Killing Child at Zoo
A string of days pass. During the nights I've been sleeping in twenty-minute intervals. I feel aimless, things look cloudy, my homicidal compulsion, which surfaces, disappears, surfaces, leaves again, lies barely dormant during a quiet lunch at Alex Goes to Camp, where I have the lamb sausage salad with lobster and white beans sprayed with lime and foie gras vinegar. I'm wearing faded jeans, an Armani jacket, and a white, hundred-and-forty-dollar Comme des Garçons T-shirt. I make a phone call to check my messages. I return some videotapes. I stop at an automated teller. Last night, Jeanette asked me, "Patrick, why do you keep razor blades in your wallet?" The Patty Winters Show this morning was about a boy who fell in love with a box of soap.
Unable to maintain a credible public persona, I find myself roaming the zoo in Central Park, restlessly. Drug dealers hang out along the perimeter by the gates and the smell of horse shit from passing carriages drifts over them into the zoo, and the tips of skyscrapers, apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue, the Trump Plaza, the AT&T building, surround the park which surrounds the zoo and heightens its unnaturalness. A black custodian mopping the floor in the men's room asks me to flush the urinal after I use it. "Do it yourself, nigger," I tell him and when he makes a move toward me, the flash of a knifeblade causes him to back off. All the information booths seem closed. A blind man chews, feeds, on a pretzel. Two drunks, faggots, console each other on a bench. Nearby a mother breast-feeds her baby, which awakens something awful in me.
The zoo seems empty, devoid of life. The polar bears look stained and drugged. A crocodile floats morosely in an oily makeshift pond. The puffins stare sadly from their glass cage. Toucans have beaks as sharp as knives. The seals stupidly dive off rocks into swirling black water, barking mindlessly. The zookeepers feed them dead fish. A crowd gathers around the tank, mostly adults, a few accompanied by children. On the seals' tank a plaque warns: COINS CAN KILL - IF SWALLOWED, COINS CAN LODGE IN AN ANIMAL'S STOMACH AND CAUSE ULCERS, INFECTIONS AND DEATH. DO NOT THROW COINS IN THE POOL. So what do I do? Toss a handful of change into the tank when none of the zookeepers are watching. It's not the seals I hate - it's the audience's enjoyment of them that bothers me. The snowy owl has eyes that look just like mine, especially when it widens them. And while I stand there, staring at it, lowering my sunglasses, something unspoken passes between me and the bird - there's this weird kind of tension, a bizarre pressure, that fuels the following, which starts, happens, ends, very quickly.
In the darkness of the penguin habitat - Edge of the Icepack is what the zoo pretentiously calls it - it's cool, in sharp contrast to the humidity outside. The penguins in the tank glide lazily underwater past the glass walls where spectators crowd in to stare. The penguins on the rocks, not swimming, look dazed, stressed out, tired and bored; they mostly yawn, sometimes stretching. Fake penguin noises, cassettes probably, play over a sound system and someone has turned up the volume because it's so crowded in the room. The penguins are cute, I guess. I spot one that looks like Craig McDermott.
A child, barely five, finishes eating a candy bar. His mother tells him to throw the wrapper away, then resumes talking to another woman, who is with a child around the same age, the three of them staring into the dirty blueness of the penguin habitat. The first child moves toward the trash can, located in a dim corner in the back of the room, that I am now crouching behind. He stands on tiptoes, carefully throwing the wrapper into the trash. I whisper something. The child spots me and just stands there, away from the crowd, slightly scared but also dumbly fascinated. I stare back.
"Would you like... a cookie?" I ask, reaching into my pocket.
He nods his small head, up, then down, slowly, but before he can answer, my sudden lack of care crests in a massive wave of fury and I pull the knife out of my pocket and I stab him, quickly, in the neck.
Bewildered, he backs into the trash can, gurgling like an infant, unable to scream or cry out because of the blood that starts spurting out of the wound in his throat. Though I'd like to watch this child die, I push him down behind the garbage can, then casually mingle in with the rest of the crowd and touch the shoulder of a pretty girl, and smiling I point to a penguin preparing to make a dive. Behind me, if one were to look closely, one could see the child's feet kicking in back of the trash can. I keep an eye on the child's mother, who after a while notices her son's absence and starts scanning the crowd. I touch the girl's shoulder again, and she smiles at me and shrugs apologetically, but I can't figure out why.