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The Alligator and the Toothbrush

December 5, 2012

The following is a story that I wrote for the kids in my class to use as a model.  First, we brainstormed as a class and agreed upon a setting (most of the setting details in the story were created by the kids), two characters (the characters’ physical descriptions and personality traits are student ideas), a conflict (again, created by the students), and a resolution (outlined by the students).  Then, I took our brainstorming home and created this model story.  The students have done their own brainstorming and will write their own stories over the next couple weeks.


White mist swirled up from the rough, oval ground of the alligator cage in the reptile house at the zoo.  The foul stench of sulfur strangled the air.  Greenish-brown water flickered and rippled against the slimy sides of the fake pond.  A low growl like a storm coming echoed through the black bars of the alligator cage.

Inside the cage, a tiny, green alligator with mossy teeth flicked its tail back and forth in the water, causing small waves.  Its green eyes buzzed as it chomped into a rotting chunk of meat sitting beside the pond.  Its curved black claws left slimy, grayish stains behind it as it dragged itself out of the stinking water.

As the alligator’s claws slimed the ground, a heavy boot stomped on the other side of the bars.  A woman, dressed head to toe in a zookeeper’s brown uniform, stood glaring at the alligator, her hands on her hips.  Her blonde hair was tied tightly into a round bun.  Not a hair was out of place.  Her blue eyes were pale and icy, and the corners of her mouth turned down.  She wore large, brown military combat boots, and she stomped them once again as she watched the alligator coat the turf with filth from its claws.

Dragging its claws behind it, the alligator turned itself to face the woman with the stomping boots.  As it saw her, a growl escaped its slobbering mouth.  It opened its jaws as wide as they would go, revealing spiky teeth speckled with moss and bits of meat.  Then, growling once more, it lowered its head and charged toward her, its sharp, narrow body no wider than the space between the black bars of its cage.

Her eyes trained on the charging alligator, the woman stayed firmly planted beside the cage.  Just as the alligator whizzed forward and forced its nose between the black bars, the woman brought her boot down in front of it with a heavy thud.  “Halt!” she barked, her voice echoing in the misty air.

As her voice smacked against its ear, the alligator froze, then raised its fiery green eyes to look at the woman’s face.  When it saw her eyes, dark with fury, it trembled and lowered its head.

“Attention!” cried the zookeeper, her posture military straight.  “Private!  You call yourself a soldier in this reptile house?!”  She stamped her boot once more onto the ground, and the alligator stepped back again, its nose dragging on the floor.  “Filth!” she bellowed, gesturing toward the slimy stains and the chunks of meat strewn about the cage.  “Utter filth!  You will have extra duties tonight, private.”

As she spoke, she reached into the pocket of her brown uniform and pulled out a white toothbrush.  At the sight of the toothbrush, the alligator began to shiver.  The woman bent forward and thrust the toothbrush into the alligator’s mouth.

“You are a disgrace, private!” she roared.  “Your hygiene is despicable, and you are an embarrassment to this zoo.  Tonight, your duties are as follows.”

As she spoke, the alligator curled itself up into a ball and continued to tremble.  The zookeeper continued, “First, you will use this toothbrush to remove the dirt, debris, and rotting food from your teeth.  When you do so, you will be certain to brush each tooth thoroughly, front and back, and you will remember to brush your tongue at the end of this process.”

The alligator made a sound like a whimpering kitten.  The woman went on.  “When you finish your dental hygiene regimen, you will then commence with cleaning your cage.  Every bit of filth must be scrubbed from the floor using that toothbrush.  Every tiny piece of flotsam shall be fished out of the pond.  When I return, this cage will be sparkling and will smell minty fresh.   Do I make myself clear, private?”  She gazed down at the alligator’s quivering green face.  “Do I make myself clear?” she repeated, more sharply this time.

The alligator lifted its face from the floor and immediately began scrubbing his back molars with the miniscule toothbrush.  Satisfied, the zookeeper turned crisply around and marched to the door of the reptile house, her boots stomping in a precise rhythm on the floor.  Nothing could be heard from the alligator cage but the sound of scrubbing.


From → education, humor

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