Gilbert the Lion
He wasn’t interested in the crowds of people that walked by and stopped to beg him to charge or roar. Some taunted him and others snapped pictures. Boys who wanted to appear sensitive to their dates would whisper. Men who wanted to appear smart would quip. Most left disappointed that the ‘King of the jungle’ did nothing but yawn and stretch.
If it was cool enough, or quiet enough, Gilbert would get up and walk the well worn path around his carefully designed enclosure. His Serengeti satisfied the on lookers and their limited attention spans. If Gilbert thought of such things it must have seemed that he was stuck on a boat. Gilbert didn’t think of those things, because he was a lion after all.
A tired stroll around the yard never uncovered anything remarkable. There once was a French fry, and another time a set of car keys. People loose things all the time and wonder where they go. Gilbert never asked where they came from or what they were. People ask those questions, not lions.
Regardless, there was never anything for a lion. The journey always ended where it began, under the comfortable shade of the imported Acacia tree. It was there, where he spent most of his time, seemingly waiting for balloons to float by. But lions don’t wait for balloons that would be silly.
Gilbert lived close to other African animals. He didn’t know what they were, because he never lived in Africa. Still, he somehow recognized the connection. Occasionally, a yelp or a snort from a neighboring enclosure would cause Gilbert to open an eye, or twitch an ear. If it was interesting enough, he would stand and stare. It would make for a nice picture if you were there with a camera.
The noise would fade, and Gilbert would lose interest. Comfortable lions lose interest in most things. It isn’t the kill that sustains the lion, but the hunger. He would never say that of course, because he is just a lion.
The night that Gilbert was freed was an unremarkable Thursday. It was like every other Thursday, or Tuesday or any day before. Lions don’t keep track of those things. They know when it is hot, or wet, dawn or dusk. Calendars are as useful as car keys for a comfortable lion.
It was an accident of course. It wasn’t the zookeeper’s fault the gate was unlocked. Some said she was distracted by honey bees and butterflies. Maybe, she wasn’t distracted at all. Maybe it wasn’t her fault in fact. Maybe no one was at fault. Maybe this one time the lock didn’t work. Things like that do happen you know. It didn’t matter to Gilbert anyway. There is no such thing as fault or blame when you are a lion.
On an evening stroll around the compound, Gilbert discovered something a lion could use- an escape. Into the darkness, the lion stepped. Since he was a cub, it would be the first time he did not know where he was going. He was not afraid. He was of course a lion in the darkness.
There is something unsettling about the thought of a lion free in the night. To those of us who whisper, quip and sip wine the thought can be terrifying. Not to the lion of course, he doesn’t concern himself with those things.
It was surprising where they found Gilbert the next morning. He was not found next to a carcass of hair and bones. No he was not found anywhere one would expect, unless of course you knew Gilbert.
In the morning dawn, Gilbert was found sleeping under a cloud of tied red balloons.