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A Girl Named Zippy


A Girl Named Zippy


























   Lion

My dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said I'd have to think about it. I questioned some friends, and discovered that these were the options available to me: ice skater, cowboy, teacher of little kids, large animal veterinarian. I didn't really, in my deepest heart, want to be any of those. I began to fear that I might live my whole life without gainful employment, as most of the rest of my family had.

Dad told me to think about what I enjoyed doing most, and how I wanted people to see me when I was grown, and I set my mind to that. I was deeply, tragically in love with Telly Savalas at the time, and carried his picture around in an old wallet my grandma, Mom Mary, had given me. My love for him made me dissatisfied with my own life.

I was in a state all during that career time, and then one night, just before I fell asleep, I realized what I wanted to be. The next morning I jumped down the stairs, skipping every other one, so that my mom called me Herd of Elephants. I went outside, where my dad was puttering in his tool shed, and told him I wanted to belong to the Mafia. He asked what did I mean when I said that, and I said like in the movies, and he nodded.

A few days later he came home with a framed certificate printed on very genuine yellow paper that said I was an official, lifetime member of the Mafia. Some of it was in Italian and some of it was just in an Italian accent. A man named Leonardo "The Lion" Gravitano Salvatore had signed it with a tall, threatening signature.

After that my life changed, and I mean for the better. Hardly anyone ever bothered me, except for my sister, who must have belonged to whatever is bigger and meaner than the Mafia. Maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses. She dared even to lock me out of the house one night when my parents were away, when there was a bat on the front porch that was clearly diseased and looking for hair. My brother came from out of nowhere and unlocked the door, and just in time, too. Back in the house I gave my sister a whole host of menacing, Italian faces, which she pretended to ignore.

Dad asked me did I want to learn to dance and I said yes. He put the "Theme from a Summer Place" on the record player and then had me stand on top of his feet while he led me in a box step. Mom said we were quite a couple of dancers. It was so nice whirling around the living room to that summery music that for a moment I forgot about Telly Savalas and my own life of crime and was just carried away. Then the song ended and my dad stepped back and gave me a little bow and asked who loves ya, baby, and I laughed out loud and said you do.


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Excerpted from A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel. Copyright © 2001 by Haven Kimmel. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.