Definition of prurient:“marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire; especially : marked by, arousing, or appealing to sexual desire” – Merriam Webster
Adeen and the Lion
The feather was white with some dark markings near the tip. It was about a foot long. Adeen had almost stepped on it. A glint of sun from the skylights 20 or so feet above brought it to her attention.
It blazed white against the dull sandy tones of too crushed gravel. The gravel was supposed to mimic the savannah, to immerse you in the world of the lions, hyenas, and giraffes of the African enclosure. Instead it marked their plight more poignantly then the signs with scarcity warnings and the long winded history of the hunting of elephants by the wizened guide.
The feather was white and the ground was sand. There were no birds here.
There was a lion slowly pacing in his cage. His tail flicked deliberately every few steps. The bars, two inches thick or so, seemed somehow both too thick and too thin. Too thin to stop this lion from catching his prey, and yet too thick to allow him to return to his patch of land. Adeen briefly caught his eye and looked away.
There was a giraffe in the next pen. She was very tall. An obvious, but true observation. Sense told Adeen that she had grown such a long neck in order to eat the top leaves of trees. Heart told her that she grew an extra-long neck to keep an eye on the untrustworthy lion.
There was, some twenty feet or so ahead and beyond the next door, the sound of monkeys. Adeen didn’t know, nor did she want to know, much about monkeys. Their screeches were jarring to her ears. Their long arms were disproportional to their feet. Their somewhat human faces unnerved her. Perhaps she had watched Planet of the Apes too many times as a child, but they always seemed to be thinking something murky. They offended her organized sensibilities and had not the controlled graceful pride of the stroll of the lion.
Adeen looked at the feather.
She realized after a while of studying a long dark line on the tip, that she did not hear the hyenas. The pen, which looked roughly twelve by twelve if that, was empty. There was a pile of straw in the right corner of the concrete floor. This seemed incongruous. There was also about ten feet in the air a ledge with a trap door. She wondered if the zoo keeper, afraid of the hyenas, would push the meat in and let it drop to the ground. She looked down for a corresponding stain on the floor, but saw none.
The lion’s mane shaking startled Adeen. She turned her neck and stared at him. He had stopped pacing and was sitting like an overgrown housecat in the middle of the pen licking his right paw. He was licking the paw slowly taking his long tongue in arcs from up to down and back again. Occasionally he would lift the paw over his nose and shake his head and it almost sounded like he was purring. When she stared at him he stopped his grooming and stared back.
They held the stare for what in reality was twenty two seconds. To Adeen’s surprise the gaze was not malevolent but canny. Perhaps he was more of an overgrown house cat then she thought. The trance he caused had her wanting to approach. To stroke his long orange gold mane that must be soft to the touch. To rub his creamy yellow underbelly in that sweet spot of desire. To nuzzle her nose against his nose and feel his long tongue in arcs from up to down and back again on her cheek.
The sound of the female lion entering the den broke their contact. She clearly disliked her male’s attention to this unknown non lion element. She gave him a familiar look of disgust and ownership. He trailed behind her out of the pen jutting his shoulder blades as he did so.
Now Adeen was standing in the large gray concrete square, the skylights twenty feet or so overhead, with two empty pens to each side. Both with piles of incongruous straw in the corners. The only other soul to be found was the one giraffe chewing at the leaf basket and eyeing her knowingly.
A rustling revealed a group of children entering from behind. They came in mimicking monkeys. Their too small backpacks holding juice boxes and healthy snacks they wouldn’t eat. Some of them had hats or binoculars as they were pretending to be explorers. Realizing there wasn’t much of anything at all to explore here they deflated.
The children rippled around her, she the rock to their wave. They ignored her presence as they sensed it was too different than their own. They heard the monkeys and excitedly picked up their chatter as they crashed through the next door.
Adeen stared again at the feather and decided she could not leave it to be trodden by yet more children with uneaten healthy snacks. She picked it up. Instantly the heated musty air became frigid.
She moved the feather in an arc from her fingertips to the spot above her freckled nose and sighed deeply. She closed her eyes. She saw tundra and a snowy owl circling above.
Adeen opened her eyes to find the lion in front of her in the same position as if a housecat. He was sitting in the middle of the sandy gravel between her and the monkeys.
He paced up to her in languid stretches of jutting blades and firm footfalls. He stopped several inches in front of her. She did not have to bend to stare into his brown eyes.
He placed his paws on Adeen’s shoulders and nuzzled her nose. She nuzzled back. He pressed his stomach towards her and she started rubbing deeply the soft creamy yellow underbelly trying to find the sweet spot. He started running his tongue over her cheek up and down and back again. Then he moved his tongue lower and higher and lower and higher. He opened his jaws mimicking a luxurious moan, continuing his licking. The giraffe snorted and walked away.
The children smashed through the door and froze. In front of them was a slender woman with strawberry hair leaning back as if to fall. In her right hand she held a white feather that was dripping red. Across her tan cheek and beginning to creep down her chest were deep gashes. Despite this she held a soft smile and was moaning. They fled back to the monkeys and none of them spoke of it later over fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Adeen’s body snapped as she fell and a frigid touch of the feather woke her. She sat up panting, an unknown tension in her chest. She was sitting in a growing patch of rusty gravel. She touched her cheek and looked at her chest. She drew the feather over her wounds and they crystallized. She groggily stared at the empty pens.
She heard the next tour coming behind her, the chattering ahead and the sound of beating above. The giraffe wandered back to the leaf basket and seemed surprised to see her. Adeen shook as she rose and squared her shoulders. She put the feather through the bars of the giraffe’s pen. With practiced balance the giraffe lowered her neck and took the offering. As she did so she briefly passed the feather over the gashed cheek.
With one last look at the empty pens and the giraffe Adeen quickly walked towards the sounds of the next tour, away from the sounds of the monkey children beyond the next door, away from the sound of beating above, and away from the sound of familiar footfalls on dull sandy gravel.