Animal Dilemmas – Penguin Polar Bear
The Polar Bear’s stomach didn’t find rest through the night and the Bear vomited inky black in the morning. The zoo keepers were alarmed. They caged the bear and transported it to the zoo’s infirmary. The ink kept spilling out of the Octopus pouch making the Bear sick. The giants didn’t know that the bear ate an octopus and were puzzled by this strange and sudden turn of events. They gave the Bear antibiotics and waited for more symptoms.
Next to the Bear cage in the infirmary was a smaller barred box holding the Penguin that bit on the light bulb, caused the electric outage, the life of the Octopus and the discomfort of the Bear. The Penguin had been electrocuted and his entire mouth was burned on the inside but it was alive. Its face was bandaged, a tube stack out from under the bandages that went down to its stomach and fed it. The Penguin was sedated because its mouth was a raw wound. If it was not for the sedative it would feel as if it was on fire.
The Penguin had always been a curious thing. It was a practice for the zoo to collect eggs of wild penguins and incubate them so they were born in the captivity. That was the case with Penguin but his egg had gone through an accident. It was a practice to rub the eggs with alcohol and then put them in the incubator to avoid infections and bacteria. That process took place on a ship bound warm lands. The giant in charge of the cleaning of the eggs liked alcohol himself and took a good measure. That slowed him down and made him clumsy. Instead of wiping the eggs with alcohol he dipped them in a glass fill of it and then rubbed them. When he was doing that to the Penguin’s egg the ship passed by an iceberg illuminated by the rising moon. The giant was mesmerized and took another drink. By the time he came out of this spell of the beauty of the moment the Penguin’s egg had spent several minutes in the alcohol and a few whispers of it had crossed the shell into the interior.
That was why the Penguin was born odd. With spinning eyes and an perpetual grin always looking for trouble and often finding it. One of the light protectors in the penguin enclosure had come loose and the the Penguin attracted by the shine and heat bit on the bulb. The other penguins always stayed away from it. They were afraid from its random unexplainable acts of violence. And now the Penguin was alone as always with its life hanging by a thread.
The Polar Bear was also alone. It had never had a true companion. It hardly remembered the vast snow hills it came from. It was just a baby the had lift its entire life in a cage. It would never survive the wild. At one point another polar bear was brought in but they couldn’t get along. The other bear was caught in the wild at the prime of its life. And it was aggressive and restless. Fires burned in its eyes. It never settled and only ate the cuts of meat when it was starving. It banged against the glass and grills of the enclosure until its head bled and soon died in this very cage the Bear was now for much different reasons.
The Bear was curled up in a ball all its energy focused to handle the pain in its stomach. It thought it was dying and wished it could die in the freedom of its enclosure not in this cage. It moaned form time to time and puked ink. With every dark eruption from its stomach it slowly started feeling better and took short walks around the cage.
The next day the Penguin woke from its deep sleep. The drugs were loosening their grip. Its perpetual smile was buried under the bandages but its eyes were shining with menace. The dugs still kept the burn in its mouth subdued. The Penguin’s eyes darted around and its feet were flapping with energy. It was still tied down to a table and the feeding tube irritated its stomach.
The Bear noticed the Penguin but didn’t pay it much heed. What a strange creature, it thought. I am done eating strange creatures. From now on the Bear resolved to eat only the delicious meat delivered to it through the hole in the wall.
Their eyes locked and the Penguin’s crazy eyes showed no sing of respect for the size or hunger of the Bear. The Bear has not met many animals but when it looked at the giants through the chewing glass it saw fear and was used to easy opponents. The more the Penguin’s eyes swirled with indifference the more the Bear grew angry and frustrated. The Bear stared attempting to see past the swirl and peak into this creature’s soul. But the swirling smiling eyes of the Penguin confused it. There was no making sense of them of beating them in the game of dominance.
Instead the Bear was lost in the melange of unrecognizable emotions. It saw a light bulb, then darkness, then water and pain. It saw peace and then danger followings by death and a strange creature that squirted black ink. The Bear looked away and it convinced the Penguin was behind its sickness.
It erupted in rage for a first time in its life. It banged against its cage as hard as it could inching it towards a the Penguin. The Cage slid on the cement floors every time the Bear through its weight on the steel bars. The noise attracted the giants and they tried to get close to inject the Bear with tranquilizers. But the violence made them cautious. Blood was coming out of the Bear’s cracked skull but that didn’t slow it down. It raged like a storm inside the cage until it knocked down the frail cage of the Penguin from its table. The Penguin’s cage landed on its side and its door swung open. The feeding tube and the bandages as well as the restrains fell apart and the Penguin spilled out on the cement floor tasting blood in its mouth. It span like a sea horse and bolted in the first direction it managed. Its balance was off but its crazy energy was on.
The giants panicked and finally shot the Bear with a sleeping dart. The Bear took some time fighting the poison but soon collapsed on the cage floor in a pool of blood. The giants shot it one more time be sure its sleeping before entering the cage. They checked its head and pulse but didn’t find the later. The Bear was gone.
In the storm of things the Penguin had sneaked through the door and out in the open in great pain but striding ahead without direction or goal. It’s eyes span as usual and for while nobody noticed it. The Penguin decided the pain was its new companion, its best friend, because it has never had one. It stopped minding it and started looking for water to take a drink.
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photograph by Jay Ruzesky