little boy, going back and forth twice without even stopping. Finally he did, sitting on her shoulders to get down but she kept him up there and walked over to us.
"Join us to go see the lions and tigers?" She asked.
"And bears," Anthony chimed happily.
"Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!" Jacques said, laughing.
I stood and handed Anthony the cotton candy, "Here you go buddy. Something to keep you going for a few more hours." He beamed and grabbed it, shoving his whole face into it practically. I laughed, "You're going to have a sticky face if you eat it like that." Anthony just smiled at me and took another bite with his face.
We walked past the birdcages, stopping a moment to look at them. Phyllis pointed to the Eagle flying to a perch and Anthony held his arms out to his sides and made small noises. "Someday I am going to fly with the Eagles."
Phyllis made plane noises and began running down the path with him. It was a mother and son running down the path just then and not a friend and friends child.
We walked around the whole zoo, looking at the lions, tigers, bears, birds, hippos, alligators, and many more. Each exhibit we stopped at, the animals enthralled Anthony, some he growled at, getting a response from the tigers. We stayed by the tiger exhibit the longest as he had a growling conversation with the tigers who wandered back and forth in front of him.
Phyllis had dragged Gabe over to a wall of animals that had no faces and they posed as the male and female dancing gorillas. Jim took some pictures as we all switched around and posed with the wall of animal figures.
It was a deeply enjoyable day for all of us and by the end of it Anthony was walking around like a zombie, barely able to keep his eyes open. Funny enough, Jim walked around just like Anthony did; only his was out of sickness.
"We told you this was going to happen, Jim." Jacques said, laughing at his comrade. "You shouldn't have eaten the amount of sweets you did. And then you passed up a real lunch…"
Jim glared at him and then raced in front to the nearest garbage can, letting go of some of those sweets.
Phyllis came up beside me and grabbed onto my arm, "Thank you Nick," She said. She smiled at me. "Dugan told me that it was your idea to come to the zoo today." She hugged my arm and squeezed it lightly. "We all loved it."