Spooky Zoo

Davis has spent the past week getting aggressively high and going to Spooky Zoo.

He leaves his apartment at dusk and parks in the back lot of the Tierny County Zoo, just over the fence from the gorillas. There, he rolls joints for fifteen minutes, taking particular care to twist up at least five tight, thin spliffs which he collects in an empty cigarette pack. Then, he tucks the papers back into the glove compartment, loads a pipe, and takes absolutely monstrous rips until the sun sets entirely. By the time he pays his fourteen dollars for admission, he is high enough to warrant concern.

Once inside, he makes a beeline for the food court to load up on hot chocolate and salted pretzels. Outside one of the snack shacks, a teenager in a Dracula costume is handing out flyers for the Vampire Bat exhibit. The kid’s zits are bloodier than his fangs, and his cape leaves a lot to be desired; but, Davis is a sucker for great marketing, so he takes a flyer.

Over the next few hours, he wanders the zoo. After feeding the giraffes, he spends some time making faces at the chimpanzees that all got superhero costumes this year. Then, he stops to take photos of the elephants wearing over-sized bunny ears and snacking on pumpkins. Occasionally, he fires off another joint, keeping an eye out for the zombie zookeepers who are handing out animal-shaped candy to the kids. His luck runs out near the orangutans; he gets caught by a food vendor whose silence he has to buy with a loose joint and the purchase of three churros. He is munching away at one of them when he comes across another vampire greeting visitors in a nervous attempt at a Transylvanian accent.

“Blah, velcome to ze Vampire Bat castle,” says the boy, “but bevare, zese guys may vant to suck your blood.”

Davis enjoys watching the kid die a bit inside each time he has to say the line. He spends the next ten minutes giggling and stopping other passers-by to watch the poor kid do the routine. Even through pale white makeup, his blushing is visibly. Finally, the kid threatens to call security if Davis doesn’t stop harassing him and go look at the dumb bats. So, reluctantly, Davis trashes one of the churro wrappers, flips the kid the bird, and heads inside.

The walls of the exhibit are molded cement, contoured and painted to look like a cave. Visitors are packed in, squinting through the chain link fence to see the hanging bats. The lights in the exhibit are extremely low, and Davis can only make out a handful of silhouettes within the cage. They look to be sleeping. A squat man in a denim jacket is whistling at the bats, trying to get them to move.

The display in front of the fence is covered in pictures of the bats slurping blood from pigs, cattle, sheep, and the like. He’d always assumed they somehow drank the blood through their teeth like some sort of horrific drinking straws. Now that he’s face-to-face with reality, he isn’t sure how that scenario would even work – evolutionarily speaking. There is a “Did You Know?” board which says the bats eat so much at a time that they spend most of the night sleeping. Davis did not, in fact, know.

The fat man is now rattling the cage.

“Wake up, ya bastards!” he shouts, pulling a key chain flashlight out and blinking it at the bats, “C’mon! Fly or something!”

Some of the other guests have started shuffling out of the cave rather than saying anything. The man’s wife and son start to examine their feet with embarrassment.

“Hey! Quit that,” Davis’ voice surprises even himself.

“What?” he said defensively, “I want to see them move. I didn’t pay good money to see these fuckers sleep.”

“But these bats sleep most of the night after feeding,” Davis parrots the plaque, then adds, “…asshole.”

The man’s chest swells like the tropical birds Davis had yet to visit.

“What did you just call me, pal?”

Davis starts to answer, but stops to consider his options. Somebody has to stand up for the bats. Plus he’s down to one spliff, and its getting cold anyhow. The man creeps closer, awaiting an answer. He starts to ask again, but Davis reacts first. He winds up into a vicious backhand, sending his churro streaking down and across the man’s face. A huge welt – red and sugary – begins to grow on the man’s cheek.

“Don’t disturb the bats…asshole!”

Davis turns and runs out of the cave and makes a break for the front of the park. Hearing the fat man struggling to give chase behind him, he turns briefly and hurls what was left of his delicious treat, nailing the man in the chest. Finally, he reaches the front gates and leaps over the turnstiles soaring into freedom and the cold night – the first man to ever be banned for life from Spooky Zoo.

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