The Animals

Contributor: Eric Suhem

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Calista drove down to the mini-mall to have her nails done. Her car was at a stoplight when she started crying uncontrollably. The tears were flowing as she was just able to maneuver the Toyota into the mini-mall parking lot. She sat in the car, outside the pink stucco nail shop, clenching the steering wheel, and weeping. A large yellow duck, holding up a sign for a ‘$1.95 Car Wash SUPER DEAL’ in the oppressive heat, saw her and walked over from the intersection to see if she was all right. He gently tapped on the car window with his orange plastic beak, sweating and itching in the duck costume. Upon seeing the duck, Calista let out a scream and wailed, overcome by new waves of sadness, pounding the steering wheel with her fists.

During the humid day, the duck had been ‘molting’, as the glue holding its artificial feathers in place was coming loose. Bright yellow feathers slowly fell from the duck into a little pile on the sweltering pavement, as he stood next to Calista’s Toyota. Eventually he picked up his sign and walked back to the intersection.

The duck, actually a man named George, completed his day of work, and returned home to a dripping faucet and screaming child. The duck’s wife asked him about his day’s revenue, and he shrugged, the wilted yellow feathers falling onto the faded yellow carpeting in their one-room flat. He proceeded to pull off the heavy burden of his costume, and sank into his armchair, contemplating the doom of his slowly encroaching tomorrow.

That same evening, Calista was starting to feel better. She wanted to thank the man in the duck costume for his earlier concern, but when she drove past the intersection, he was gone. Calista still had a few errands to run, heading towards the grocery store and dry cleaners. As she turned a corner, she saw an emu situated on the sidewalk. Night had fallen, and a foggy mist drifted through the air. Hedgehogs scurried about before dropping into the sewers. An ostrich stared at the neon ‘Dry Cleaners’ sign. A panther looked menacingly from around the corner of a building. Some guinea pigs were gathering around a parking meter. Calista thought that perhaps the animals had escaped from the zoo, but there was no zoo in the vicinity. She managed to get home, and locked the door.

The next day, the animals seemed to have disappeared, so Calista got into her car and resumed her errands. She had been having the animal visions, and episodes of acute sadness, since her pet beagle had been recently killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Meanwhile, George returned to work in his duck costume, though over half of the feathers had fallen off. He was told by the car wash proprietor that he needed to go purchase a new duck outfit, and the time away from work would be deducted from his paycheck. As more feathers molted, George walked to the costume shop.

A block away, Calista suddenly saw a herd of giraffes rampaging down the middle of the boulevard. She swerved away from the giraffes, not seeing George crossing the street in his duck costume, thumping him heartily in the right hip with her left fender. As the giraffes rumbled by, George lay on the sidewalk, blood staining his ragged duck costume.

Calista screeched to a stop, got out of the car, and an ambulance was dispatched. Between the insurance payments, and Calista’s out-of-pocket settlement, George and his family were able to move into a new house, and he bought the car wash. The giraffes went on to trample the driver who had hit Calista’s pet beagle.

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Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer.
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