“Take me to the zoo,” he said.
“Ditch the helmet and I will.”
He protested but gave in and off we went. I usually enjoy these trips since it keeps him interested and I usually learn something. After all these years, he still finds the incarceration of animals a strange entertainment venue, but it gives him data for his incessant reports. Besides, it allows him to study something besides me for a while. As I say, it allows me to relax.
I have a bad knee, so we hadn’t walked long before I needed a rest. “No problem,” he said. “I’ll be right back. He wandered off to a large wildlife enclosing a collection of chimpanzees. As he stood by the enclosure, a couple of them walked as close as they could to where he stood. Strange as it may sound, they appeared to be conversing. Two shapely teenage girls walked in front of me and I ignored C.W. until he plopped beside me on the bench. “Odd,” he said.
“The chimps. They are bored out of their minds.”
“Yeah. They’ve been planning an escape for years, but haven’t come up with a workable plan.”
“They want to leave here?”
I shrugged. He said, “Years ago the handlers were teaching them some sign language but they quit.”
“I only have their opinion, but it seems they began to converse with some of the hearing-impaired visitors, looking for sympathizers.”
“That’s when the keepers decided that they were educated enough.”
We reversed directions. For some reason, he always insists on moving counter-clockwise when we visit supermarkets or exhibits of any sort. Don’t ask why.
“I want to talk to the big cats,” he said.
We walked to the exhibit. I sat while he talked, first to a male lion with a magnificent main blowing gently in the breeze. As the conversation became animated, the lion motioned to a sleek lioness who wandered up and joined the conversation. Since the conversation seemed mostly to consist of facial gestures, passers-by didn’t notice the exchange of information. I watched until C.W. shook his head and walked to where I sat. “Strange,” he said.
“Old man lion is the edgy one. He says there ain’t enough babes to keep him happy.”
“That sounds familiar.”
“His ‘old lady,’ as he calls her, says she never had it so good. She did all the hunting, childbearing, and such back on the savanna while he sat around and looked for new chicks to grab. Now they just throw her food and she only has to bring it to him. Says she’ll put up with this as long as they feed her and he leaves her alone.”
And so it went. Each animal had its story. The rhino was lonely. The eagle was ashamed. The polar bear was confused. The birds sang, but not as energetically as their brothers and sisters in the free world. The monkeys tried to lure us closer for some reason. The elephants thought C.W. was funny. All the animals were different. All were the same.
This brought us to the reptile building. I chose to wait outside while he went in to visit. Gone for a long time, when he returned he was shaking his head.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t believe it, but the King Cobra has the others cowed.”
“Bragging about how many innocent people he killed before they caught him in India. Threatening to kill other snakes. Has the rattlers and the cotton-mouths on his side. Outlining plans for escaping and going on a murder spree.”
“He’s that unhappy?”
“Oh, he’s not unhappy at all. Has the best of everything. Biggest cage. Best food. Best care. First in everything. They call him ‘Ophiophagus Blowhardus,’ but only behind his back.”
“And he’s not satisfied?”
“No, the others claim he is faking friendliness with the handlers so they’ll get careless when they feed or care for him.”
“He’ll zap them, say the others, and then take extra food.”
“Why? If he has everything, why would he want more?”
“I asked them that very question.”
“They just looked at me and shot out their tongues. One finally answered.”
“What did it say?”
“It said, ‘Well after all, he is a snake,' as if that explained it all.