The Fiery One and I went to the zoo today. He loves the zoo. Every time we come to Cosmopolis, he looks at me expectantly and asks “Can we go to the zoo this time? I hardly ever get to go to the zoo”. This is one of my favourite things that he does, and I wait for it every trip. This time it was no different. He asked about it when we arrived and managed to wait patiently for two whole days before we were able to borrow my parents' car and head out there.
The Cosmopolis Zoo is alright in a completely dressed down kind of way. It is mostly filled with animals that are already native to the area, and if you have spent much time camping or further up north in this area of the world, you will already be familiar with most of them. These are the zoo animals that I have seen live and up close for free in the wild: gophers, badgers, rabbits, red foxes, deer, wolves, elk, moose, geese, swans, ducks, lizards, fish, mice, finches, bears, chickens (I have too seen wild chickens), owls, and hawks. There are some monkeys, bald-eyed cockatiels (their eyes are really bald), and a new pair of sister snow leopards, but other than that, it's not the animals I go there for.
Truth be told, whoever set up the zoo seems to have a great affinity for the hoofed creatures and a bit of a hate-on for the pawed and the winged varieties. The deer, goats, elk, and whatnot have huge open areas in which to roam with no roofs, while the wolves and foxes and owls and such have these tiny cages with unnecessarily low ceilings. As a result, even though I find the hoofed animals less cuddly and endearing, I am only really able to enjoy seeing them, because it is just simply too depressing to see an apathetic and most likely mentally ill wolf pacing back and forth or just lying in a heap staring at sticky kids with one eye open. Because of this, any good conversation between the Fiery One and I happened while we were around the hoofed animals. While we were near the pawed, conversation disintegrated to my threatening to write nasty letters to the corporation who sponsored that inhumanely small wolf enclosure.
We were standing at the moose enclosure, watching the moose watching the geese who were pilfering food from his feed box, when I saw him walk purposefully between a railing and the fence to walk down to the pond to take a drink. It fascinated me that he preferred to walk in the narrow alley between a railing and a fence to get to the water rather than to walk down to it across the grass. There was something overly orderly about it, overly linear. At least that was how it seemed to me, and my mind jumped to my childhood and the old cartoons I used to watch.
When I was a kid in the mid-1970s, stations still played some of the first popular cartoons from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s on television. These cartoons often had a strange, terribly orderly quality to them. It was almost maniacal. The storylines were incredibly linear. The characters most often moved in one straight line from one side of the screen to the other, travelling forward in the same direction throughout most of the story. The actions of the characters and the actions of things in the world around them were eerily in sync (flowers leaned upward to ease the act of another smelling, chairs settled lower with the butt that descended on them, the earth and the character rolled together in a unified wave).
The height of a story usually involved a sequence that was meant to show some kind of chaos unfolding that the main characters had to deal with, but in actuality this supposed disorder was really just a more complex and sped up version of the order we had come to expect from the first half of the cartoon. When Mickey Mouse desperately tried to cut up the growing army of animated brooms, it was not chaos that he was met with but an ever-growing army of cloned brooms marching in unison. The small amount of order that he once mastered had grown greater without him and rather than he controlling it, the order now controlled him.
As a small kid, this was my pornography. It made me feel a little sick, a little queasy, uneasy in my own skin. This onward march of an orderliness beyond control fascinated me, and I felt compelled to continue watching these sorts of cartoons despite my dis-ease. One in particular actually inspired my first feelings of guilt over my own perversion: an old version of the Porky Pig character was being punished for his gluttony by being strapped into a chair that moved unstoppably along a track while machines stuffed his face with his favourite foods, and though he pled for release, no one heeded his call. It was at once a hellish scenario to me and the hottest thing I had seen in my young life. I suppose this was one of my first forays into real sexual desire, which at the time, was also at once hellish and the hottest experience of my young life. Nothing could beat the terrifying vulnerability I would feel as I imagined myself into the storylines of those cartoons. The passionate rush that my fear could instill was unmistakable.
I was telling all of this to the Fiery One in a hushed whisper as we leaned against the chain link fence and gazed out at the moose who seemed content to stand in his corridor. The Fiery One pressed against me, and I realized that somewhere in this jaunt down memory lane I had become a little hot and bothered. This time, I don't think it was the memory of a pig's face being jammed full with pies or the rhythmic and endless march of clones that did it. I think it was the memory of that first feeling of passion, that first feeling of an animal desire. I was vulnerable to and helpless in the face of that first feeling of heat, and remembering that sensation still makes my heart beat a faster tattoo inside my chest.
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