Please Don’t Feed the Animals
July 1987

“Please Don’t Feed the Animals,” Friend, July 1987, 20

Please Don’t Feed the Animals

Alexander had curly red hair and 122 little round brown freckles all over his face.

Sometimes Alexander did things that he knew he wasn’t supposed to do.

One day Alexander caught a frog and hid it in the kitchen. The frog got out of its hiding place and leaped into the pudding Alexander’s mother was making for dinner.

“Alexander! What on earth am I going to do with you!” his mother cried.

“It’s not my fault,” Alexander told her. “You see, there’s a naughty little fox inside my head. He told me to bring the frog into the house. He said that if you didn’t see it, it would be OK.”

“I see,” said Alexander’s mother. “Well, where do you suppose the little fox got the idea? Do you suppose that you could have given him the idea?”

“Me? Oh no! Well … I mean … I don’t know.” Alexander gave his mom his best crooked grin, but it didn’t help.

“Well then, why don’t you just go to your room and think about it for a while,” she said.

Later that day Alexander sneaked six cookies out of the cookie jar. At dinner he ate one bite of meat, two bites of potato, and three peas.

“Why aren’t you eating your dinner, Alexander?” his mother asked.

“Well,” Alexander said, “there’s a big lion in my tummy. He growled at me this afternoon and told me that if I didn’t feed him six cookies right away, he would bite me. So, you see, it’s really not my fault that I’m not hungry anymore—except for dessert.”

“I see,” said Alexander’s mother. “Since you’ve already fed the lion in your tummy, I don’t think that he needs any dessert. Besides, I don’t think tummy-lions like apple pie—especially apple pie with big scoops of vanilla ice cream on it. So you may be excused from the table now.”

The next day was rainy; Alexander brought out his train set. He very neatly laid out the tracks with a mountain tunnel, a switchover track, and a big loop-the-loop track. Just as Alexander started his train for the very first ride, his little brother came skipping into the room and tripped on Alexander’s train tracks. The tunnel turned over, the switchover track came apart, and the loop-the-loop track lopped sideways.

“You clumsy little kid!” Alexander screamed at his brother. “Just look at what you did!” When Alexander made a fist and started to run after his little brother, he ran right into his mother.

“I’m sorry about your track, Alexander,” she said softly. “I’ll help you put it together again. But you weren’t really going to hit your brother, were you? You know it was just an accident.”

“I know,” said Alexander sadly, “but if I’d hit him, it wouldn’t have been my fault. You see, there’s a big dragon inside me. Most of the time he just sleeps, but when he wakes up, he opens his fiery mouth and lets out mean words. And when someone makes him angry, sometimes he makes me hit that person. I think he’s angry now because he wanted to see the train go.”

“I see,” said Alexander’s mother. “Well, I don’t blame him for being angry. But there is a better way to take care of those feelings. Do you think that your dragon can count? Tell him to count to ten before he says anything. Then if he still feels angry, I think that he will be able to say how he feels without mean words or hitting.”

“I don’t know,” said Alexander doubtfully, “but I’ll tell him.”

The next day was bright and sunny. It’s a perfect day to finish building my hideout, thought Alexander. All I need is something to cover it so that it will be cozy and cool inside.

Alexander ran into the kitchen, snatched a tablecloth off the kitchen table, and was headed back outside when he spied this note taped to the screen door: “Alexander, please don’t listen to the fox!”

So he didn’t. Alexander put the tablecloth back on the kitchen table. Then he just stood there for a moment and thought.

Suddenly Alexander tore through the house, threw open his bedroom door, and scrambled inside his closet. He pulled out tennis shoes and slippers. He pulled out rain boots and snow boots. Finally he pulled out an old sheet that he and his brother had used last fall as a circus tent. It would make a perfect cover for his hideout! Alexander grinned his crooked grin.

Pretty soon Alexander’s tummy began to make funny sounds. Uh-oh, Alexander thought. The lion must be hungry. I think he wants some cookies. Alexander went back into the kitchen. He was just reaching inside the cookie jar when he noticed this note taped on it: “Alexander, please don’t feed the lion!”

So he didn’t. Instead, Alexander went to find his mother. “I’m hungry, Mom! When’s lunch?”

“I’m glad that you asked,” his mother said. “I was just about to make it. Maybe you’d like to help me.”

Alexander ate all his sandwich, all his soup, two helpings of potato chips, and some chocolate pudding. “Now both of us feel better,” Alexander told his mother. “I guess the lion likes sandwiches too.”

“Even tummy-lions need a change from cookies,” agreed his mother, smiling.

Later that day Alexander and his little brother were playing with their building blocks. Alexander had built a monster-size castle with towers, thick walls, and a drawbridge. His little brother was working on a mouse-size house.

“I need one of these red blocks,” his little brother said, and he reached over and took one from the bottom of one of Alexander’s towers.

The tower started to topple, and suddenly, right before Alexander’s astonished eyes, his whole beautiful monster castle was in ruins.

His little brother got up and ran. Alexander ran after him. Just as Alexander grabbed his little brother by the arm and opened his mouth to shout angry, mean words at him, an arm appeared in the doorway, holding this large sign: “Alexander, please ask the dragon to count!”

So he did. Alexander helped the dragon count to ten; then he smiled his crooked grin, hugged his little brother, and asked him to help rebuild the monster castle. And it was bigger and better than before.

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney