The Zoo Keeper - Part 2

Welcome back! Are you ready to find out what the barman knows?

The Zoo Keeper
Part 2 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

‘I didn’t realise there was a zoo in the park,’ I said to him in my exquisitely pronounced Spanish, learnt in an English university.

He spent a great deal of time polishing a glass, rubbing and chafing it with a cloth until it squeaked like a frightened mouse. ‘There is no zoo,’ he said in a deliberate voice.

‘But I heard a lion’s roar in the middle of the night.’ I saw that his left eye was starting to twitch. ‘It came from just over there.’ I pointed to the park.

‘Dogs,’ he said. He licked his finger and smoothed down his moustache. ‘No zoo.’

I wanted to question him further, to engage him in a conversation about zoos. For I knew about zoos: my uncle had been a zoo keeper. A kindly man with hair sprouting, multi layered like an orangutan and eyes the same colour as a seal’s coat, his job was to look after the ape house. It is said that he fell in love with Nancy, the matriarch, and that often they could be found squatting together in the enclosure, staring lovingly into each other’s eyes. At any rate, my aunt became jealous. All that overtime, and never enough money or interest to redecorate the house. Finally, she left him. Two months later, Nancy died from a virus peculiar to her species and a month later my uncle died. It is said of a broken heart.

The barman was intent on polishing more glasses, setting them down in neat rows behind the bar. Without another word, I finished my café latte and left to catch a train to the suburb where I was going to work.

The street which led from the station to the school was lined with orange trees. It was the season for orange picking, but here on the road the oranges fell and were allowed to soften in the gutter, dispelling a sweet smell of rotting fruit. I remembered that brown bears had a particular liking for citrus fruit, and my thoughts returned to the zoo sounds I'd heard during the night.

To be continued on Sunday…


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