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I used to make a lot of lists in high school. I would sit int he back of the classroom and divide my attention, able to listen to the lecture and still make my lists. I would write out all of my family member’s names (and I have a lot of family members), arranging them in order of age, then in order of appearance in the alphabet. I would write them in print, then in cursive. There was something about filling the page up with blue or black ink that was intensely satisfying to me.

And when I was finished, I would crumple the paper up into a tight wad and deposit it into the trash. Or sometimes I would carefully fold the paper in half, then tear it into two pieces, then four, then eight, arrange them in a little stack and throw them away. It was all rather OCD, but not the result of any disorder. I just don’t sit still well. My friends got accustomed to the sounds of swift tears of a sheet of paper, three times per page.

Sometimes I would write out all fifty states, in alphabetical order, singing the little songs I learned in grade school that helped me memorize the order, but I would always forget one or two without fail, then have to wrack my brain in order to remember the forgotten one.

Sometimes I would come up with an animal for every letter of the alphabet, then do it again, then again, until I ran out of v (vole, vixen, vampire bat) or z (zebra, zebu, zebra fish) or x (x-ray fish, xenops, xerus). Then I might start with foods, or countries.

Sometimes I would make crossword puzzles.

Sometimes I would make up entire game shows, designing a double round of Jeopardy with trivia about my family that we could play on an event night I would plan later.

Sometimes I would list out every one of the X-Men, in the order that they joined in the comic books. The originals (Iceman, Angel, Beast), the new team from Giant-Size (Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm), the New Mutants (Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Mirage), right down to the break-out teams in the 1990s (Excalibur, X-Factor, X-Force). Then I would carefully assign the people in my life a role from the team, writing their names next to the characters that best matched them, their personality traits or strengths. This one could keep me busy for days as I figured out the roles, moved them around, arranged little team-ups.

After the X-Men, I might start on the Avengers. Lay them out next to the X-Men in alphabetical order and pit them in an imaginary arena, eliminating a contestant one at a time with a single ink line until only one remained.

And then fold and wad, or fold and rip, rip, rip, then trash.

I’m 37 now and I still make lists. I have a list of every biography I have ever read, written in alphabetical order. When I read a new one, I make a new list, carefully adding the correct person in between the others. And when the new list is made, yup, I rip up the old one in the same pattern.

And now, here I am on my blog, making a list of the things I like to list. And I am at peace with my compulsions.

So, to all you listers out there, maybe some day we can make a list of ourselves.

My son, the Zookeeper

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Dad, remember how I wanted to be a hunter?

Yeah, buddy.

And I wanted to hunt all over the world and kill just the mean animals that hurt the nice animals?

Yeah, buddy.

And I would live in a hotel for nine million dollars and it would have a swimming pool and you could come and visit me but I’m probably gonna not ever get married cause I will be hunting all the time?

Mm-hmm.

Well, I changed my mind. I don’t want to be a hunter anymore.

Oh?

Yeah, instead I want to be a zookeeper.

Okay, that sounds great.

Cause a hunter has to hurt animals and I don’t want to hurt animals, instead I will give them a nice place to live.

Great.

But I have to figure out how to get the animals to the zoo. How do they do it?

Well, some animals are born in the zoo to their moms and dads who are already in the zoo. Others are captured and moved to the zoo.

Hmm. I like the ones born there the most. I don’t want to capture animals without their permission. Maybe I will travel all over the world and meet animals in the forests and jungles and oceans. And where else should I meet them?

Well, maybe the desert and the rain forest and the grasslands.

What’s a grasslands?

It’s like big green fields where animals like giraffes and zebras live.

Don’t they live in jungles?

No, it’s different.

Okay, well I will go to the grasslands too and I will meet the animals and talk to them and tell them to come and live in my zoo if they want to, and if they do then they can come and live there and we will be friends. I can build really nice cages for them and feed them and they will really like me but sometimes I will stay there all the time and other times I will have to go back to my hotel to sleep and the animals might get really mad and grumpy because I am gone but then I will come back the next day in the morning and cheer them up and they will know that I didn’t leave them and instead just went home to sleep and then we will be friends again.

That sounds great.

And it can be all the different kinds of animals, right?

Right.

Whatever kinds I want?

Right.

I think that sounds really cool.

Me too. Sounds like a lot of work.

I don’t like to work.

I know.

But maybe I will like to work when I’m a grown-up.

Mm-hmm.

And you could come and visit my zoo if you wanted. Even if there are some scary animals you wouldn’t have to be scared because they would still be nice ones or they couldn’t live in my zoo.

Yeah.

And I will have to feed them lots of different things. Like horses eat hay and lizards eat crickets. Or maybe they can eat meal worms. And I will feed the snakes mice. And I will have lots of tigers and mountain lions and I will feed them meat.

Yeah.

And the big fish like whales will have to eat little fish.

Yeah. Where will you get all that food?

I don’t know, at the store maybe.

That will cost a lot of money.

I will have probably nine million dollars at the hotel, remember?

Oh, right. And maybe you can charge people money to come and see your zoo.

Why?

So you can make more money to feed the animals.

But it could be free.

Well, when we go to the zoo, we pay money. Then they use that money to take care of the animals.

Well, I’ll think about it.

Okay.

Lunch was delicious. Can you read me my fortune cookie now?

Sure, hand it to me. It says ‘Maintain good health for that is your wealth.’

That’s dumb. That’s not what it is supposed to say.

Oh? What did you want it to say?

It was supposed to say, ‘hey, it’s okay to change your mind and be a zookeeper for nice animals instead of a hunter for mean ones.’

Oh.

I’m done with lunch. Draw me a dragon now.

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