Walter Mencken 9:23 a.m., Oct. 10
- Community Blog
The Most Beautiful Squirrel in the World # 5
For the remainder of that day we trudged wearily through the zoo. Daisy and I couldn’t distant ourselves from the personal tragedy, and we found it difficult to enjoy our surroundings, and after a few hours we left.
We went back to the zoo two months later, knowing that, unless a miracle occurred, we wouldn’t see the beautiful squirrel and Honey Badger, so we appeased ourselves by going to the Children’s Zoo. We visited the Petting Paddock so a goat could eat the zoo map from my back pocket, and then we went to see the Mouse House, which always makes me happy. The Mouse House is inside a big glass container; inside the glass container is a large loaf of unsliced bread. Mice live in the loaf of bread and, of course, eat its interior walls as well. When I was five and first saw the Mouse House I thought of the witch from Hansel and Gretel. The witch smiles a knowing smile as she presses her ear against the cake wall of her living room: “Nibble, nibble like a mouse, who’s that nibbling on my house?” All these years later I haven’t dismissed the thought of child-eating-witches nor the simple pleasure of watching house-consuming-mice.
We continued through the Children’s Zoo and entered the Bee Hut to watch the bees in their transparent beehive as they pursued their endless quest for nectar; the bees leave and return to the hive through transparent pipes that jut from the small structure’s roof like glass organ pipes from a fantasy, whispering gentle music that sounds like small trembling wings. Then we watched the otters swimming on their backs and took in the Dr. Zoolittle show. When Dr. Zoolittle asked for volunteers, Daisy raised her hand and was chosen along with some other children to go on stage and participate in some good-natured and educational exchanges. The children were encouraged to pat giant millipedes and hissing cockroaches from Madagascar, then they had to eat seasoned mealworms that Daisy told the audience “ … taste like barbecued potato chips.” The other parents in the crowd and I laughed appreciatively. The children bowed, we applauded, and then they were turned back over to their guardians.
The show did manage to raise our spirits, but as we left the Children’s Zoo and ventured out onto the main zoo grounds, we knew we were resigned to wander arbitrarily over the pavement with no real sense of direction or purpose.