This story takes place in a small house, not too different
from any other. From outside, the house looks sweet and simple.
Made of wood, poppies growing all around. Painted white. Dog
on rope. Though plain, this house, like its couple inside,
has a charismatic feel. Often people stop to gaze. Day and
night they pause and stare and don't know why. Do you want
to know? No one else does.
The girl of the house has built
a petting zoo inside. Though the zoo is a secret, not being
legal, it lends the house a certain air.
So far the girl has two laying
hens, a miniature pony, a goat and three rabbits. Partitions
made of chicken wire separate the animals, yet allow ample
socializing. To offset the look of the wire, the girl has
painted the walls various shades of pink. She has draped sparkly
gauze over the windows. From the ceiling hang strand upon
strand of Christmas lights. These electric bulbs have many
settings: blinking, fluttering, glowing, traveling, and the
chickens' favorite, a syncopated combination of all four.
Each morning, before the husband
comes to breakfast, the girl goes down the basement stairs
to feed the pets. At sunrise animals must be fed. She remembers
this from school. Patting the goat's head, she admires its
melon eyes. Finding the rabbits in hiding, she scolds. "Bad
rabbits!" she says brightly, putting them back in their pen.
They do have fun. Yet the miniature horse seems unhappy. This
worries the girl to no end, because the entire zoo has been
planned around his small majesty.
Each dawn since his arrival
she has braided his mane carefully and tenderly brushed his
legs. In a closet sits a tiny saddle, which occasionally she
places upon him. She perches a stuffed monkey there for rides,
she leads him around the room. This takes place in afternoon
when the husband is gone. The girl hadand continues
to haveplans to construct an exit from the basement
to the yard so the pony can get appropriate exercise and exposure
to fresh air. But how might she do so, without arousing the
suspicions of that kind husband?
Each day, indeed, the husband
is away at work, "litigating" and "trying," and probably wouldn't
notice. Of course he pays his girl much good attention. He
tells her in an absorbed and charming tone each evening about
his cases, which have a language of their own she finds amusing.
Slip-and-falls. Emotional claims. Pierces in the corporate
veil. Because his work is so involving, the husband never
ventures down the basement, the domain of "ironing" and "washing."
In fact, the girl has had the washer and dryer removed to
make room for a water trough. She goes to the Laundree-Mat
on Division Street for all such needs. The Laundree-Mat is
a wonderful place, but not a place he'd want her to frequent.
There, you exchange your money for tokens. They have pinball
machines with women that moan!
The husband is really a delicate
man. But she could get away with a lot more than a petting
zoo, it seems. So very mindful inside, he doesn't notice a
thing. How chicken feed is delivered each week. How catalogues
to order live monkeys pile up by the bed. How the girl daily
carries two perfect eggs from the basement in her hands, and
takes them to the fridge and pretends to remove them from
a tray. Bent over the newspaper, his shoulders droop down.
No, the girl thinks. A revolving
door to the yard, garlands of red roses on tiny wooden jumps,
stacks of eating hay? It could take a while, but eventually
the husband would look outside, see the frolicking pony and
become quite alarmed. The girl would never forgive herself
for upsetting the husband's sweet balance. He must try to
keep calm, for how else could he daily don a button-down shirt,
a checkered tie? Dress in a suit, as if to accompany an organ
grinder through town? All he lacks is the little cap! "Look
at me! A working man! Yeep! Yeep!" That sound you hear in
the primate room at the actual zoo.
It's just too sad. The girl
must help him keep calm as best she can so they can pay for
their excellent home, for her wonderful petting zoo, for her
petting. The animals sleep well there at night, the animals
in hiding. She loves them dearly, sometimes even more than
All good animals have secret