Corey Miller ~ zoo woman real bad

She entered the tiger exhib­it as one of them; lick­ing her paws as if pricked by thorns, prowl­ing the lim­it­ed space, wait­ing for raw meat to plop down when and where it did every­day. the oth­er tigers observed her as an imposter, but the chil­dren around the yel­low handrails didn’t see a dif­fer­ence amidst the tiger fam­i­ly. the dead cat­tle was placed out and the tigers, cap­tive and not need­ing to fight for food, shared with the woman. after she was full of flesh, she worked off the meal by fly­ing to the bird enclo­sure.

the birds thought she was a cam­era, sent to spy. tiny turns of the head, record­ing every blink. She perched on top of the cage lined with high-thread­ed net­ting to pre­vent the birds from pass­ing notes or kiss­es to out­siders. She eyed them bathing in their tub the size of a microwave. She posi­tioned and took aim, shit­ting in their reser­voir before swing­ing into the mon­key moun­tain exhib­it.

the mon­keys didn’t mind that she was dif­fer­ent. She squeezed in line to receive and rec­i­p­ro­cate groom­ing — pick­ing off ticks that had latched onto skin. once done, they howled like zom­bies and beat their chest, a few chal­leng­ing each oth­er to duels. the woman, too exhaust­ed of exis­tence and too polite to be trou­bled, shapeshift­ed into an angel fish and drift­ed away in the moat that sep­a­rat­ed spec­i­men from audi­ence.

She swam along the plumb­ing and tore through fil­ters, pen­e­trat­ing the aquar­i­um. the clown fish swam in schools car­ry­ing intu­ition. the woman pitied their mirage knowl­edge, only to be a tank full of bub­bles pop­ping out of water. the chil­dren on field trips ignored the signs, tap­ping on the glass, cre­at­ing vibra­tions the strength of a uni­ty con­cert. the woman elon­gat­ed her­self and slith­ered out of the tank and into the hall­way.

the humans were enthralled by oth­er ani­mals, view­ing a low­er tier encased for plea­sure. the woman wished she could stay trapped here all day instead of return­ing to human­i­ty. She felt good-natured and thought the crowd might wish the same. She unhinged her jaw and began con­sum­ing the line of humans wait­ing for the food court to open. they didn’t seem to be dis­turbed as the woman inched through the line, mouth-cut­ting each per­son, becom­ing the shape of a sta­tion wag­on ready to reside on bro­ken axles.

~

Corey Miller lives with his wife in a tiny house they built near Cleveland. He is an award-win­ning Brewmaster who enjoys a good lager. His writ­ing has appeared in MoonPark Review, Pithead Chapel, Barren, Cleaver, Lost Balloon, Hobart, Cease Cows, and else­where. Corey was a final­ist for the F{r}iction Flash Fiction Contest (Spring ’20). Follow him on Twitter @IronBrewer or at www.coreymillerwrites.com