Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Zoo Keeper - Part 7

Are we going to trust the man in the park and follow him? Read on to find out...


The Zoo Keeper
Part 7 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams


We left by an exit I’d not noticed before, where the apartments were older than mine, leaning in on each other, with rusted iron railings on balconies where sheets, towels and underwear hung out to dry. A lead stretched between the buildings dipping across the narrow street; a dog lay in the dust, its mouth slack, tongue lolling. The man turned into one of the buildings, waiting at the entrance and my heart began to pound.

We climbed two flights of stairs. Standing at a little distance away from him, I watched as he opened an apartment door.

‘No problem,’ he said. ‘Nothing to worry about.’

I insisted on the door staying open. Rolling his eyes, he left the door ajar for me. I followed him into a shadowed room overlooking the street. Black and white photos of animals were stuck to the walls: a zebra, an elephant, a lioness, a tiger, monkeys, a fat carpet-patterned snake wound round a tree. Wires trailed across the floor, tangled, like a nest of vipers. A table with heavy clawed feet stood in the centre of the room and the fringes of a red cloth cascaded onto the floor.

I heard a cough and saw in the corner of the room a man with a rug covering his lap, his face lined like bird prints left on wet sand. His eyes, encased in pouches of sun-worn flesh, peered at me. Beside him, the discs on a reel to reel tape recorder were turning slowly.

‘This is Senor Fenandez,’ the younger man, Juan, said to me. ‘He used to be the park zoo keeper.’

The old man nodded towards Juan, then me and I noticed the nails on his hands, hooked, like talons.

Juan pulled a chair out from under a card table and nodded at me to sit. He sat opposite and folded his arms. ‘He will tell you about the zoo,’ he said.

I turned to face the old man and gave him an encouraging smile. ‘I would like to know,’ I said. ‘Everyone I ask will not talk about the zoo. It’s as if they are frightened.’

At last we found someone who will talk about the zoo! But why should people be afraid of a zoo? On Wednesday you will know...

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