Young man raking leaves

Hans Goes to the Zoo

Hans knew it wasn’t a zoo. The sign said “Department of Sanitation,” and there were no cages for the birds. Compliance, Hans thought, is the only social disease. “You’ll know it when you see it,” the man had said.

Hans went back to find the man. The man had gone, but Hans was determined to go on. There are things we don’t have names for, he thought, sticking his thumb in the air. Hans looked up at the mainstreet lights and lines. There were still Christmas decorations on the poles.

There are only marriages of convenience, Hans thought. He was sitting on a bus next to a fat lady. Hans folded his hands over his crotch, and wondered if he were in love.

Dante is dead here, too, thought Hans. The waitress brought the tab, and Hans was still hungry. Pretty soon it would rain, and Hans didn’t know he was in another state. Now he was happy. There were people everywhere, in the stores and on the streets. Hans wasn’t sure he wanted to be here, but someone was playing the guitar. It was inviting. It was in the way, although Hans wasn’t sure where it was. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what is heaven for? he thought.

Leaving the men’s room, Hans thought, The finest ways to evade the world are only thankless delusions. Hans saw a bar maid; he saw a proprieter and a member of the board, although he didn’t know it. He looked out through the barroom window, and they were dancing in the street.

Over hill and dale to the zoo we go, said Hans to himself, walking in the ditch out of town. There was no hill, and no dale. It only matters if it’s there, thought Hans, somewhere. A cow in the field was mooing, and by this time it was night. It was raining; it was pouring; the old man was snoring.

Hey, what you doing out here this time of morning? It was a milktruck. “I know.” The milkman smiled. Then Hans smiled. Intentions are met otherwise, Hans thought. “I got one for you.” The milkman smiled again. “Where is the wild protected, but the protected trapped?” “The pound?” “No, I asked you first.”

Everything seems as it seems, said Hans. It must make one proud. No, it’s like looking at a gargoyle and realizing that it’s just an old mirror, while a violin plays a mystery tune in a closet and you have only one guess. No. I’ve gone only as far as I’ve come.

Actions, not words, are the best proof of good faith, thought Hans, twiddling his thumbs. The milkman put three milks on the step. In a few minutes, he slipped quietly back out the door. Hans was feeding milk to the cat.

It finally comes that there has been a reckoning. Sitting on a curb Hans thought, Will I go to the zoo if I die? Everywhere, everyone was who they were, and Hans was eating an apple. My hero.

“There ain’t no zoo here, me laddy. Go to the city.” “Do you see this sign? Here.” “Yes, here it is.” “Don’t trip.” “OK. Ouch.” Hans couldn’t think of all the things he could do, but he tried. It’s nothing inherently abstract, thought Hans with reassurance.