Zebra Play

originally published in Corduroy Mountain


Nothing on television. So the man went into the garage and removed the fire axe from the rack and walked back into the living room and hacked off the TV’s power cord plugged in the wall. Then he carried the doctored television up the stairs and stepped out onto the balcony and shot put it over the railing. It tumbled slightly as it fell. Cracking open on the artificial grass lawn.

His wife was waiting for him in the hallway, a tube of airplane glue in her hands. That makes five, she said.

Put that away, the man said. Now’s not the time for fixing.

He walked past her and went down the stairs and out the door and stood in the street, Handy Street. The neighborhood was real quiet. No signs of any Saturday morning children at play. Every front door closed and locked. Somewhere a dog barked a timid bark but that was it. He thought about refueling his chainsaw and dividing the houses into thirds. Then he heard it. A clop clop sound coming down the street. Coming towards him quick. As he swung around two zebras loped by just a foot from where he stood. They’d escaped from the zoo an hour earlier but the man did not know it, these godsend beasts.

They turned and faced one another and stood on their hind legs. Boxing without touching. Teeth bare and possessive. Grunting zebra sounds. All for him to see. He thought he could feel the beating of their hearts under his feet and he wished then to be like them, racing throughout the county, evading captivity.

The zebras went down on fours and headed west beyond the visible horizon. He stood there for a long time after.

When the hour passed he went back into his home and settled like he’d always done. Later that night he dreamed of wandering through rows of cherry trees, collecting the fallen cherries from the ground into his shirt pocket. He came into a clearing and saw a mountain lion sunning on a slab of rock. The mountain lion saw him. The two stared at one another. The man took a handful of the cherries in his pocket. He goaded the lion into teaching him what it meant to run for his life.