The zoo was open year-round, but that day was especially busy due to the influx of young. Their herds scattered as they made strange noises, ate everything in sight, and disturbed the established residents. There was comfort in knowing that, by 2:00 p.m., they would be corralled by their keepers and noisily shipped back to the elementary schools from which they came.
Before entering the front gates, a main feature of the zoo was the peacocks. They strolled by the guests, not actively begging for food but deigning to eat anything that just happens to be tossed in their direction. The males were looking for dates, as evidenced by their full plumage out on display, those shameless hussies. They would attempt to trap the females within a cage of their feathers, but the girls knew better and would not be fooled by these hookers. They knew that the price – the responsibility of bearing and raising babies – was much too high.
Admission was a suggested donation of $15 – anything lower would be thrown back into the person’s face and a ranger would drive them off the property. Parking was wherever a car could fit, with shuttle transport available for those parked past the mile point.
One section of the zoo featured a replica of a savannah and included tourists on safari and poachers. Those taking photos focused on the runway giraffe, a model who would pose for the audience so her fellow captives would not need to suffer the shame. She strolled in front of the viewing platform, batting her eyes and swiveling her hips, then strolled back to the hay wain where she rested for two hours after her ordeal. After she had had a baby, though, she smacked the cameras out of people’s hands with her head and brayed something that sounded very close to: “[Beep]ing paparazzi!”
The reptile house had its own charms – the snakes in all varieties always sent a thrill up the spine, especially when one could see the shape of a small pig through the boa constrictor’s body. The chameleons were a cheat, though: the zoo claimed they were so good at camouflage that no one could ever find them, when most people suspected that those displays actually had been empty of animate objects for years.
The lions slept a lot in the back of their pens – roars would be heard, although they were at the same timbre, pitch, and duration on the hour, every hour. One did attack the fence when a guest acted antagonistically toward him (the guest was subsequently put to sleep).
The bears were a bit confused in their set-up. The black bears were kept in the same area as the polar, and they all were expected to play together. The black bears stayed in their trees, and the polar bears looked upon their inappropriate fake rocks and stream as solidarity with their brethren dealing with the melting Arctic.
When exiting through the gift shop, the free-range cats herded the unwary to the black hole that is the animal shelter. Once inside, few escape without a life companion or two, or five: the eyes get you every time.