The Zoo

Jamey Dunham

A man slips into a darkened alley and presses his back to the wet brick wall. Above him, a ring-tailed lemur pauses on a fire escape – its long striped tail, a question mark. The man breathes hard. His hands are dug deep into his pockets. As the rain returns, a hornbill passes overhead and perches beneath a billboard that advertises a local dating service. The man takes no notice. A door opens, scraping against the concrete.

A woman emerges from a nearby bar with a companion. The lemur is joined on the fire escape by a bonobo and a family of vampire bats. Two giraffes arrange themselves behind a dumpster below. All of them hold their breath along with the man, waiting to see what will happen next. Fortunately, the relationship appears to be a platonic one. The two exchange a quick embrace before parting and the woman makes her way up the sidewalk in the opposite direction of her companion.

The man who is lurking in the alley removes a knife from his jacket. The wet blade glimmers like a fish, and the hornbill nearly swoops down for a closer look. As the woman draws near, the tension builds and the bats beat their leather wings in a sustained drum roll. The lemur drops his popcorn to the grateful giraffes below and the bonobo begins to masturbate. Suddenly, the man springs from the alley and drags the woman back into the shadows like a spider. He slashes open the woman’s dress and pushes her face into the damp brick. The man rapes the woman as the animals gape in horror. Afterwards, he throws her to the ground and runs off, leaving the woman to stumble back to the bar for help. The animals are furious. This is not what they paid to see.