Last Day at the Zoo

By Matthew Dexter

Monkey Cage

Woke up in the goddamn monkey cage again. Must’ve drank too much whiskey and fallen from the lemon tree. Found myself in the grass shivering with the sunrise. Good thing I woke before the zoo opened; if my boss knew he’d have to let me go. The man who cleans the cages helped me to my feet, put on his blue work gloves, wiped the monkey dung off my T-shirt and took me inside to clean up. That’s what happens when your fiancé cheats: you end up in the monkey cage.

Flamingo Lagoon

The nice man hosed me down, but we couldn’t get off all the grime. “Take a quick dip in the lagoon,” he told me, and I did a cannonball, splashing the flamingos as they stretched their necks. The ostriches in the exhibit next door ran in circles, bobbing their heads in mockery. “Quick, get out,” the man said, as the flamingos began massing and floating toward me. I had to swim underwater to escape. Those flamingos are smarter than they look.

<a title="Polar Bear Swimming by Ted Weddell” href=””&gt;Polar Bear Plunge

Jumped the fence into the polar bear exhibit, hoping to find a snowball for my parched throat. The big one rose up on its hind legs, shaking like a dog at the beach. His fur was as white and majestic as the first snow of the season, and his manner was just as fresh. He showed me the way out with his claws. No reason to stay and argue, so I hopped the fence like a pregnant kangaroo.

Elephant Odyssey

My cell phone rang as I started singing to the elephants. I let it go to voice mail so Jackson could apologize for last night. “Sorry I didn’t call you sooner, Sara, but these things happen. I need to pick up my truck sometime this afternoon. Don’t forget to take your medication.” I threw the phone at the elephant’s trunk, dug the keys out of my pocket, and sprinted to the parking lot. Little children had arrived, their parents and babysitters and teachers stood at the ticket window staring at my wet soiled clothes. “Man problems,” I explained. “Animals are so much nicer than people.” I found agreement in the whites of their eyes and decided to take another plunge in the polar bear exhibit.

Parking Lot

Jackson’s truck was covered in dirt and scratches where I keyed the driver’s side sometime after midnight. I could see the zebras in their habitat on top of the hill, the necks of giraffes bobbing into the branches of the trees as if they could touch the clouds if they could only jump. I opened the glove box and pulled out a bag of crystal meth and covered Jackson’s key in powder. Satisfied and alert, I turned the ignition, threw it in reverse, and backed up all the way to the fence. Knuckles white on the steering wheel, I put that hearse into drive and toasted the tires like I was late for my wedding.

Panda Shop

Peeling through the parking lot, I sped through the zoo again, just in time for my morning shift. I blew through  metal fences, wooden benches, lawns, and the Bamboo Panda Shop, before plummeting back into the polar bear exhibit. The water was freezing, but only seeping in under the dashboard. The truck sank to the bottom, but the lighter still worked. Smoking my last cigarette, the only reason I wanted to live was to see if the polar bears would open the door and let me in.


Matthew Dexter lives and writes in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He tolerates long walks on the beach, but hates sand between his toes.
Polar Bear Swimming by Ted Weddell
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