Saturday, October 4, 2014

Almost Flash Fiction: Two For The Zoo

  (Author note: Ran across a website called "Story" and liked one of their prompts which was to write a story taking place in a zoo. Didn't actually submit this one because of the slightly mature theme and a few words I used, that's why its almost flash fiction. They want to keep things family friendly.)  

Michael pulled into the zoo parking lot twenty minutes before the place actually opened. Largely empty, he slowly cruised around a couple of times making sure none of the few cars that were already parked looked familiar or had anyone just hanging out inside. It only took a few minutes for Michael to determine, with a high level of certainty, that there were no nasty surprises waiting for him.

All things considered, it took longer to figure out where to park his own car. If he parked close to the main entrance there was a good chance that someone he might know might recognize his car. If he parked far away, that in itself would draw attention as visitors arrived. Feeling a little foolish for over thinking the situation Michael picked a spot sort of between the extremes figuring that if there was no risk there could be no reward.

With the car parked silence overwhelmed Michael for a moment, he could feel the anticipation coursing through his body like electricity. What was about to happen had taken many months of tedious planning. First, of course, was just finding a lady, named Sara, in the cheaters online chat room. After several casual online conversations they then proceeded to a series of flirtatious emails. This culminated in an exchange of pictures, nothing weird, just normal snapshots of them generally doing mundane things at work. Sara picked a picture of her at the dental practice she worked. Michael sent one of him throwing a football at a company picnic.

The next step took both them closer to doing something wrong, but by this time the two were feeling like teenagers. In a way it was innocent enough, the two agreed to casually meet while walking through a nearby J. C. Penney. The plan was to exchange a few words in the section of the store that sold washing machines, then go their separate ways.

Michael arrived first and began reading the operator's manual on a new front loading washing machine. Immediately he was accosted by three of the salespeople sure his rapped attention to the manual meant he was serious about purchasing one. Only after assuring them he was just doing research for a possible purchase in the near future did they leave him alone.

“This sure is a nice model,” he heard someone say behind him. For about a second Michael figured it was another salesperson but turned and was happily surprised to see Sara.

“Yeah,” he said grinning like a fool but realizing he needed to control himself so not to make a scene, “the factories sure make they with all the bells and whistles these days.”

As if on cue, Sara giggled like a small girl then walked off without saying another word to disappear into the crowd. That night the two, more dedicated than ever to the affair, spent an hour instant messaging each other planning their next move. The respective spouses of Michael and Sara, consumed in their in own interests, paid no attention to what they were doing.

The two potential lovebirds went headlong into planning on how they would consummate their relationship. It was decided they needed a longer meeting to talk things out, preferably someplace offering a little privacy but not enough to draw attention to themselves. The city zoo on a weekday offered the perfect conditions with both acknowledging that a nearby travel motel would be the place they would go if they decided to take things to the next level. It took a couple of more weeks to carefully alter their respective schedules without drawing any attention from their spouses or coworkers.

Sitting in his car Michael watched the minutes tick down on his watch waiting for the zoo to open. It was during these quiet, closing minutes that he began blaming his wife for him pursuing someone outside of their marriage. She had become engrossed in various community services and charity work, and in a fit of self-righteousness, Michael felt uncomfortable with what he consider was a deep infatuation she was showing towards the director of the meals-on-wheels charity. Truth be told, while Michael did feel gravely under appreciated in his marriage, deep down part of his mind was playing the same game he saw his father and uncle do their wives.

For Sara, her husband, never the deeply physical type to begin with, had become a certified workaholic. Sex with him was now both extremely rare and mechanical when he did feel in the mood. Adding insult to injury he had become an avid fisherman and was now spending most of his time on the lake when not in the office.

The second the zoo opened Michael rushes to the ticket counter. He even beats a group of daycare age children being carefully lead inside by five already weary adult watchers.

“Taking a day off from work and going to the zoo I see,” the middle aged woman at the ticket counter says to Michael with a smile that could mean anything. “We don't see many single guys on a Tuesday.” she finishes still sporting an almost knowing smile.

“Yeah,” Michael says unsure how to handle her statement, “some days you just have to get away from the daily routine.” The ticket lady just nods as Michael rushes inside.

Being early in the workweek once the zoo opened the few people waiting to enter soon scattered all over making the place seem deserted of visitors. The only people visible were the occasional animal keeper and maintenance type taking care of their normal duties.

The plan was for Sara to arrive about thirty minutes after opening with them meeting in the newly constructed gorilla observation building. The inside featured a huge picture window looking out over the gorilla outside habitat and a small window on the far wall showing their living area. The best part about the building was the comfortable seats and the fact Michael and Sara could stay there for a considerable time and talk without drawing any undo interest. Another factor was because the observation building was on the far end of the zoo almost hidden by tropical-style vegetation. Michael felt it was certain Sara and he would have a long time to talk before heading over to the motel.

Feeling slightly nervous though, Michael decided to stroll around for a few minutes to clear his head before heading over in that direction. At the alligator exhibit he stopped for a moment figuring everything was finally coming together, the zoo was nearly empty, Sara and him were clearly a perfect match, and both of their spouses were totally oblivious to what was going on. Figuring it was time to go, he quickly began walking towards the building.

The zoo had gone all out on the observation building and had installed glass doors that were heavily tinted making it impossible to see through. So much that to Michael's surprise when he stepped inside he saw several other people hanging around giving every appearance they too were waiting for someone to arrive. What Michael clearly realized after only a minute of standing around was that the four men and three women were all by themselves and trying their level best to not only seem invisible but ignore all the other people.

Making matters worse, it was also clear everyone was looking at their watches or cell phones taking careful note of the time. The guilt hanging in the air was so think it was almost visible like a London fog. A lady suddenly rushes inside and stops dead in her tracks upon seeing everyone else, “Son of a bitch,” she exclaims before making eye contact with the man she was apparently hoping to meet. They quickly rush out together huddled close looking as if the paparazzi might descend on them any second.

It was then that Michael realized one of the gorillas was sitting just on the other side of the main window looking at them all. Michael could not believe his eyes, but the gorilla clearly seemed to have an expression of quiet mirth on his face. As if this was just some silly human game put on for his enjoyment.

Michael made a quick look at his watch and saw that he still had ten minutes before Sara was supposed to arrive. During that time a few more people arrived, found the person they were there to meet, and immediately left. For one guy and lady it was clear the people they were waiting for had changed their mind. Both walked out of the observation building looking obviously dejected.

With two minutes to spare the observation room was empty except for Michael. He silently rejoiced in this turn of events figuring everything would work out after all. Just then both of the tinted glass doors flew open from a flood of small children entering. It was total chaos with the children running around and screaming at the top of their small lungs as three adults tried to keep them under control. Much to Michael's horror he realized that the adults were wearing t-shirts identifying themselves as workers for one of the very charities his wife helped out with several times a month.

When Sara arrived a few moments later she immediately panicked after seeing all the children and ran back out without seeing Michael. He attempted to follow but was grabbed by one of the ladies watching the wild children. “Well Michael Harris,” she said, “what are you doing here this time of the day?”

Michael was an intelligent adult and had an answer to that question that didn't make him look completely guilty of something, but it took a full twenty minutes before he could reasonably break away from one of his wife's charity coworkers. During that time he caught glimpses of the gorilla looking straight at him seemingly about to laugh his ass off.

(Final note: The origins of this story are slightly complicated. A while back my wife and daughter decided to go shopping one Saturday afternoon. Not something I would usually volunteer to join except that my wife said that if I drove lunch would be at our favorite Italian restaurant. While they were inside the Kohls department store I sat in the car listening to NPR. Now this particular Kohls is in the Harbison section of Columbia and has a rather strangely placed parking lot that essentially hides it from view of anyone driving the main road.

While innocently sitting in my car another pulled up almost perpendicular to mine. In this other car was a couple who spent several minutes doing some seriously old fashioned making out before the lady jumped out and got in her own car. The guy had driven off the second the lady closed the door to his car but as the she backed out to leave herself she finally noticed me. She gave me a strange look of what I could only call acknowledgement then left herself. Okay, I'm an adult and have seen things and know how the world works but since I was totally minding my own business it took me several seconds to realize what I had just saw.)       


Pixel Peeper said...

Ha! I know that parking lot.

I just recently observed a couple in a car like that in the parking lot next to a movie theater. It's always fun thinking of the entire scenario behind that moment.

And I'm guessing that our imagination makes their whole story a lot more interesting than the real-life version...

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: I admit there is chance that the Kohls parking lot couple were completely innocent. Its just the look gave she gave me once realizing I was in my car suggested something awkward on her part. At first I didn't think too much about it, at the time I was listening to "Wait, Wait Don't tell Me" on NPR.

The Bug said...

Great story! Isn't it amazing how the human mind can rationalize almost any behavior? I'm very familiar with the concept due to my many attempts to stop eating sugar. I am VERY creative in the ways I justify eating chocolate :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Okay, so let me see... so YOU are kinda like the watchful gorilla in your story, right? HA.

Good story. People-watching can really fire up the imagination.

Akelamalu said...

Dangerous liaisons! ;)

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