Wrestling, leaping, jumping playing.
The kids in matching chimp masks are indistinguishable from the those on the other side of the glass screens. Peering inside she sees two primates next to each other, sharing a banana. Mates for life.
The twins don’t see her tears, she saves them for the night.
In the dark she prays for him to come home safe, honourably discharged in one piece.
Please let him be safe.
‘Mom ! Mom! Look. Ice cream. Can we have some?’
‘Yes’ she says smiling back the tears.
Prowling regally, stalking.
Raw power and grace bundled together. Standing, watching he gawps at the pure majestic beauty of the animal,
as he daydreams of hunting in the jungles of Asia.
Tilting his head down to read the sign titled The Bengal Tiger- Panthera tigris tigris.. but his gaze dips too low.
Thick plastic glasses fall to the floor.
Reaching out to retrieve them, he pulls back his hand quickly. A foot lashes out connecting with his leg and he tumbles to the floor.
Laughter and jeers jostle him.
Laughs with them ridiculing himself. Again. Hides his fear. Defence mechanism.
Safe alone he retrieves his specs to clean off the dirt. Slowly rejoins the class, feet shuffling.
He stands there behind the counter. Soul slowly bleeding away.
His name badge reads ‘No one’.
At first it was a joke to see if anybody noticed.
A month has passed and still nobody responds.
People shove money in his hands for purchases but avoid his eyes. Fussing over children and bundling tat in plastic bags.
A girl with red hair buys an orangutan pencil case.
She smiles and looks him in the eye with her mischievous green eyes. Slowly he smiles back.
She winks at him, nodding to his badge.
‘Thanks no one.’
The Eagle is last on the way to the exit just before the gift shop, caged in a huge green enclosure.
A couple stand there looking through the green squares of the fence.
Both stare at the bird of prey trapped.
It should be soaring free!
‘Free! I wish I was free, no more work. No more arsehole managers dropping crap on my desk. No more stress.’ he reaches out for a hand that isn’t there.
She pretends not to see his outstretched hand, just for a moment though, any longer and there will be trouble. And she can’t bear the thought of another argument. Not today.
‘Free’. Wincing at her eye, covered heavily with makeup, she stops herself from reaching up to touch the bruised skin.
‘I wish I was free. Free from the housework. Free from the taunts, the shouts, the name calling.
Free from the stench of whiskey and sweat. Free from the flurry of fists and rage’.
They step away together, fingers interlocking, slipping into each others hands… Trapped