It’s another lazy Sunday afternoon. The sun shines through the canopy of trees and peeps between the bars and walled exhibits. Several people stroll along the paths, and among the cages. Occasionally, a child squeals, runs to a cage, points and chats, excitedly. The animals become restive. The monkeys and birds climb the sides of their cages, and try to push their faces through the bars at the children. The tigers pace back and forth, silently. A lion gets to his feet, surprisingly quickly, and shakes his mane importantly, but lies down again, licking his lips, while peeping at a plump little girl who stands innocently, just outside his cage.
A man and a woman amble across the grass toward a low stone wall. The woman leans on the wall and peers into the enclosure. The man sits on the wall and gazes at the woman and at the swans gliding in the shallow moat-like lake in the enclosure.
“Isn’t this beautiful?” gushes the woman, looking at the graceful swans. She sighs.
“Eh heh,” croaks the man. He reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a box of cigarettes and a lighter.
The woman frowns at him.
“Don’t! You have to stop smoking! You’re going to kill yourself!”
“Just cool man. Just one…”
“No!” the woman shouts, cutting him off.
The man puts the cigarettes and lighter away. He surveys the people milling around in the zoo. The woman stares at the swans again. She is still frowning. Another couple, standing by the enclosure, stares at the man and woman. They have obviously heard the woman raise her voice at the man.
“You know,” the woman says, “the only thing wrong with this is that they haven’t given these swans enough water to swim in.
The man does not respond.
“We should call one of the people who works here and ask him to put some more water in there.” The woman looks around, hopefully.
The man turns to look again at the swans. He gazes down at the woman and smiles, slyly.
“If you let me smoke a cigarette I’ll turn on the water for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll go over there and turn on the water.”
“You can’t do that! You’d be arrested!”
“Well, you were the one who said they need more water.”
The woman says nothing. She looks at the other people sauntering about.
“We could get into trouble you know,” the woman says after a long while.
The man says nothing. He is obviously waiting her out.
“Okay, but hurry up! We don’t want to get caught,” she says after several minutes.
The man smiles, broadly, and pats the pockets of his trousers. He retrieves his cigarettes and lighter.
“What are you doing?” demands the woman. “You have to hurry! The guard could come at any moment!”
“After I have my cigarette,” the man says, calmly.
The woman slaps the man on his arm and stamps her foot.
“What is wrong with you? We don’t have time for that!” she complains.
The man lights his cigarette and begins to smoke.
The man closes his eyes, throws back his head and sucks deeply at the cigarette. He exhales slowly and smoke billows through his nostrils. He shakes his head and sighs. He draws at the cigarette again. The tip illuminates into a bright, red glow. The man removes the cigarette and expels the air from his lips. He opens his eyes and looks at the woman through the smoke. The woman glares at the man. She walks away to stand further along the wall, away from him.
The man shrugs, and turns to gaze at the swans until he finishes his cigarette.
The man swings his legs over the wall and jumps down into the enclosure. The woman rushes to stand above the spot where he has landed. The woman turns to look at the people nearby. Except for the couple who had noticed her arguing with the man earlier she does not see anyone looking at her. The woman winks at the couple. They chuckle, and turn to look at the other people nearby, and then at the man in the enclosure.
The woman and the couple watch the man crouch and dash to the low pipe at the edge of the lake. He squats, turns the pipe on and begins to scramble away.
“Turn it on some more,” the woman urges.
“The man turns and opens the pipe some more. The water gushes into the pond. Two swans take flight, and settle toward the middle of the lake.
The man scurries toward the wall and reaches up. He grasps the top of the wall. He begins to climb out of the enclosure. The man from the second couple moves over and extends his hand to help him.
The two couples look at the swans. No one speaks. The woman is smiling, broadly.
A workman appears from beyond an embankment at the other side of the lake. He carries a bundle of grass in his arm. The workman looks at the two couples. They return his stare. The workman looks at the swans, and at the gushing pipe.
“Those swans need more water,” our woman declares, defiantly. The other three people just look at him.
The workman looks at the woman who spoke to him. He nods his head, and smiles slightly. The woman grins, radiantly, at the workman. The woman turns to our man, and cuddles under his arm. She hugs him tightly, and gives his shirt-covered chest a light kiss. He smiles, indulgently.
The two couples look at the swans for a little while longer before they walk their separate ways along the path to see the other exhibits at the zoo. The swans take no notice of any of them, or of the wild shrieks and roars of the other animals and the children who have come to the zoo.