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9. MARY AND THE ZOOKEEPER
“Who’s that?” Mary pointed to a young lady with long, wavy brown hair in the monkey enclosure at the zoo. The lady was feeding a small, tan monkey that was perched on her shoulder.
“Well, a zookeeper obviously,” Mary’s friend replied. She looked at Mary again. “Hey,” she said, “that lady looks exactly like you, the nose and everything! Do you know her?”
“No,” said Mary, not having noticed anything herself. Her focus was on the monkey that lady was carrying alone. That monkey—Mary hadn’t seen him for years! She couldn’t help feeling fond of him; she had rescued him from a storm, and he had cared for her when she fell sick (never mind that it was he who caused it.) Such a pity to have given him to the zoo. Mary knew lots of cases where wild animals became pets just fine. Why couldn’t he have been hers?
“Hello, you are with the school, aren’t you, to do research?” The lady who had just been holding her old pet, Mikey, was now standing before Mary and her classmates.
“Yes, we are,” Mary replied. The others couldn’t help but look back and forth between the two ladies. Their hair, build, and faces looked exactly the same! But Mary nor the zookeeper seemed to notice.
“Well come on back then; I’ll show you what to do,” the zookeeper said cheerfully, and they all proceeded to prepare to enter the enclosure.
As Mary listened to the instructions, she couldn’t help but feel jealous of this zookeeper. She got to spend all day with Mikey and a whole host of other animals. It should have been her! At last the students entered the outdoor space to do their work.
“Does he remember me?” Mary wondered.
“Hey, what are you standing around for, Mary? We’ve got work to do!” her friend scolded. Mary broke out from her thoughts.
“Oh yes; of course,” she muttered, and went forward. She and her classmates went around to the different animals and observed and examined them closely, taking notes, here and there. Mary kept her eyes from wandering.
“Focus on the work. There’s work to be done, work to be done,” she repeated to herself. Yes, work to be done. “Don’t be silly!” Mary reproached herself. “You don’t want to be a zookeeper! You’re training to be a vet for a reason! Anyhow, I can’t be worried about Mikey at the moment.” She carried on . . . Yet shouldn’t I be able to say hello? There’s nothing wrong with saying hello. It’s downright wrong and unnatural if I don’t. What’s wrong with that? He won’t infect me with disease again. I can’t just ignore an old friend. Where is he? My dad can’t be right—Mikey can’t forever be an aggressive, naughty one like he used to be, not after being in a zoo so long. I’m better at not letting anyone take advantage of me anymore. He’s there! He’s right there!
“Mikey! Mikey! Do you remember me?” Mary cried as Mikey scampered nearby. The tan, agile little monkey looked up at her, and looked away at the zookeeper who was approaching at that moment. Mikey kept looking between the two, confused.
“He’s my old pet!” Mary explained excitedly.
The lady replied, “Really? He is my pet also.”
“Since coming to work here?”
“No, since Africa.”
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