You are on page 1of 14

“I like the vibe of the zoo.

” Jack said, giving his

usual answer despite being mired in unusual circumstances.

“The quiet rhythm of the people and the animals puts a hop

in my step.” Mindy grinned at him. Jack could tell that she

suspected there was more to his daily zoo visits and late

night work than vibes and rhythm. She, too, gave her

standard response.

“Okay” she said. Then she lightly grabbed and held his

upper arm before letting her hand fall back to her side.

“Call me later, okay?” Jack nodded before turning his eyes

to the floor. He pushed his way through the front door, the

internal debate about whether or not to tell Mindy grew

inside him like a tumor. He barely noticed that he had made

his way through the faculty parking lot to his tired Honda

Accord.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, studying himself in the

mirror, Jack sucked in a deep breath of hot stale air. It

had absorbed the flavor of Taco Bell scraps and stale

coffee. He rolled down a window to escape it and glanced at

the back seat of his car through the rear-view mirror.

“I’ll need a bigger car,” he muttered, putting the car in

reverse, and pulling out of his spot. His car headed toward

what was seemingly its only destination now: the zoo.


Jack let a grin find its way across his face as he

imagined himself, a shaggy-haired 197pound guy coaxing

Wala, the 450 pound male gorilla, into his Accord. The

absurdity of the scene in his head and the insanity of what

he had planned consumed him. He found it difficult to

believe that his life and his purpose had changed so much

in just two weeks.

Jack’s life had coasted along with little to note

until the first Friday of the school year. He was on his

way out of school from preparing his when he ran into

Mindy.1 They had been close friends since he had started

teaching, but they hadn’t seen each other since Mindy had

gone back to Ohio to visit her family three weeks prior.

“Want to grab something to eat tonight?” She gave him

a tight hug.

“Can’t.”

“Oh yea,” she smiled, “zoo day. You never get tired of

it do you?”

“I like the vibe of the zoo…”

“Okay.” Mindy put a hand up to his mouth interrupting

the speach, “I know. The rhythm puts a hop in your step.”

1
Ok, Just want to say sorry in advance for all these annoying footnotes, I don’t really know how to do the
fun little comment things you did on my paper. Anyway! I highlighted this sentence just because it didn’t
quite make sense to me… Did you skip a word perhaps?
“Yea.” He smiled back. Jack liked having canned

responses. They kept people from bothering him, and this

one was even true.

“Well just call me later then. Maybe we can get

together this weekend.” He gave her a nod and a smile,

threw his backpack over his shoulder and shuffled his way

out the front door.*

As Jake pulled into the parking lot of the Sunset zoo,

he saw the marquee with a new picture of a gorilla on it.

“Grand Opening” was situated across the bottom in cheap

block lettering. Jack sighed. Budget issues aside, he

actually did like the vibe of this little zoo, and ever

since Lucy St. James had taken over, Sunset seemingly had

new life. She had decided that specializing in one animal

would give the zoo focus, legitimacy, and eventually

financial stability. She started with grant-writing and

fund raising. Now the zoo had reached a milestone: the

grand opening of a new gorilla habitat. Jack started

following signs toward new facility as soon as he got

through the main gate. He glanced at his watch when he

passed the sign advertising that the gorilla troop would be

released into the enclosure at 3:45, and picked up his pace

*
I just found this place a little confusing, it just seemed like he was driving to the zoo alone and then he’s
driving to the zoo again, only this time with Mindy.
a little. He curled around the rickety fence that encircled

the llamas to make sure he was there in time.

As he turned that last corner, he saw it for the first

time. It was a full acre and a half of simulated

rainforest, grass clearnings, and a waterfall stretched

across the back of the zoo. The bright mistiness made it

look as if Mother Nature herself had baptized it. During

the year and a half of construction, only a priveledged few

had seen what was being the tarps and curtains.

“Unbelievable” Jack heard himself say.

Jack glanced around and saw that there were only a

handful of people there for the opening. Ms. St. James knew

what she was doing, but since the only media in town was a

free weekly paper full of AP stories and local ads, it was

difficult to get the word out about much of anything.

Jack walked to the rail and casually leaned over it. A

wide concrete moat separated the people from what was to be

the temporary home of the gorilla troop. They were on-loan

from a zoological center out west somewhere while their

home was renovated. Lucy St. James was hoping that would be

long enough to find a way for the zoo to get their own

gorilla troop.

Jack’s thoughts were interrupted by the familiar sound

of Ms. St. James’ voice cracking through the speakers.


“Thank you all for coming to the grand opening of the

Sunset Zoo gorilla habitat.” Her words were met with the

type of applause you’d expect for knocking in a two-foot

putt: polite, but spattered. She continued from the podium,

“This state-of-the-art facility will be home over the next

two years for our troop of 6 lowland gorillas. The 3

females, Tanya, GoGo, and Abby along with their children,

Sonny and Trina will be joined by Wala, the silverback.

Let’s welcome them warmly to our community.” With that, she

turned from the makeshift podium and faced the enclosure to

applaud. Jack politely clapped even though he wasn’t really

listening. His eyes were fixed on the large metal door that

spat in the face of one of the rock walls. The sound of

metallic collisions drew everyone’s eyes.

“Here they come” Jack said. As he looked around, he

noticed that there was nobody close enough to hear him, so

his eyes found their way back to the door as it swung open.

Then, one by one, the gorillas emerged. Wala was first.

Jack leaned in further, and pushed himself upright from the

rail and locked his arms. There was something about Wala

that enthralled Jack immediately.

Jack watched as Wala and his troop emerged from the

door and began to explore the premimeter of the habitat.

Wala stopped and put both hands on the wall. He looked up


to the top. Jack noticed that Wala’s broad frosty back was

almost the same color as the wall. Wala dropped back to his

knuckles and hung his head. Then, he shook his head like he

was upset. He shook his head deliberately.

Jack’s eyes felt cold as he opened them wider. That

gorilla had a human reaction to what he saw. Looking

around, Jack noticed a family of four nearby that looked

like they had just skipped out of a sitcom. They were

laughing and applauding.

“Did you see that?” Jack asked.

“Of course…it was hard to miss.” said the father. “The

little ones are so cute.”

Jack managed a smirk. He wondered if maybe he hadn’t

seen what he thought he did. Wala was probably just an

ordinary gorilla living in the new State of the Art Sunset

Zoo facility.

As the sun slid down to kiss the horizon2, the small

crowd dispersed one by one until only Jack continued to

watch the gorillas. Actually, he continued to watch Wala.

Even as the last call that the zoo was closing spit

through the speakers, Jack leaned against the rail and

watched the gorillas explore their new home. They had

settled down enough that they were beginning to eat.

2
I like this part. Gives it this kinda funky feeling mood sort of thing…
Occasionally, Jack made prolonged eye contact with

Wala. Each time, he felt like his heart was being hugged.

Jack was sure there was something different, something

special about Wala. It seemed like there was a spark

glowing behind those deep brown eyes and that dark brow.

“They are so wonderful.” Lucy St. James’s voice

interrupted Jack’s thoughts.

“I can’t believe what you have done here.” Jack said.

He and Ms. St. James were acquaintances thanks for his

visits every week. She leaned on the rail next to him and

watched the troop for a few minutes. Jack finally broke the

silence. “Where did Wala come from?”

“The research center, just like the rest.”

“I mean originally. Was he raised there? Was he born

there?”

“Oh…um, you know, I’m not sure, why?”

“There’s just something about him.” Jack said.

“His file said he was prone to outbursts, but we

haven’t seen any of that.” She paused briefly, “but I don’t

recall seeing anything about where he was born.” Wala’s

eyes found Jack’s again even as the light began to give way

to growing shadows. He could see Ms. St. James watching him

out of the corner of his eye.


“Here’s my card,” she slid a white card through her

fingers and extended it toward Jack. “Email me and I will

see what I can find out about him. Time to get going, the

zoo is closing.” Jack looked at the card, smiled over at

her, and shook her hand.

“Thanks, and have a good night.”

As Jack drove home, listening only to the air hissing

through the bad seal in his door and his own thoughts, he

couldn’t help but think about what he had witnessed. One

question hung on him like a bad smell. What should he do if

Wala really is special?

Wala looked up that wall, hung his head, and shook it.

It was a scene Jack played over in his head again and

again. He thought about it when he got home while he sat on

the sofa drinking his evening tea, he replayed while he

watched the evening news, and it never wandered far from

his mind as he layed in bed that night. His mind was

saturated with questions. He did not sleep.

The alarm never did go off. Sometime before 5:00 he

had shut it off, gotten out of bed and fixed himself a bowl

of corn flakes. He sat in front of the computer screen for

more than two hours reading everything he could find on

gorillas and printing more to read later.


As he wrecklessly tossed the pages and pages of

research papers and articles onto his desk, something

caught his eye. It was Lucy St. James’s business card. He

had nearly forgotten to email her. Quickly opening his

email, Jack typed up a message:

To: Lucy.SJ@sunsetzoo.org

From: Jack30604@yahoo.com

Subject: Wala

Ms. St. James,

Thank you for speaking with me the other night

At the grand opening. You had mentioned that

You might be able to find out about Wala’s history.

If you could, it would be great. As you know, I’m a

Teacher, and being able to share that would be fun

And educational for the kids. Thanks again.3

Jack clicked send, and glanced at the clock. Noting that he

had only a few minutes to get to school, he threw on his

jeans with a polo shirt, grabbed his bag and headed out the

door.

3
Ok, this part is sort of a 2 in 1. Blue highlighted part first: Did you mean for it to have a poetic feel, a
sort of rhythm going on? Because you can kind of get that. Otherwise your formatting stinks and the
capital letters at the beginning of each line are very distracting. Wasn’t quite sure what you were going for
though. Yellow part: I liked the capital T. He isn’t a mere teacher, he is a Teacher!
As he took the drive to school, Jack kept glancing up

at the rear-view mirror at his own eyes. They were dark

around the outside and red on the inside. He was obviously

tired. Each time he caught his reflection, though, he

mostly wondered why he had lied in that message.

Jack spent most of the day avoiding contact with the

rest of the school staff under the guise of getting his

room set up. With his door shut, he continued to read and

absorb information. He did manage some small talk about the

coming school year with the librarian as he checked out all

6 books from the school that had anything to do with

gorilla research and behavior.

After checking his email for what must have been the

hundredth time that day, Jack had a response from Lucy St.

James. It explained that Wala was originally from the

Congo, where he had been captured as a young gorilla. He

had been repeatedly entering pygmy villages and stealing

food. The rest of his family was found dead several miles

away. Their hands had been cut off, a sure sign that they

had died to provide poachers with a few thousand dollars.

Wala hung around the villages for a while until a

local missionary from the UK contacted a couple of

zoologists from the California center. Wala was fairly

friendly with the humans despite the fate of his family, so


he was taken in as part of the population in California

where he was raised.

Jack leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers

through his hair slowly. Wala was born wild. Still, that

didn’t prove anything. Jack thought about all the

biologists, anthropologists, and zoologists who had spent

time around Wala. If there was anything special about him,

it wouldn’t likely be a high school literature teacher that

discovered it. Jack smiled to himself and took a deep

breath. “Time to get back to work” he said to the empty

classroom.

Jack tried to convince himself that it was all over.

He put up a few posters, typed up classroom rules, and a

letter home to parents. As he went through those motions,

though, it was like he was watching himself perform the

tasks from another place. It was like his body was still at

the zoo.

He looked up at the clock and saw that it was 1:00.

Even though he was supposed to be there until 3:00, Jack

made his way out the door. He met Mindy and a few other

teachers as he walked out.

“Jack” Mindy grinned. “I haven’t seen you all day.

Heading to a late lunch?”


“Umm, yea” Jack said. He forced a grin as he opened

his car door.

“Okay, maybe I’ll catch you after school.” Mindy

always seemed so happy. Inside his own mind, in fact, Jack

always referred to Mindy as his exact opposite.4

“Sure.” Jack gave a half wave as he slid into the

driver’s seat of the car and closed the door. Keeping his

head down, he pulled out and as if the car was driving

itself, went straight to the zoo.

He spent the rest of that day sitting and watching the

gorillas. Jack especially watched and even followed Wala as

he moved to various parts of the enclosure. Finally, he was

face to face with Wala at the glass window next to the

clearing where the troop ate. Wala had seen Jack at the

window, turned, and made his way closer. He sat down,

munching on a whole head of lettuce, and looked straight

into Jack’s eyes.

Neither of them moved. The glass temporarily steamed

up each time Wala exhaled, but Jack hardly noticed since he

was busy seeking something. He felt like he was searching

for the hand of a lost child. Looking harder, he felt like

he was getting closer with each passing moment, but like he

could never quite touch it. Jack blinked, shook his head,

4
poor jack….
and finally stepped back. Wala cocked his head like a

curious puppy, took a bite out of his hand full of lettuce

and placed his other hand on his chest. Jack mirrored the

motion, laughed out loud, clapped his hands and sat down on

the concrete walkway.

“You really are a special animal,” Jack said. Wala

pressed his hands and face to the glass and exhaled

strongly creating a triangle of fog on the glass for a

moment. He dropped back down to his knuckles, started to

walk away, then looked back over his shoulder at Jack

again. He hung his head, and again he shook it.

It was after ten when Jack shuffled through the door

to his apartment. He slouched into his sofa, flipped on the

television, and let his head sink into the cushion as he

stared at the ceiling.

Through the sound of the Discovery channel, Jack

continued to ponder the miracle before him. Nothing he had

read and nothing he had ever seen could explain the signals

that Wala continued to send him. At that moment, when Jack

knew what he had to do, a sense of peace washed over him

like warm shower. For the first time in two nights, Jack

slept.

The next morning, Jack awoke to the sound of his cell

phone alarm. Still dressed, lying on the sofa, and with the
Discover channel blaring at him, Jack sat up. He stumbled

over to his desk, pushed aside the myriad of gorilla

research papers and books, and logged onto the school’s

absence reporting website.

With a sick day reported, Jack felt energized to move

forward. He went into the bathroom, splashed some water on

his face, brushed his teeth and stared at himself for a

moment. He pushed his shaggy hair out of his own face and

looked deeply into his own eyes. They didn’t seem brown,

they just seemed dark and sad to him. He rubbed them and

walked out toward the front door confident that fulfilling

his mission, doing this greatest of good deeds, would suck

the sadness from his eyes.

Jack stopped for coffee on his way for the zoo. It was

the only thing he had put into his body in nearly 24 hours,

but by now Jack had decided that he could survive on

nothing more than caffeine and destiny.

He had made many trips to Sunset, but on this day Jack

was the first one through the gates. Of course, Jack made a

bee line for the gorilla enclosure. He went straight back

to see Wala.

WHOA!!!! What the heck, you can’t just stop there!!!!! Where’s the

rest of it?!?!?!?!? That is not cool Mr. D, not cool.

Related Interests