about the author

Aaron Larson lives in Nashville. He’s trying to be in a band, but it’s not very easy. You can find other stories of his in > kill author and Monkeybicycle, though you might have to dig back a bit.

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The zookeeper switches off the TV.

Aaron Larson

The zookeeper switches off the TV. He’s a bit displaced. He swirls the morning mimosa leaning out the fourth floor window of his apartment. Arrived at the end of a long process.

I am going to kill myself, he thinks. An irresponsible thought but the freezer is nearly empty and not enough to feed them today.

Stacks of cages in the living room. He surveys: lions tigers monkeys giraffe Sun Bear rhinoceros. More in the bedroom: gazelles wild dogs cormorant. In the bathtub: tortoise iguana poison arrow frogs. He grips his temples. Compassion forms in his throat, a lump of stale dry baguette.

He throws his glass from the window, hears the sound of scattering on the sidewalk below. Mind made up. The animals give their undivided attention. What now, they might say. Small steps not to startle rhinoceros with its poor vision. He opens the cages one by one. They acknowledge the charity, particularly giraffe who looks fierce finally straightening its neck out of the cage to full height before its head tears through the ceiling.

They are incorrigible, they need correction. The lions form a circle around Sun Bear. The living room writhes and the zookeeper forgets his caution and runs to the bedroom giggling, maybe weeping, one of the two but not both. He flings wide the cage doors. The dogs they nip at the heels of the gazelles and he launches tired cormorant into the air. Poison arrow frogs come out leak out break out the open bathroom door.

Out in the living room the lions have already eaten one of the monkeys. He steps over them to the hallway door and turns the handle no removes its hinges and it slams flat in the hallway. He coaxes at first and then they trickle and then gush with gathering momentum. Down the hall in thunderous mudslide. Roars and shrieks echoing from the stairwell and maybe an exasperated sigh.

The scene so refreshing the zookeeper almost, almost forgets why he set them loose. The apartment filled with empty cages doors still swinging. Animals tearing through the lower floors rumbling in his bowels. Quick steps on the wet bloody carpet. On top the table with a throat noise. His knees slip on short piles of opened envelopes (unpaid bills? unanswered letters? facsimiles of letters sent but never answered?). Plate fork butter dish sail out the open window and he follows to a point and balances on the windowsill. Envelopes coming unstuck from his knees and drifting down like pineapple flakes in ambrosia salad. No returning to quiet putrefaction. If there was ever a time it is now.

Below he sees, at a smaller scale, rhinoceros with the outside door of the first floor lobby impaled on its horn. Sun Bear smiling rolling in the street and cars don’t dare squeeze past. Riot police on the street horizon. One two gazelles lap up his mimosa on the sidewalk. A carcass (monkey? iguana? stockbroker?) covered in lions, and they all have a certain resonant quality, each animal some strange remnant or spreading seed.

I can’t, he says. Just can’t.

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