Zoo Days

12 Apr

“You wanna go to the zoo?” my sister asks via text.

“YES” I scream, via throat.

I pull up to the zoo. There is a man directing drivers into the entrance. I roll down my window and demurely reach out for a high five that is not returned. I pull forward and through the opening gates. There is a portly Asian woman there taking money. I’d like to drive past her, but it’s bumper to bumper, and I cannot.

She motions me to roll down my window. I glare up at her.

“Not interested, lady,” I say, my window staying down.

“Porking. Porking,” she says.

“Yeah, I know what you’re wanting and I’m saying ‘no.'”

She looks to a man in a booth who looks at me. He walks toward the car and tells me to roll my window down. I sigh and look down at my phone. It’s 11:15. I was supposed to meet my sister and her son and kids of one of her friends here fifteen minutes ago.

“I don’t have time for this,” I say as I roll my window down.

“Whadaya mean you don’t have time for this?” the man asks.

“My record is like two minutes including tear down and set up,” I say.


“If I don’t take my clothes off we can finish in about a minute, but you don’t want that,” I look her over. “And I’m not sure I want that either. These jeans are tight and kind of a chore to remove, especially when its warm out and I’ve worked up a little bit of a sweat.”

“Guy, what are you talking about?”

“It’s like they’re painted on,” I rub my thighs with a strained look on my face.

“No, what’s the issue with my attendant here?”

“Porking. She wants to pork me.”

“Oh my gosh!” she says, hands the man her stack of bills and walks away. There are honks behind me. The man looks back nervously.

“She said parking.”

“Oh, parking. How much?”

“Seven dollars.”

“Seven dollars? Huh. Now I sort of wish she had been talking about porking. Might have done it for seven.” I hand the man my money, give him a big smile, and drive into the lot.

I text my sister and she tells me she’s in the children’s zoo. I laugh, imagining a zoo full of children and how much that’s what everyone really wants. Everyone but children. I try to convey this through a text message:

haha.think about mason in a cage.

Two minutes later I get this response.

y would i want to think about that? ur sick. where are you?

Touched by my sister’s concern, I text back.

I am lost as fuck.

And I truly am. The map is cartoonish, the exhibits’ dimensions exaggerated to appeal to children. There is a lion’s head bursting from the feline area. I try to use the map for some time, walking back and forth past the only landmarks I can find, but eventually I give up, because the whole map is wrong. Just south of useless. I blow my nose on it and throw it in the trash.

“Hey you can’t do that!” a man yells to me. “Animals live in there!” I laugh and spit my gum out into the trash can. An ape waddles over and picks it up and puts it in its nose. I laugh hysterically and lean over the guard rail to punch him, swing wide, then laugh some more and walk to find my sister.

I find them in the bug area.

“You guys are bugging me!” I yell. The little girls she is babysitting look very sad and shocked when I say this.

My sister sees their dismay and tells them “That’s my brother, Kyle. He’s just kidding.”

“Oh, okay,” the older of the two girls says. The young girl is named Sarah and the older Kennedy.

We walk to the hippo tank.

“Look at those!” the Sarah says. Her hair is golden and thin and it bobs up and down as she hops, gesturing at the hippopotamus.

“Oh no,” I say, covering my mouth. The girl and her sister look up at me. “Those poor, sick cows.”

“What?” Sarah asks.

“These are cows that have contracted a terrible, terrible illness. I must move on.” I walk about ten feet from the tank and begin texting my friends.

“That’s not true girls,” my sister says.

The five of us continue, my nephew now in a stroller because I imagine having him walk around among the throng of people, the innumerable sweaty, fat legs strolling around, obscuring him, for my sister, must be like when I set my wallet down the bar while I’m paying the barman for my drink. It’s terrible. Everyone becomes the Enemy.

He does not want to be in the stroller and he makes sure that we all know it. He cries and whines.

I kneel down in front of the stroller.

“Would you like me to fight you?” I ask him. I look deadly serious, but I’m not. “Because that’s the only way you’re getting out of the


“Kyle!” my sister yells. I wave her off dismissively.

“The only way you’re getting out of this stroller is through me. Do you understand?”

His gaze is like slate. His eyes are wide and awestruck. The power he must imagine he sees.

“Yesh,” he says.

I nod solemnly.

“You’ve made the right decision here today, boy.” We lock eyes for a few more seconds.

“Cheese?” he asks, holding out his hand.

“Yes,” I say. “Yes. You may have cheese.” I stand and look at my sister. “Get this boy some cheese,” I say. I bend my back, stretching. “I’m going to go look at the warthogs. Got some Lion King itches I have to scratch.”

We go to the warthogs. They are as warthoggy as ever. I lean over the parapet and look down at them.

“I can’t believe all these dogs made it,” I say, loud enough for a crowd of  nearby children to hear.

“These aren’t dogs,” one little boy says.

I sigh. “Not anymore, I guess. Now they’re just sort of–things.” A mom notices me talking to her son and the ghost of Chris Hanson hovers nearby, out of my range of vision, drawing her toward me. I go on. “A whole bus-ful of dogs, going to the dog museum. They crashed into the acid factory.” The mother, who resembles a snowman of brown leather, begins to lumber toward us. “Terrible news, okay I’m going now.” And as I walk away I can hear the mother asking her son what I told him. He says something about dogs and acid and I walk faster so I can’t hear her reaction.

I reunite with my sister and the kids by the elephant area. A portion of the viewing area is blocked off by large tree trunks. A small crowd is gathered around the area because some of the elephants are peeking through the trees. One is showing his butt to everyone. I decide this elephant is my favorite and take a picture. I look around at all the people, a child-like grin stretched across my face. I want him to poop so badly.

But he doesn’t.

As we walk from the elephants to the big cats area, it becomes clear that the kids are tired. And I’m a little tired too.

“Should we call it a day?” my sister asks.

“I think we should.”

They leave and I sneak off to try to punch that gorilla again.

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