“The Zoodiac Killer” – The A.P. Miller Method of Busting Writer’s Block

Twitter has a fantastic writing community, and one of the most frequent questions asked among writers is: how do you break up writer’s block. My answer is simple. It’s a writing prompt meant to open the creative centers of my brain — that prompt:

A giraffe is testifying against a chimpanzee in a court of law for the murder of a gazelle — the giraffe accidentally confesses to the murder. Why was the giraffe trying to frame the chimpanzee and where there accomplices?

It works like a charm. In fact, the more absurd you get, the better off you’ll be. Now, I’m experiencing a few degrees of writer’s block in regards to my blog, so I’ll share with you my response to the writer’s prompt:

The Zoodiac Killer
By: A.P. Miller

Francis wasn't just a gazelle, he was the most graceful gazelle that the Good Lord ever gave life to. His eyes were big and bright, his coat was soft, and when people wanted to take a picture of him, he posed in the most majestic way possible. Francis was far too good for this world and far too good for that zoo.
Francis was dead. The cause of death was ruled "homicide by strangulation" by the zoologists. Hearts were broken all over the zoo and someone had to pay. No one knows exactly who dropped the dime on Snowflake. Snowflake was a chimp at the city zoo, in fact, he was thee chimp. 

The trial was entering its third day of testimony; all of the evidence was pretty damning against Snowflake. In the two days prior, all kinds of animals would come forward and delivery testimony about how Snowflake would order the barrages of poo being flung into other cages, how Snowflake would call the audible on the animals hiding in their pens so that whiny little kids would become even whinier. One of the Meerkats, Boris, spun a yarn about Snowflake hating the people who came to the zoo. According to Boris, Snowflake wanted all of the people to be in cages, because that's where they belonged. Snowflake's philosophy was easy -- why should creatures who beat their kids, steal elderly people's retirements, and wear socks with sandals be allowed to roam free when nature's first creatures were penned up like commodities?

The State's prosecutor, Merlin the Mongoose, had done an excellent job establishing motive. How could a creature, who had built his entire reputation and garnered social power by flinging his own feces at other living creatures, not be insanely jealous of Francis? Francis was a media darling, the preferred company of any who had met him, and then there was the violent wretch who picked up cigarette butts just to look cool to the young, impressionable primates. In fact, just that day, Francis was being filmed by one of those feel good morning news programs, and did anyone want to see Snowflake? Snowflake was nowhere to be seen, because he was in isolation for fighting with the other primates. During his exercise in solitude, Snowflake was heard saying "ain't no one gonna come to this zoo when Francis gets taken out." The hippos testified to hearing it through the air duct, the bears heard it when the keepers opened the door for feeding time, and the walrus' (for the record, the walrus', walruses?, could not confirm the plural form of their species for this account) heard it from the tropical fish enclosure. What is a walrus doing at a tropical fish enclosure? He didn't have to say, the Fifth Amendment Privilege protected him on that account.

Snowflake's attorney was sweating bullets, figuratively. Bartholomew Frederick Valencia, Esq (known as "Bart the Boa" in the zoo program) was an incredible defense attorney -- don't let the irony of a defense attorney being a snake fool you, he was committed to justice and he really didn't think Snowflake was guilty. When the testimony began coming out, he was at a loss for words. It didn't help that he began shedding his skin during the prosecution effort, but that's a story for another time. 

The defense strategy was to portray Snowflake as an institutionalized creature who had a heart of gold. Sure, he flung heaping hand-fulls of feces at the orangutans, but did you know that the orangutans were bullying the adolescent chimps? That's right, "Poopageddon" (even the zookeepers called it that) was Snowflake teaching the younger chimps to stand up for themselves, an anti-bullying measure. The defense's stance was everything Snowflake had done was in the best of his own people.

It was working until a giant glaring hole appeared in the account of the evening in question: Snowflake didn't have an alibi. He was out of his pen, he was off campus, and no one could explain where he was. When questioned, Snowflake's only response was that he was across the street trying to buy cigarettes -- the surveillance cameras couldn't corroborate the story; circumstantial, considering that Snowflake's fur might have made him impossible to see in the low resolution of the store's surveillance camera. Still, a God-Awful spot for a criminal defense team to be in.

The legal experts of the zoo - pretty much anyone who lived in the reptile enclosure - held the uniform opinion: Snowflake's defense was going to crumble when Francesca the Giraffe took the stand. The depositions were iron clad and flawless; Francesca's suite was in direct line of site to Francis', she was able to identify when Snowflake was out of his pen, and was willing to swear and oath that she had seen Snowflake take Francis' life.
Francesca put her perfectly manicured hoof on the copy of Steve Irwin's portrait that Teddy Griswold, the Zoo's best Grizzly Bear Bailiff, held out.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help ye dog?" Teddy's voice was simple, reciting words that had been recited to him and not an invention of his own intellect.

"Cross my heart and hope to die, darlin'." Francesca winked, her lashes were full and lengthy, like they were reaching out for a hug.

"Huh?" Teddy asked.

"I swear."

"Oh, okay." Teddy motioned to the stand.

This was Francesca's second round on the stand. The day before, the prosecution had her testify about the details of what she had seen. Francesca's testimony spun a twisted yarn of a young gazelle with his whole life in front of him, being snuffed out at the hands of a jealous chimp, the assassination occurring in silence.

It was the defense's turn. Bartholomew slithered up to the stand, climbing the oak spindles, slithering along the glossy finish of the oak rails, coming to rest to where he could look Francesca in the eye. Judge Abraham Tortoise looked absolutely disgusted at Bartholomew's physiology being draped over his desk, inches away from where his tumbler of water sat.

"Francessssssssca," Bartholomew began, "We've heard your testimony yesterday, but something doesn't add up. Perhapsssss you can clarify those detailssssss for us. Yesssssss?"

"It won't bring Francis back, that poor soul, but ask away." Francesca replied.

"You say that Sssssnowflake killed Francissssss with his bear handsssss, yesssss?"

"That's right."

"Wrapped hissss fingersss and hisss thumbsss around Francisss' neck?" Bartolomew elaborated.

"That's right, squeezed the poor boys' neck until the life left his eyes." Francesca affirmed.

"Then perhapsss you can explain why there weren't the ligature marks of individual fingers found on Francisss' neck during the autopssssy?" Bartholomew asked.

"I'm no doctor, sugar, you'd have to ask one of them. All I can tell you is that at 9:00 PM on that night, I saw Snowflake strangle Francis." Francesca nodded, please with herself.

"Nine at night?" Bartholomew repeated.

"Yes. Nine."

"But in the depossssition, that everything happened at ten-thirty. In fact, the Zoo'sss ssssurveilance footage has Ssssnowflake in his pen at nine at night." Bartholomew postulated.

"Nine, ten-thirty, who knows." Francesca guffawed, "They don't have clocks in our pens."

"But at nine, the keeperssss would have been making their rounds, you would have known that it was time on the hour, and not half passst like you claim in the deposssition." Bartholomew was coiling on the stand in front of Francesca, taking a power stance, "Are there any other detailsss you'd like to change while under oath?"

"Snowflake murdered that poor boy in cold blood!" the Southern drawl in Francesca's voice was coming to a boil, "Whether it happened at nine, ten-thirty, or at kingdom come, Snowflake snuck into that boy's pen, put a knee across his neck and leaned on him until he was dead!"

The gallery fell silent. They'd heard the new detail.

"A knee acrosss his neck?" Bartholomew asked, "But you said that Sssnowflake ssstrangled Francisss with hisss own handsss. Now you're saying that Sssnowflake didn't strangle Francisss the Gazelle with his hands, but his knee?"

"...N-No!" Francesca was back peddaling, "...H-He strangled Francis!"

"Perjury is a ssseriousss offence, Francesssca." Bartholomew leaned closer to the Giraffe, making eye-contact, "Are you trying to frame Sssnowflake? Perhaps a handful of his protessst made itsss way to your pen and you are trying to repay him?"

"No, that is silly." Francesca was trying to collect herself.

"Whatsss the matter, Frecesssca?" Bartholomew pressed, "It looks like you've got a confesssion on your tongue."

Tears, thick streams of emotion fluid, were streaming down Francesca's cheeks. She was flustered, her skin was reddening, she'd been questioned into a corner.

"Do you know what its like to be the darling of the zoo and just forgotten about?!" Francesca blurted, "I was the baby of the zoo, people watched MY birth on the internet! I was the feel good story of the decade! I was adored!"

Bartholomew slid closed, "...and then Francisss came along and stole the limelight, didn't he?"

"Oh you are damn right he did," Francesca's sadness had given way to righteous fury, "the little bastard was so unreasonable about it too. I tried talking to him, I tried pleading, I tried screaming. Think of the headlines: Miracle Giraffe Takes Orphaned Gazelle Under her Wing! We would have been the brightest stars in the sky!"

"But Francisss wanted all the ssspotlight for himssself, didn't he?" Bartholomew's voice softened with empathy.

"I tried talking sense into him, he was adorable, but he was no fool!" Francesca replied, "I grabbed him by the shoulder and he tried to swat me away, but I had to make him see logic! He was being so damn stubborn!"

"...and then you killed him, didn't you?" Bartholomew asked, his own body craned so that he could look Francesca in the eye.


The gallery erupted in surprise.

"Order!" the Judge demanded, "ORDER!"

"I pinned it on Snowflake because everyone knows he's trash and would have done it eventually anyways."

Bartholomew slid away from the witness stand and to the judge's stand -- he positioned his face so that the jury could hear him in the microphone.

"In light of this new confesssion, I would like to move to have thisss cassse againssst my client disssmisssed."

And so it was.

Francesca had her own trial and she was found guilty. Even though Snowball didn't kill Francis, the other animals still treated him like he did. That's the funny thing about prejudice, even with a smoking gun that contradicts the popular opinion, some folks just have to hold on to their hate because they've got nothing else.

The End

Usually, after typing a bunch of non-sensical riff like that, the creative parts of my brain open themselves up and then the stories flow.

I hope it’s been entertaining and I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!

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