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The Daft Menagerie
by Jon Wesick

            At Moonlight Beach, the drawing of the California grizzly detached himself from the state flag and stepped over the red bar at the bottom of the field of white.

            “Know where I can score some Ambien?” He placed his paws carefully on the flagpole to avoid splinters while shimmying down to the sand. “I haven’t slept all winter.”

            “Can’t hear you, dude!” A rabbit pointed to his ears. “Too much Jefferson Starship back in the sixties.”

            “Sleeplessness is a warning sign of depression.” A hyena in a jacket with leather, elbow patches gestured with his pipe stem. “I’d go with Zoloft if I were you.”

            “All that stuff will mess you up,” said the sloth in running shoes sprinting by. “I’ve been drug free for three years and never felt better.”

            “He’s right, you know,” added a kangaroo chasing him on a pogo stick.

            Coming from the heartland, where marsupials are marsupials and ungulates are ungulates, I found this exchange refreshing. It was an hour before sunset and I was still full from the mediocre Chinese takeout, I’d eaten at my job interview, so I walked along the beach and watched the camels floating on surfboards. Whether dromedary or Bactrian, all wore poorly fitting wetsuits that did not zip closed over their humps. Waves churned positive ions into the sea air and soon the stress of inventing fictions about my qualifications evaporated from between my shoulders. I took off my shoes and socks and let the chilly water cool my feet. A wave slapped against the hem of my slacks. I always thought the blue-green Pacific was the best ocean. I wondered if the camels were cold.

            I sat on the sand next to a juvenile dolphin lying on a beach towel. Within seconds, dampness soaked through the seat of my pants. Head down, the dolphin manipulated a Game Boy’s controls with his flippers.

            “Come on in!” His mother waved from between the surfing camels. “Water’s great!”

            “Not now! I’m just about to get to level five.”

            Parents with younger children had more success at family togetherness. A sunburned penguin and his daughters built a realistic sandcastle out of cubic amoeba. They’d just crenulated the walls when an elephant crash landed his hang glider, wiping the structure out like a school bus tossed by a malevolent trebuchet. After tumbling head over heels for twenty feet and narrowly missing a dozen volleyball-playing lemmings, the elephant took off his goggles and surveyed his wrecked kite.

            Leaving the squabbling penguin, lemmings, and elephant behind, I beat it out of there before the parasailing hippos and sky diving gray whales splattered on the sand. Back on the Coast Highway, the recorded accordion of Carlos Gardel beckoned me into a vegan barbecue. The place was decorated like an Argentine parrilla, complete with jungle cactus and a floor show starring a tiger and zebra doing the tango. He sported a black fedora, open shirt, and red carnation behind his ear while she wore fishnet stockings and two pairs of stilettos.

            “An herbivore must do everything a carnivore does but backwards and in high heels.”

            “Table for one?” The capybara hostess set down her yerba mate gourd, complete with metal straw, led me past an owl eating the breakfast special, and sat me at a table next to a koala and gray wolf.

            The koala had done his hair in dreadlocks and the wolf wore an Oakland Raiders jersey and gold chain.

            “Know why the electric eel caught the flu?” the koala asked. “He had low resistance.”

            “I don’t get it,” the wolf said.

            “You know. Resistance is an electrical term.” The koala noted the wolf’s blank look. “Oh, never mind. What do you recommend, here?”

            “The grilled tofu is to die for!” His mouth watering, the wolf licked his fangs.

            “Whatever!” The koala closed his menu. “Just as long as it’s not eucalyptus leaves. Can’t stand the stuff.”

            As the wolf motioned for the pygmy giraffe to take their order, I realized that Encinitas, California was the place for me.

                                                                               END

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Jon Wesick edits the San Diego Poetry Annual. He has published over eighty short stories in journals such as KNOT Magazine, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Space and Time, Zahir, and Tales of the Talisman. He has also published over three hundred poems in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Pearl, and Slipstream. Wesick´s novel Hunger for Annhilation published in July 2015 (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform). 

 

John has a Ph.D. in physics and is a longtime student of Buddhism and the martial arts. One of his poems won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest. Another had a link on the Car Talk website.