An interview with Among Animals contributor Jessica Zbeida (“Emu”)
Q: What was the inspiration for this story?
A: This story was inspired by true events. My grandmother lives in rural east Texas, and one day an emu showed up at her house. She fed it for a few days, but then it became aggressive. My grandfather called a man that he knew, who shot and ate the emu. I couldn’t pass up fictionalizing such a strange series of events.
Q: The emu’s appearance in the story affects the narrator in a way she’s never experienced before. Do you see a connection between being a mother and her hope to protect the creature who appears near her home?
A: I do see a connection. At the same time, I would say that the narrator finds the emu much more interesting and rewarding than most of the other tasks she faces as a mother.
Q: You do a wonderful job of juxtaposing the ordinary with the exotic in this piece—in what ways do you think this reflects our relationship with animals?
A: I often wanted to develop a “happy” ending in which the emu runs away or the narrator and her family wind up keeping it, but they all felt false. This ending seemed to fit the characters, setting, and the situation.