“Jean the Sloth” — Part 5

It wasn’t often that Tyler saw the line to the zoo reach around the street corner. On most days he could simply flash his “frequent visitor” card and walk right in. Most of the staff had become used to seeing the small boy coming to the zoo on his own. Tyler wasn’t shy, and was more than happy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. You know, like a talking sloth for example.

Today, Tyler was still able to enter without waiting, but he decided to use his fearless impromptu conversational skills to figure out why there was such a long wait in the first place. Unfortunately, being in line for hours had made most people, well, not up for chit-chat with a nosy little kid. Tyler was happy any time he could be taught something , so having learned some choice new words from the most agitated of the line, he felt like it was all worth it.

He walked briskly to the front (hearing some of those choice words again) and flashed his card to the front desk, where only one person was working (slowly) despite there being eight windows that could be open.

Tyler considered saying something about that, but the clerk waved him right in and he didn’t want to wait outside any more than the line did.

Early in his visits, he would consult the map and try to take a different path to Jean each time. This way, he could make it to his friend but still end up seeing a good chunk of the zoo. At this point, he had seen everything several times over. So today, he looked at the map and decided which path he felt like seeing for the fifth time, not the first.

Well, it has been a few week since I’ve gone into the Indo-Malayan zone…but that would mean I’d have to see the African Savanna again, and I saw that two days ago…I could walk all the way to the Canadian Domain but who wants to walk to the other end of the zoo just to see a moose?

In the end, Tyler decided to walk through the Eurasia Wilds. To do so, one would have to pass right by Jean (who was in the Americas Pavilion), but it had been a while since he had seen the camels and snow leopards. He always loved that they were housed so close together since one is from a desert and the other from a snow covered mountainous area.

It didn’t take Tyler long to make his way there, since he didn’t get distracted by any of the overpriced vendors and souvenir shops. He hesitated and almost got a churro but the line was pretty long so he thought better of it.

Just as Tyler was walking up to the Camel exhibit (Though not too close. They can spit far enough to hit an unexpected bystander), a familiar face approached him.

“Well, hello there!” the loud, but cheerful voice called to him. He didn’t have to turn around to know that it was Jenna Collins, one of the senior zookeepers at the Trundle Zoo.

“Hey Jenna, how’s it going?”

“As long as it’s not raining, I’m always doing well here!”

“Super busy?”

“Not particularly, why do you ask?”

“Well, when I came in I saw a line that looked like it went all the way around the block. Would have thought work today would be super hectic.”

“Oh, right. Yeah, well most of those people aren’t here to walk around the whole zoo. Most are just taking advantage of the cheap ticket prices and the big sales event.”

“What event?”

“Aren’t you on our email list? Yeah, today all of the vendors are putting big discounts on food, souvenirs, merchandise, you name it. Most places do that when they have to sell everything within a short time frame.”

If there was an Olympic sport for noticing red flags, Tyler not only wouldn’t win, he wouldn’t have even qualified to compete.

The long line at the front, and for the usually expensive food, then there being almost no staff at the front…

“Why do they have to sell everything so quickly?” Tyler knew the answer, but asked anyway.

“The zoo is going to be closing down I’m afraid. I assumed you knew, and that’s why you visited so often.”

Tyler stood, dumbfounded. His jaw hung open almost as much as the camels ten feet from him. How had he not heard of this?

“I’m sorry, I have to go!” Tyler called back as he ran past Jenna and went straight back to the Americas Pavilion. It was usually a pretty empty area, and it looked like cheap tickets still weren’t enough to create a line to see the sloth exhibit. Jean stayed hanging in his same branch. Tyler’s usual spot at the bench across from Jean was not taken. The area looked the same as it always did.

Jean almost certainly knew what was happening. Perhaps he had always known, but had no reason to bring it up. Tyler wondered.

“Hey Jean…how are you feeling?”

Jean looked at Tyler for a moment that felt like an eternity. It was always hard to tell what he was thinking, for a sloths expression rarely changes, so he waited to hear what Jean would say. It was the only surefire way to know how he felt.

“Jean? Did you hear me? You must be feeling upset…”

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you actually interested in talking to me? You were supposed to be here at ten o’clock! Were you off seeing some other cute, talking animal? What’s his name?!”

“Wha-what?”

“Don’t ‘wha-what’ me! I’ve been sitting around waiting. Bet you went and got a churro and ate it right before you came in here so you wouldn’t have to share, didn’t you?”

“But sloths can’t eat churros.”

“We could have tried!”

Tyler smiled, “Jean, eat a leaf, you get jealous when you’re hungry.”

“Oh do I? Well, then I must be starving because why don’t you tell me why you came in and walked right past my exhibit? I saw you! Went straight for the snow leopards didn’t you? Couldn’t help yourself?”

“Come on Jean, let’s not fight. They mean nothing. I just felt like walking around a bit, that’s all.”

“Sure sure, like I haven’t heard that line a million times…”

Tyler shook his head and chuckled to himself, before coming back to his senses. It was only a minute, but he had forgotten all about the news he just received.

“What’s so funny mister?” Jean said.

“Oh nothing, just thinking about other things.” He wondered if Jean already knew, but the news was too fresh to bring up today. He wasn’t ready.

“Oh, am I keeping you from something important? Don’t mind me. Just a wish granting sloth trying to make conversation, but oh no, go ahead and come to the zoo just to daydream…”

Tyler was going to miss these outbursts.