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A Zoo Story
A Zoo Story
Of all the places on God’s Green Earth they could have landed, the Zebs, either through design or pure chance, brought their spaceship down in the middle of the Biloxi Zoo. It was late at night and the zoo was locked up and quiet. Even Lester Bascomb, the night watchman, was sound asleep on his cot in the basement of the administration building.
The Zebs were happy to have finally landed. They had been traveling for the equivalent of 300 of our years and excited to finally get off their ship and stretch their legs. They hustled outside and looked around at this strange new world. The first Earth creature they encountered was the elephant. Several of the bravest Zebs approached the huge creature and, setting up their translation equipment, offered the elephant words of greeting. Surely, the Zebs thought, so large and massive a creature must be the ruler of this planet.
The Zebs explained how they had traveled very far and came in peace. The elephant, a retired circus performer, listened passively and waited for the Zebs to finish speaking. Then it cleared its throat and said, “It is very nice to meet you too but I fear you have made a mistake. You have me confused with the rulers of this world. I am only an elephant, a sad, sorry and exploited citizen of this world. My kind has been hunted and enslaved for centuries. Our numbers have dwindled and I fear that except for zoos and circuses there won’t be any elephants left in a few years. So don’t look to my kind for leadership.”
The Zebs were disappointed but undaunted. They moved on to the next enclosure and set up their translator outside the giraffe’s residence. Surely, the Zebs thought, so tall a creature must be the ruler of this planet. And so they delivered their greetings speech to the bewildered giraffe who listened politely until it was his turn to speak. “How do you do,” said the giraffe who was always polite. “It is refreshing to see something new. You have no idea how dull and boring it is to be stared at by children day after endless day. As much as I wish I could rule this world, I am afraid that my kind is struggling to survive. Our homes are being destroyed and our numbers are dwindling so I don’t think I am what you are looking for.” The Zebs had many questions for the giraffe but the animal grew tired and bored and walked away to get some sleep.
The Zebs continued on visiting one animal after another. “Surely a creature as fierce and as strong as you” they said to the lion “must be the ruler of this world.” But of course the lion wasn’t any more of a leader than was the elephant or the giraffe. “I am often called the king of beasts,” said the lion. “But in reality I am not the king of anything.”
The Zebs tried the python, the tortoise, the ostrich and the rhinoceros all to no avail. The gorilla, an old silverback, gave them some useful information. After listening to the Zeb’s welcome speech, the gorilla said, “Greetings to you too. Welcome to the Earth, I hope you enjoy your visit. I am not the creature you are seeking. My kind does not rule this world. In fact, like the other creatures here we have almost vanished entirely from this planet. It is the real rulers who have destroyed my forest home as well as the homes of all these other creatures. The true ruler of this world, I am embarrassed to say, is a relative of mine— a selfish, hairless ape that thinks only of itself. But be careful if you find him, lest you wind up in a cage like the rest of us.” And with that the old gorilla went back to his bed.
The Zebs had by now pieced together a picture of an evil, two legged monster who rules this planet through force and fear. When the Zebs inquired where they might find this ruler, they were told that they were looking on the wrong side of the bars that in a few hours the zoo would open and they would get to meet many hundreds of them. The Zebs weren’t certain they wanted to confront hundreds of monsters. They were conferring with the tiger about what they should do when Lester Bascomb, the night watchman came along on his rounds.
When Lester first saw the Zebs standing in front of the tiger’s cage with their equipment, at first he thought it was a film crew making a movie. But why would they be making a movie in the middle of the night when the zoo is closed up tight? As he got closer, he noticed that the Zebs weren’t human after all. He immediately assumed that they were some sort of exotic new creature that the zoo had acquired. They looked vaguely lizard-like with green skin and a scale covered body. A kind of crocodile or alligator he suspected. Somehow they had managed to escape from their cage. Lester Bascomb might not have recognized what sort of creatures they were, but he knew it was his duty to round them up and get them back into their cage. He silently made an about face and returned to the administration building. The Zebs were too busy introducing themselves to the polar bear to notice. When Lester reached the Admin Building, he grabbed a large net and a dart gun loaded with enough tranquilizer to stop an elephant. He deliberated for a few moments about taking a real gun. Finally he stuffed a pistol into the waist band of his jeans just in case. Alligators could be fierce and there were six of them.
Lester Bascomb managed to ensnare all but one of the Zebs with his first cast of the net. Then he brought down the unnetted Zeb with a well placed dart before it realized what was going on. The translator device toppled over and was broken in the scuffle. Lester was unable to understand that he had rounded up six highly intelligent creatures. Zeb speech sounded like a mixture of squeaks, grunts and trills. It was the grunts and their scaly green skin that gave Lester the idea that the Zebs were related to crocodiles or alligators, he never understood the difference. He managed to drag all six Zebs to the alligator enclosure and stuffed them in the cage with the huge reptiles. The Zebs were horrified and protested loudly to both Lester and the curious lizards. Their desperate pleas went unanswered. Lester was proud of the way he handled the incident. Alligators? Crocodiles? What was the difference? He’d let the egg heads sort it out in the morning. He walked back to the admin building for a well deserved rest and a cup of hot tea.
The crocodiles eyed the Zebs hungrily and drew closer. The Zebs tried their best to reason with the menacing beasts. No one was more surprised than they when the chief crocodile spoke in perfect Zeb, “Humans," it said with a shrug, "What are you going to do? They have no idea what they are doing.” The Zebs had to agree.
micheledutcher - A very cool tale about people allowing their misconceptions to control other's futures perhaps. The twist ending was hilarious. I'm glad the zebs were finally welcomed in the end. The caretaker character seems very apropos right now - people who really don't care about how they do their jobs - the eggheads can eventually sort it out after everything is thoroughly messed up.
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