The little zoo was cheap and small and I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, but we were astounded.
“Are you here for the birthday party?” asked the parking attendant, and we joked that we should have said yes, but I guarantee that the kids at that birthday party had a crap time compared to us.
We were even wowed by the parking lot, where teenage geese were scampering along the riverbank. The car behind us was very polite and did not honk, even though we spent several minutes at a standstill, shrieking at these geese.
“I don’t care what happens from this point on,” I said as we entered the zoo proper. “The geese were worth the price of admission.”
The first animals we saw were these delightful river otters that actually scampered out of the brush in tandem to greet us with a synchronized belly-flop into their pool. We were hooked—and then we noticed that one of the otters was missing his left legs, front and back, and had only a stub for a tail. His mother had overgroomed him, leading to infections that required amputation, said the sign, but he got around just fine and was an inspiration to all who cared for him.
A and I were so moved we almost bought his college education right there. Lesbians love plucky animals with missing limbs.
This otter scampered around on his stump and swum around despite his ungainly tail and he slid down the little ramp on his tummy into the pool and chased his friend through a patch of dandelions and it’s a wonder A and I aren’t still there.
We somehow managed to drag ourselves away to see the rest of the animals, and it gradually dawned on us that the zoo was completely overrun with peacocks.
The first two or three or seven didn’t faze me. Most zoos have some, three or four, not nearly enough to populate a generously sized condo complex.
For every human employee, there were at least eight or nine peacocks. I’m not exaggerating. Every time we turned a corner, there were peacocks,but oddly enough, no females. Where were all these peacocks coming from?
Were they all gay peacock couples? Did they adopt eggs or use a surrogate?
There was an enclosure for a kind of South American rodent, the cavy, and they had a little rabbit hutch, and we were watching the rabbit hutch to try to spot the cavys, and a peacock came out of it. He had to duck his head to get through the door, but he didn’t mind. He bobbed his head at us as if to say, “Oh hello there. I sublet from these nice folks.”
I still don’t know what a cavy looks like.
There was a peacock on the roof next to the moose enclosure, where the moose was currently off on a business trip or something, and since there were no zookeepers around, I had half a mind to ask the peacock when the moose would be back.
We exited the reptile house, and there was a peacock on the roof, another on the fence, one coming up the path to greet us, and another hanging out in the next enclosure—and no humans to be seen.
Alfred Hitchcock would’ve enjoyed this zoo.
“It’s the peacock mafia,” whispered A. She got really close to one to see what it would do and it squawked at her, so she was afraid of angering them.
I wondered if this little zoo outside Lansing was secretly the premier vacation spot for gay peacocks, like Provincetown for gay humans.
“All these peacocks are wondering what humans are doing here,” I said. “’Oh, look at all these straight humans with kids. They’re going to ruin our spot.’”
There wasn’t a lot of staff around, but the peacocks seemed to be running things smoothly. I imagined the board meetings for the zoo were just a group of peacocks sitting in office chairs around a table. “Let’s review the quarterly report! All in favor? Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!”
A peacock actually walked up to us by the rhino enclosure (which was occupied by both a rhino and an obese groundhog that seemed to come and go as it liked), and puffed up its feathers, then did that slow beauty pageant turn that all peacocks do when they’re on full display.
“Why do they do that drag queen turn?” said A.
“I think he’s introducing himself,” I said. “’Good afternoon, I’m the CFO of our zoological society, may we discuss your donation opportunities?”
Trust me, I observed so much peacock behavior that I could be an expert.
The peacocks weren’t scared of anything. They hung out in front of the lion and tiger enclosures, and they were within striking distance of the snow leopard, but they didn’t care.
One of the lions looked like a young male, but we were informed by the sole zookeeper who wasn’t a peacock that the lion was actually an older female, and the effects of birth control and aging hormones had caused her to grow a very fetching mane. The zookeeper, who may have been a peacock in disguise, now that I think about it, told us that even in the wild, females with manes have been documented.
It’s probably the result of menopause, and a sign of great achievement of sorts since a wild lioness would have to survive a lot to even get to that point in life, but the zookeeper seemed to think that there might be some willful component to it. That in a pride without a male protector, one or two of the females will grow manes in order to appear domineering and scare unwanted visitors away.
There are a lot of gay lions, why not trans lions?
I stared into this lion’s eyes, watched her lick her gigantic paws and do battle with a plastic bucket that was surely regretting whatever it did in a past life to deserve its end in a lion’s jaws.
The lion’s eyes were deep and dark with a ring of sunlit gold. And suddenly the glass did not seem thick enough. I felt sorry for the lion, living out her days in a zoo in the Midwest, far from the savannah, but her eyes were steel and sunlight. To her, I was in the cage.
By the way, if you ever need a vivid picture of what a wild animal could do to your skull, watch a lion play with a plastic bucket.
The only place where we were free from the peacocks stalking us was the gift shop, but even they sold cuddly stuffed versions of the peacocks.
I’m sure some nearsighted child has made a dash to grab a cute toy peacock only to startle an actual peacock taking a nap on the shelf.
And then that peacock ruffled its feathers and got back to working the register.
“This was a great zoo,” said A, as we left. “Wow, we saw a lot of cocks today!”
A single peacock feather lay on the pavement before us at the gate, bidding us a silent farewell.