CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Zoo Throes
Terese Svoboda



We don’t start then. It’s an hour later, after snakes, after monkeys. Unless you do this and this and this now, now in capitals, I say, so kindly I kind of think.
      I’m a vegetable, she gives back. Doing is not my thing.
      What about a kumquat?
      Fruits go bad first, she says.
      I can segue and I do. How about lunch?
      We pass large cement cylinders, roomy enough for dining, bearing cheer but not taste. A real build, you say. You say it could have pet pictures pasted on them or the walls covered in wild woods of any color, tone, texture, or plaids of fur—it hardly seems a zoo’s.
      But the balconies? I ask.
      In the real forest, the Grimm forest, she says. These animals don’t need them.
      What is she telling me? I lean at her, not toward.
      These are yours, I say. I hand her the baby pants. You will need them. Here.
      My here beats hers. But what beat, her eyes keep asking. Beat like a heart? Two beats to a heart like hers?
      She bundles the baby pants. A giant hole holds itself open, as big as real estate between us.
      I downcast. I say, A cylinder like one of those gives brick trouble, even bugs have to wedge in ass-first—like the cylinder is our subject.
      Like the forest, she says.
      Maybe, I say with my doubt. Look, I say—Lists of cylinder-givers written on the next wall. None of them vegetables. Not a one.
      In the forest, she says, those people rained.
      Acid-rained, I say.
      We turn in and table. A juicy triangle tells us about lunch on a plate with a pickle, but serve yourself is what we’re after.
      I know so little about you, I could’ve raised you, I say after serving,
      You sit up taller at table, you quell a quake, you smile, a tight one.
      Maybe we’re an experiment, I say. Like the giraffes.
      One head-bobs over the lunch bits.
      Zoos do this, she says. You can skip the people experiment.
      In interruption, the zooey-necked animal puts out a four-foot tongue. I find a leaf it likes and it pulls it out from between my bread. She certainly doesn’t look like she likes the baby pants. I can see that.
      She lays a capsule on her tongue. Chrome is my best color, she says, shawling herself with it, swallowing the capsule.
      Love, I like love better. Can I son-talk around her?
      We watch two of those electric cars in the distance pick up zoo parts. So little those cars are is all we agree on.
      I tap while I talk. What’s at stake? Big bursts of feeling like lassoes we have to walk through, mostly my own, spread thick.
      She lock-stops, her knee midair, then down, she’s risen to the bathroom. I won’t do it, she says. But it’s not that I’m bad.
      I keep my eyes on the floor. The crumbs alone are huge.
      She says Yes, yes, It’s good that I’m after. And quite a lot after. She returns the baby pants.
      The giraffe walks its neck away. We make our own way after it for a while, past the beards and pimples at other tables. The giraffe stops at a lamppost hidden in a cylinder and licks it, but not the light.
      Unless you do all this and this, you won’t see, she says. Understand?
      Another giant hole—this one almost not walkable, almost not metaphoric—opens itself.
      I’m thinking, I say.
      Time is sticky with thinkers, she says. Not with me, she says.
      We walk along. Idiots all happy with walking pass us. Rain forms and drops, the wet walking with us, attracted to our heads.
      O holy quiet, she starts again, O lunch. In the forest that still exists, she says.
      A lovely lime rolls off the walk’s last rain-surprised trees. Where is that giraffe? I ask like it has missed me.
      We’re at the gate.
      No one hears a tree fall, she says. And now there are so few trees. She makes a face. Too many people.
      What’s a horse but a giraffe gone long? I say. I have my own cheer.
      Right, she says. Turn at the second light.