I woke up the next day eager to fulfil my objective. I made my way to the number 3 bus station and, upon arrival, promptly walked aboard. A mom and her baby’s stroller held a section of the bus. She smiled as I walked by. Their presence was an omen, a signal from the universe. Streets whizzed by in the window. When I arrived at the zoo a big yellow school bus pulled up behind me and dozens of small children flooded out making animated gestures with their hands. I understood their excitement. More people should be like kids, I thought. The kids; how idealistic they are. How accepting of new ideas. Impressionable. More people should be like that. I walked to the counter at the entry gate. A young girl sat behind the glass panel. She greeted me as I walked up.
“$27.95 for a single adult,” she stated monotonously.
I chuckled to myself while the girl’s eyes shifted to the side in reaction. I thought of the pricelessness associated with opening the eyes of another person. Only Gods are capable of that.
“Sir?” the girl repeated.
“Sorry,” I paid the girl.
I walked past jubilant kids playing on a forest-themed playground sliding down a snake-tongued plastic slide, past chatty parents drinking lattes, beyond a tour group learning about the “Animals of Canada”—grizzly bears and grey wolves. One of the wolves peeled flesh off a beheaded fish while three teenagers took photos from a long, black stick with a phone on the end. The lion’s den peaked out over a small hill in the path and I could see a small group of people peering in. I walked briskly towards the group. A few kids pressed their hands against the glass. I looked down at my wristwatch. 11:57am—right on time.
I walked to the center of the glass panel and looked directly into the den, seeing nothing at first. I walked along the panel taking in the full extent of the enclosure. Tall, yellow-stained reeds peppered the ground; a tire swing hung from a thick branch above. A small clearing with dry logs around the perimeter was dug around the back of the enclosure. And there it was, dozing away in the dirt with a scraggly grey paw hung over one of the logs—the same ugly looking bland housecat from the day before. I bellowed at the scene. A miraculous, deeply satisfying joke this was. A little girl with pigtails done up in red clips looked up at me mystified. I continued roaring with laughter and she half-laughed along.
“Why you laughing, sir?” she asked.
I wiped a tear from my eye and controlled myself to force a response, “Look at it,” I began, “that pathetically small cat. In the den!”
I could feel more eyes on me. The little girl’s face transitioned from bewilderment to puzzlement and her eye twitched a tinge. A lady came and took her hand, leaving quickly. The cat had awoken. Its sharp blue eyes met mine and locked into focus. Those enigmatic eyes represented a window into the universe. I could see my life through them. I howled with mirth.