Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Zoo Keeper - Part 1

It is with great pleasure that I am able to present The Zoo Keeper, a short story by Brighton-based author Amanda Sington-Williams.

The story will be serialised on Book After Book twice weekly over the next five weeks. It has been read at Short Fuse live literature events at Brighton Komedia and is also available in downloadable format from Ether Books.

So, are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…


The Zoo Keeper
Part 1 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

It was before dawn when the first growl wove through my dream. A few minutes later a howl startled me out of sleep. I hurried over to the balcony that overlooked the park. This was my first night in my new apartment and it was the balcony with its balustrades and pots of flowering geraniums that had first attracted me to it. Chosen out of dozens advertised for renting in the local Spanish newspaper, the aspect was just what I was looking for. After I’d unpacked, I’d taken a walk round the park: a playground, a restaurant serving speciality dishes from that region of Spain, benches set in the shade of cypress trees, all this, yes. But no zoo. So on that first night I stood on my balcony and searched the moonless night. But I could see nothing beyond the halos cast from street lights. Then there was another howl.

For the remainder of the night, I slept fitfully; the roars and whines entered my subconscious, disturbing my sleep. I pulled the sheet over my head, but the sounds penetrated the cover. The next day would be my first day of working in this easterly Spanish town where the surrounding mountains yielded snails for the local paella and there was a history of rebellion during the Franco years.

When I woke, I stood on the balcony again, stretched and gazed out towards the park. It looked serene, like any other park in the world: a space in which to relax. Joggers, mothers with babies in pushchairs, a couple of elderly men chatting as they leant on their sticks. It all looked normal, and I wondered if I had been mistaken, that the animal sounds I’d heard last night were all down to an overactive imagination, fed by the late night beers I’d drunk in the bar beneath the apartments. I dressed quickly and went downstairs. The man behind the bar had a moustache that was combed and waxed. It hung beneath his chin like a couple of black snakes. The previous night, I’d sat by the window, with the door wide open and the cool evening air had massaged my skin. There were no zoo sounds then. I was sure of that.

That morning, the bar was quiet. It took me a while to gather enough courage to talk to the barman and I felt my face burn as I approached the gleaming bar.

Will the barman be able to shed any light on this nocturnal mystery? Come back on Wednesday for the next instalment!

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