Lessons at the Zoo

We broke down and decided to do something already – – anything. We masked up and went to the San Diego Zoo. We figured it’s outside, safe enough, so off we went.

Kate complained on the drive down there. About five minutes in, she was asking how much longer it would be. I kept trying to remind myself how frustrated and annoyed I would be if I was crammed into a car seat, with my chest and crotch glued to an uncomfortable bucket seat, unable to move or hardly breathe. She deserved a little grace I suppose, but I remained annoyed for the drive.

I thought back to driving around with my grandmother when I was her age. I have a powerful memory of being in the back of her old Buick, sans car seat or even a seat belt. It’s hard to imagine now, but this was the 70’s, and no one wore seat belts. The memory is me behind Grandma, on the left side of the back seat, and when we turned to the right, my sister, who was six years older than me, would let the car’s momentum slide her across the seat to my side, and she would lean into me, hard, trying to smash me. I would do the same thing to her when the car turned left, exaggerating the turn and throwing all my weight on her.

This would sometimes end up in a wrestling match, and us screaming at each other, until Grandma would turn around and yell, “Cut that shit out!” She swore like a sailor, and a surly one at that.

But on this trip to the zoo over 40 years later, with me driving, and with a little one annoying me in the back, I bit my tongue. I’ll take that as a small victory.

When we finally parked, we waited in a long line to get into the zoo’s security area, where everyone had to answer questions: Are you currently suffering from Covid-19? Are you idiot enough to come to the zoo after a recent Covid diagnosis? Do you have the Covid-toes?

Something like that anyway.

When we finally got in, we immediately went to the part of the zoo we figured would be of the most immediate interest to Kate, hoping she would stop complaining and start enjoying her tiny self around here.

The first thing we see is a monkey jerking off.

It was a bearded lemur or something. I can hardly remember because my focus was elsewhere. He had a handful of his own junk, and he was going to town on himself, while two other monkeys lazily watched him, like they had paid for the pleasure of doing so. It looked like a creepy monkey peep show, and we were the unwitting peepers all the sudden.

Kate said, “What’s he doing daddy?”

“Hey, look at that!” I quickly distracted her and we moved on.

I looked back and saw that Bri had her hands on her hips and she was hunched over laughing. I could see her face contorted behind her sunglasses and mask, and hear her hooting softly. She followed behind us, continuing to watch, apparently not wanting to miss the masturbating monkey.

After lunch, we wandered through the area with snakes and I was excited to see the giant tortoises nearby. I had recently written a story in my book, His Name is Cwiz, where Cwiz sits on a giant tortoise, and I wanted to get a good look at one of these monsters.

As soon as I got to the cage and lifted up Kate so she could take a look, an absolutely massive tortoise walked around to the rear of another tortoise, achingly slow, and then somehow, before my unbelieving eyes, he mounted his cage mate. With his huge shell at a 45 degree angle, the turtle penetrated his partner, and lifted his head to the heavens in ecstatic glee while he did so. He even emitted a little bark of pleasure.

I shook my head in shock, and looked around, as all the adults in eyesight smirked and giggled to each other.

Kate said, “What are they doing daddy?”

I looked at Bri and mouthed the word, “Holy…!”

Bri whispered, “I’m not ready to have the talk!”

I said to Kate, “Hey, how do you feel about some ice cream?”

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