The McCullen girl was a beauty, a memory, a murmur, a sound in the dark when the moon was out. She had been living in Saint Luna Zoo for two hundred and ten days, seventy of which had been spent with the orangutans. In the winter, as the white sky broke into snow, she wove a parka out of bits of plastic and ficus leaves, padding the inside with matted fur she had collected months before from the bottom of the cages. In the spring, when the men came to build a new lion's den, she watched them from the adjacent exhibit while giraffes wandered sleepily behind her.
"That the wild girl?" one of the men asked.
"Well, she ain't a zookeeper," another replied.
Had her presence not boosted ticket sales, and had she not nursed their only arctic fox back to health, the zoo surely would have found a way to remove her. But on the five o'clock local news, Eve Granger, president and CEO, said soberly into the camera: "She is welcome here, of course. Our home is hers." It had been almost a year by then, and still no one had gotten within conversation's reach of her. For weeks after the newscast, the sky was clear, and the moon was as bright and big as you could hope for. It casted a silvery light over her figure moving down the path as she returned to the orangutans, who slept noiselessly through the long, silky night, and who awoke the next morning to the unmatchable happiness of seeing their young friend again.
The first line of this story was inspired by the opening line of one of my favorite books, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck: "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream." I almost can't believe this is my fiftieth Fiction Friday... (!) ...thank you for all the encouragement along the way.