Matthew Licht

Zoo Tail

Her ass said, follow me. The way she walked, loosely translated from body language, said, look at my ass. The message was: look at my ass and follow me.

She headed towards the zoo.

This seemed an oddball destination for a woman dressed to hook. Hook up, I mean. Maybe with a friendly guy who doesn’t spend sunny afternoons in an office or shop. She spotted the tail immediately. I’m no private detective. She didn’t make a fuss or call the cops. She looked back to make sure I was still there behind her.

The zoo’s a good place to go because it’s free. Zoo management did some market research, and discovered the admission charge discouraged attendance. The free zoo became a popular attraction. Zookeepers made up for lost ticket sales with a popcorn stand. People stand in line to buy paper boxes of cloud-shaped kernels to feed the monkeys.

The lady with the wonderful behind sashayed through the wrought-iron gate. A zookeeper in a cop-like uniform said a big hello.

She was apparently a regular, well-known to the keepers and the sweepers who follow the elephants around. She’s on a first-name basis with the giraffes, zebras, warthogs and giant anteaters.

A hand-painted sign said, Monkey Island. A green arrow pointed left. She stopped and pretended to study the sign. She looked back.

Modern life means less and less contact with animals. Less genuine contact with other people too, even though we’re smashed closer and closer together, more and more of us every day. But those of us not confined to office space-and-time are free to go outside for fresh air, sunshine and a glimpse of caged nature. I hadn’t been to the zoo for ages.

Monkey Island isn’t a natural geographical phenomenon. Zoo architects dreamed up concrete poured into the shape of a tropical paradise. Just like the ones the general public saw on television while they were growing up, except no palm trees, no beach. Monkey Island is an island only because of its gray, garbage-strewn moat. People throw popcorn at the monkeys. Monkeys love popcorn. They wolf down as much popcorn as they can get their mitts on. But some popcorn inevitably ends up in the listless sludge that surrounds their artifical habitat. Kids in particular are not such amazing popcorn-tossers.

The woman didn’t stop at the popcorn stand. Either she had no dough to blow on frivolous fripperies like feeding monkeys, or else she thought it cruel to make imprisoned creatures turn somersaults for insubstantial snacks. She went to the wrought-iron railing that surrounds the water that surrounds Monkey Island and separates visitors from the resident apes, and leaned over.

Her rear curves were accentuated by how far she leaned.  Man oh man those lucky monkeys got one hell of a cleavage peep.

Perfecto. Time to sidle up, lean casually against the fence and say, ‘scuse me, Miss, but these monkeys sure are fascinating creatures. Sometimes when I watch monkeys I can’t help but think maybe them and us aren’t so different after all. Except the poor monkeys are stuck in a cage and we, for the time being at least, are pretty much free to move around and do as we please.

Then, if fate will have it, a pair of baboons will start humping. She’ll get the idea. Carnal blossoms will expand and unfold. In one of our formerly lonely bedrooms, or in a public toilet stall at the zoo.

She swayed back and forth against the railing, teetered on the brink between the world of people, captive ape territory and dirty water. The watery barrier reflected an upside-down face, a bosom about to spill from a clingy blouse and clouds. On the opposite shore, a pink-ass macaque daintily drank and shot a monkey moon at another monkey with a hard-on.

He was the biggest ape on Monkey Island, some kind of monster gorilla or mandrill, and he was looking at my lady.

He wasn’t exactly handsome, not even for an orangutan. Looked like the zoo barber had taken a defective razor to his pelt. His fur was thin, clumpy, tufted, in patches. He either suffered from simian skin disease, ape-zema, or else stir-craziness had gone psychosomatic on his all-over ape hairdo.

My fantasy girlfriend wasn’t offended by the balding animal’s behavior. Neither was she amused. Most people would go hurh-hurh check it out the freaky chimp’s pullin’ his banana. Then they’d wander off to gawk at the demon-faced hyena. My lady stayed put, bent over, waved her caboose like a cat, and stared.

The colossal howler monkey or lemur or whatever he was stared right back at the lady who was watching him beat his meat. No way to tell if he was just feeling good because the sun was shining warm and pleasant, or if he was excited because she showed up and leaned over. A feeling hit that this was a regular thing for the lady and the monkey. They were engaged in the only kind of date they could legally have, but someone had intruded on their illusion of privacy.

So I didn’t try to start up a conversation with her. Maybe I should’ve. She might’ve snapped out of her trance and come along for some human-to-human intercourse. Or she might’ve told me to get lost and that would’ve been the end.

Another feeling took over. This was something secret, forbidden, hot. The monkey component of my brain said, expose yourself and behave like the confined primate. But you can get locked up for indecent acts in public. There are kids at the zoo, most days. Kids shouldn’t have to see stuff like that.

Field day giggles galore arise from kids who watching a chimp slam the ham.

Ham was the first chimp to be blasted off into Outer Space. Black and white newspaper pix of a monkey in a space suit. He gave a toothy grin or snarled for the camera, but man did his eyes ever look sad.

Teacher, teacher, what’s the monkey doing? More snickers as the embarrassed schoolmarm hustles the punks along to gawp at the rhinoceros. The rhino takes a gushing leak on his bed of straw. Shit-eating scavenger birds scatter, and fly away because they’re free.

If the lady had noticed that a stranger stared, she gave no sign of it. The chimp shot an annoyed smirk, or as close as a monkey’s mug can get to one, and yanked harder. Then he stopped. Watery semen spurted and splatted on cement. Another caged creature, perhaps a female baboon, ambled over on all fours, stuck a finger into the milky puddle, sniffed, tasted, shuffled away to snuffle up a kernel of popcorn someone who hadn’t stopped to watch the monkey show had thrown.

The lady stared at the gorilla or orangutan and wiggled faster, bucked her hips. The monkey kept his eye on me. There, is that what you wanted to see? Will that do, for today?

The monkey won the staring contest, hands down. When I looked over, the lady was gone. She’d walked away and I missed her part of the show.

At least there was no admission charge.

The guy in charge of the zoo’s popcorn concession didn’t even look up when I paid for the smallest cardboard box of popcorn on offer. Big deal, another cheapo customer. First thing you learn in the Big City is don’t make eye contact. He played by the rules.

Zoo etiquette is you feed the monkeys one fluffy kernel at a time. Bond with a lower form of life. Feed the monkeys as though you were their lord and master. Make urbane comments on their antics. Instead, I winged the box at the jack-off monkey’s head. Either I missed or he ducked like lightning. Popcorn exploded all over a section of Monkey Island’s cement floor and started a furry feeding frenzy. The spent ape folded his arms over a patch of leathery chest and closed his black eyelids. For him, the rest of the world was gone.

It’s possible the sexy lady went back to the zoo the next day for another date with her monkey. True-life stories abound about desirable women who fix their love and souls on prison lifers, Death Row losers. They waste their lives in trailers parked just outside prison grounds. They live for full-contact visiting hours.

No more zoo trips for me.

But I learned something. The difference between monkeys and apes is that apes don’t have tails. I don’t have a tail. So maybe I’m an ape. An ape who tails weirdoes, unless they’re headed to the zoo.

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