Page 15

At

The Zoo

by Pete Michael Smith ! Inside the gate, the night is immediately darker, wilder. I’ve been to the zoo before, but never after hours. Never at night. I place my glass down gently on the wooden ledge of the ticket window and open up a map from a stack beside me. The path to our right leads us into Africa and I suggest we take it. Abbot downs his wine in one glass-emptying gulp and tosses it into a nearby trash can, the shattering sound twinkling in the night. It really is a fine driving wine, but it won’t do for the zoo at all. Hand in hand we walk into the darkness ahead, between the heavy fronds of exotic plants kept alive artificially in the city. " We stop in front of the first enclosure we come to, and I disentangle myself from Abbot. The rail beneath my hand has been worn smooth by hundreds of hands before mine. Thousands. I lean as far forward as I can and read the plaque on the fence: The Lion. But he is

nowhere to be seen in the dark night. ! Abbot tells me that even the king of the jungle has got to sleep, that we can’t expect him to cater to our whims and perform for us when we happen by his home. Abbot moves his hand to my neck and the tips of his fingers trace the course of my jugular. This is where he’d strike, Pammy. I shudder a little and wonder if he can feel it under the graze of his fingers. He says that he wouldn’t let a lion strike me, though. His breath is greenhousehot and wet in the air between our faces. We’re safe he says, and then kisses me. Off to our side, I can hear the gentle purring of a big cat, and I wonder if Abbot can, too, or if he attributes it to me, my satisfaction. " The flamingoes stand in their pond behind a low chain and post fence. Their silhouettes look like rare and tropical flowers sprouting from the glassy surface of the water. Standing on one leg, I draw my knee up to my chest and fold my arms in to wings, trying hard for the balance that comes so naturally to them. ! I ask Abbot if he thinks their legs ever get tired and he just laughs a little, bends down low and unties his shoes. I turn my upper-body, still standing on my one leg and watch him roll up the cuffs of his pants and step up over the chain fence. He’s in the water up to his knees before I slip off the leather thongs of my sandals and step in beside him. " The water is warm on my feet, my legs, and the gentle rippling of my movement causes three or four pink heads to raise, turn, and inspect us closely before slipping back under wings and into sleep once again. ! It’s something they eat, he whispers out of courtesy to the sleeping birds. That’s why they’re pink.

! I raise my knee to my chest again and think of the wine we drank on the ride over, how I could feel it clinging to my teeth, my gums. Imagine, I say, if we were always turning colors with each passing meal? God, what a mess it would be. The high note of my laughter cracks the night and I tell him that I would have to give up asparagus, then. Beets, too. I tell him I’ll eat nothing but dark chocolate and deep read wines. ! Abbot turns and exits the pond, stepping again over the low-strung chain. I wander between the sleeping birds a while more, and run my hands across the air above their backs. From far away, I think, the motion of my hands must look like that of a conductor’s, in front of a symphony. If only these birds moved in time with me. ! Slowly, I pick my way back across the pond and step quietly out. With a cigarette lit, he’s easy to spot. He stands a dark shape against a darker background, a tiny pinprick of red light glowing at the end of his hand. The night hangs all around us, and I can hear the quiet calls of some of the night animals, and also, Abbot’s voice carrying across the pathway to me. Pammy, he says, you’ve got to see this. I can see two silvery jets of smoke plume from his nostrils before he turns and walks away. ! Peering through the night at the spot where he was, I’m ready to leave the flamingoes and join Abbot wherever he has gone. Slowly, I move myself along the path to where he stood, and I see him again, standing with his hands pressed to the thick walls of a glass tank glowing blue in the dark night. " Joining him, I can see the rocky outcroppings of the underwater habitat; hollowed out niches and the occasional floating bit of debris sweep by us. I tell him

Profile for Burner Magazine

Burner Magazine: The MUSIC Issue  

On March 1, 2011, Burner Magazine is excited to unveil Burner 03: The Music Issue, with editorials and features of Yoko Ono, Saul Williams,...

Burner Magazine: The MUSIC Issue  

On March 1, 2011, Burner Magazine is excited to unveil Burner 03: The Music Issue, with editorials and features of Yoko Ono, Saul Williams,...

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