Tale of a Zookeeper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is just some thing I wrote. I used someone as a muse. It's one of those, you'll probably either hate it or love it things.

Submitted: February 22, 2016

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Submitted: February 22, 2016

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I still remember the first time I saw him.  It was a hot, summer afternoon, and I had a lot of free time.  Because of this, I decided to take a tour at the zoo.  He was my tour guide.  Normally, I wouldn’t even remember what the guy looked like.  All of the zookeepers who doubled as tour guides wore the generic khaki outfits, and none of them had any astonishing physical features.  He stuck out, because he was strange.At first, I didn’t notice it.  We passed the elephants and the lions, all the while he was spewing off the scripted material he was contractually obligated to rattle off.  It was when we reached the hippos that I noticed there was more to him.  You see, hippos are my favorite animals, so I paid extra special detail to them.  After he finished his spiel about the behaviors of the large beasts, we had a few minutes to just look at them.  I happened to be the one standing next to him, looking over the guardrails. 

“Hey, Winnifred,” I heard, barely above a whisper.  Turning, I noticed he was speaking to one of the hippos.  After a quick glance at the information sign, I confirmed that he was speaking to a hippo who the zoo named Amanda.  I strained my ears and waited for him to speak again.  “It’s been a while, I know.  I’ve mostly been on mini-tours with the little kids.  I’ve seen the rest of the band though.  Chester, Sydney, Billy, and Horace are doing fine.  They miss their lead singer though, especially after the zoo moved your habitat way over here.”  He sighed softly before he continued.  “I think I want to write a song about socks.  I think it’d be a good way for the band to get back together.”  I chewed on my lower lip and stole a glance in his direction out of the corner of my eye.  He seemed thoughtful; not quite sad and not quite happy, either. After that, I noticed he had little conversations like this with a lot of the animals.  It was somewhat refreshing, and I felt like I somehow shared a secret with him.  I always made a point to stand near him in between the speeches he gave about the animals.  Too soon, the tour was over, and I headed back home.

 

I returned to the zoo every day after that.  On the days I could, I made sure to have him as a tour guide.  On the days he wasn’t touring, I wandered area, glancing into exhibits and habitats, hoping to get a glimpse of him whispering to one of his “friends.”  Sometimes, I would even walk up to the animals and call them by the same name that he did.  I would ask them questions about him, about their day, even though I knew they couldn’t answer.  He had to have noticed at this point that I was nearly stalking him.  I know he saw me in his groups for tours.  I always stood right at the front.  I always stood right next to him at the guardrails.  He was just so interesting.  It was refreshing.  Throughout the entire summer, I never spoke a word to him.  I never asked his name.  I never even greeted him.  I couldn’t even bring myself to fully look at him.  It would be too wrong.  It would ruin this perfect world of strangeness that I had built around him in my mind.  I would often imagine he was an alien, or some sort of supernatural being.  No human could hold my interest like that.  No human could have entire conversations with animals about events that never even happened.  These were things he did so easily.  He would talk about bands, and mystery solving, and puppies, and driving, and he truly acted as if he believed all these things to have been true.  So often, his stories would trail off or lose the plot.  By the end of the conversation, you would be so confused you wouldn’t know what to do.  But it would also leave you so intrigued, you wouldn’t know how not to listen to the next one.  It was like an addiction. 

 

Eventually, the summer ended and I had to return to school.  It ate away at so much of my time that I never got to return to the zoo.  I didn’t get my fill of the strange guy.  One day, however, a class was cancelled, and I made my way to that familiar place.  I wondered if he had even thought about my absence, or if he had even noticed.  What if his world was so chaotic, and so full of lively things that I was completely invisible?  I wandered around the zoo, slowly.  I strolled by the hippos and the lions, stopped to gaze at an ostrich, sat on a bench near the crocodiles.  Hours passed, but I never saw him.  A voice came over the loudspeakers strategically placed between exhibits, signaling that the zoo would be closing in ten minutes.  I trudged towards the gate, the last one to make it to the exit.  And there he was, the zookeeper, that strange zookeeper, swinging a large set of keys on his finger and leaning against the gate.  He glanced in my direction, caught my eyes for a brief moment, smirked, and flagged me over.  I nervously walked until I was right in front of him. 

“You know, I never really care if anyone likes my stories to the animals,” he started.  “But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate you listening to them.”  He gave me a small wink, and ushered me out of the gate, quickly, locking it with the key.  I stood there on the sidewalk in stunned silence.  As he walked back towards the inner area of the zoo, he raised his hand in a slight wave over his shoulder.

“What does that even mean?” I whispered, knowing full well I’d probably never find out.


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