Wednesday 22 April 2015
The code didn’t open the staff door at the zoo. It buzzed back at him making Lester
grit his already gnashing teeth until a voice-
“You know who I am, Eddie. Just open the fucking gate.”
“It looks like you, Lester, but where’s the funny one-
“I’ll give you one when I see you. Have you changed the code?”
“Not since last week. What did you punch in?”
“Four nine three six.”
“Bloody hell, Lester, that’s last month. Try six two two three, and smile or it won’t open.”
He wrote it on an envelope he found in his pocket. Lester’s vision blurred as he
changed into his work clothes. He shook his head but that brought on a dull headache.
He’d boasted about his excellent health. A one-
“Hey, Lester, watch my paternal potential with that hot drink!”
“I’m doing society a favour to stop more clones of you running around.” Others shut up in shock. Charles was easy going but had the respect of his staff.
“You’re due some holiday leave, Lester. Take a break. Those chimps are getting to you.”
Lester, elbows on the table, rubbed his head. He needed to do something for one of the chimpanzees in his care. The more he tried to remember, the sharper the pain stabbed his brain. He shouted bugger off to everyone, hung his head, and left.
He walked an hour into Chester’s city centre. Alongside the River Dee, he rented a boat, rowed upstream into the Cheshire countryside way beyond his hour’s hire period and idled the day away in a fuzz.
Thursday 23 April 2015
A quieter man, Lester arrived back at the staff entrance the next day. He found the envelope in his pocket and punched in the code.
He recognised old Brian and stroked his black and grey hairs, sharing affection. He looked at Isabella, another chimp, sat in the corner of the same enclosure, and an emotion tugged at him but in vain. Lester read her information board, which told him she’d come from London Zoo. He assumed some other keeper was responsible for her welfare, medication and emotional needs.
Isabella watched Lester with Brian and waited for some personal attention but didn’t get it. Every day, Lester cuddled her. Every day, he gave her extra titbits. Every day, he inserted something sharp in her arm. Every day, he made his utterances. He had stopped. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Twenty miles away a large articulated truck stood idle next to a refrigerated warehouse. A loader should have driven his forklift, whistling while filling the truck each week with green bananas, apples, and bags of ground nuts. He hadn’t turned up. Neither had the office girl, whose job was to oblige the orders to be fulfilled and relief loaders to be ordered. The driver hadn’t arrived. The ingredients of the hungry animals’ a la carte menu started to rot.