Turning The Tables

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story inspired by the gorilla's escape at London Zoo.

Submitted: October 20, 2016

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Submitted: October 20, 2016

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Turning The Tables.

 

Claude was a gorilla. At 15 years of age he could still live for another 35, and to while away his time in captivity he observed. He watched the other animals that were visible from his enclosure. He watched the people who came to gape at him. Most of all he watched Frank, his chief keeper.

 

Claude and Frank had a mutual respect for each other. Both understood the other’s power. Although physically stronger, the gorilla understood that the keeper had methods of controlling and punishing; and he also knew that it was Frank who was in charge of his food. Frank knew only too well exactly how strong Claude was. At 5foot 3inches and 400lbs, he had muscles that would be the envy of any body-builder. One-on-one, it was all too obvious just who would be victorious in a fight.

 

But Claude was gentle, not hostile. He thought a lot about what he saw; he tried to work things out, to make sense of different behaviours, especially that of humans and that of Frank in particular. He was fascinated by the lock on his cage, and how it was opened by a piece of metal that he had learnt was called a ‘key’.

 

And then it happened. Frank dropped his keys and Claude watched their progress as they slid across the ground and came to rest under a heap of straw. Frank did not even realise that he had dropped them, not then, not until later. Patience was something that came naturally after years spent in a cage. The gorilla did not even glance at the straw until Frank had left; by the time he returned to search for the keys, Claude had them safely stored away.

 

It was a bit tricky to manipulate the key in his hand and it took Claude a while to work out quite how it fitted into the lock. It took a bit longer still for him to work out which way to turn it, but he did it. The door swung open and Claude made his way out onto the paths. There was no one around just at that moment and not a keeper in sight either.

 

The chimpanzees were watching from their own enclosure. Once one noticed the gorilla was out, the call went out and soon twenty of them, all different ages, were gathered around their own door. Watching, waiting, looking to Claude to let them free as well. Claude lumbered over to the door, stood up on his back legs and struggled to fit the key into the lock once more. This time he managed it far quicker.

 

The instant the door swung open the chimpanzees were rolling and tumbling, climbing each other, all wanting to be first out. And they were noisy. Excited chimpanzees just cannot control themselves, they play around, they mess, and they chatter to each other in their loudest voices.

 

Claude put his hands to his head. They were ruining everything. The cacophony of sounds was bound to draw the keepers to the area soon, not to mention spectators eager to see some sort of disaster unfolding. The gorilla took his hands from his head and went towards the next enclosure, then the next and the next. The lions were free, the tigers, the wolves........

 

And then the yell went up. People could be heard running nearer, only to stop and turn, screaming to run back the way they came. But the animals wanted their own bit of fun and skilfully arranged themselvesin such a way as to encourage people towards the enclosures and then to seek safety by shutting themselves in. The lions and tigers worked in pairs; the wolves circled and guided their targets; the chimpanzees caused chaos with their chattering and grinning teeth.......Poor Claude just stood there and scratched his head, unsure of what exactly was happening. It certainly wasn’t going to plan.

 

The lions prowled around the outside of their enclosure. Should someone move towards the fence they would find themselves being swatted at by a large paw with lethal claws. This would be accompanied by a low rumbling warning of a roar. The tigers behaved similarly, only prowled faster and were way more vocal as they neared the fence to peer inside. The people all huddled together, not liking to find themselves being kept prisoner.

 

The wolves were quite disciplined. Only the alpha male actually approached the cage to walk backwards and forwards in front of it. The others either stood or sat, patiently watching. There was not so much panic inside this enclosure as there was in those of the big cats. They were only wolves, well-fed ones too; not ferocious tigers and man-eating lions.

 

It had grown a bit quieter as most of the chimpanzees had scattered further afield, getting up to who knew what. There was the occasional loud bang, the rattling of bars, the frightened scream and the shouts of keepers issuing orders and trying to seize back control.

 

And then it happened. One of the lions flung itself onto the bars behind which it had previously been kept. It roared deep and loud, a rumbling that spoke of imminent death. It’s front paw disappeared into the enclosure to seize a man who whimpered and begged, his pleas completely lost on the lion. A woman, the man’s wife, screamed. And she screamed so loudly that Claude woke up.

 

He blinked his eyes, shook his head and looked around. He was safely shut inside his enclosure. The chimpanzees, the lions, the tigers, and just visible, the wolves, were all securely shut up where they were supposed to be. A dream! That’s what Claude would have told himself if he had known the word.

 

The keys were firmly clasped in his hand. He must have dug them out from under the straw and then laid down for a nap. Claude inspected the keys, he looked at the lock, then he shook his head. Carefully he put his hand against the fence and let the keys drop outside onto the path. He could already hear Frank returning.

 

And, Claude thought with relief, that was a good thing. There would be no turning the tables this day at least.

 


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