Flash Fiction Friday

Fertilizer — Alexander Boyd

Niko had never been entirely sane. Something was always a little off. Informing teenage volunteers about how to get out of a speeding ticket while still being a smartass was inappropriate and incited a rule that no volunteer could talk to him. Unlocking the gate to the lion holding and framing another keeper for it inspired the director to ban him from work in the buildings of our more dangerous animals. Describing, in detail, his collection of guns and ammunition to other keepers was unnerving and sparked some concerns about his home life with his wife and newborn son. Supposed sexual harassment of the female keepers inspired Chris, another keeper, to follow him into the parking lot and give him a black eye. And skipping through the zoo at lunchtime, waving two knives high in the air like a gleeful clown provoked the first call to the police.

His affair with the head of human resources was all that kept him his job. Until he finally lost it—both his mind and his job, that is—the day he came into work on his day off. Lynn, the woman in the gift shop, busy with the morning rush of guests, didn’t notice him come in, and no one saw him make his way to the basement. Only when he came up the stairs about an hour later did the curator of animal care unintentionally intercept him in the staff room and question his reasons for being there and, more importantly, for being in the basement. Moments later, the director had arrived as per Niko’s request alongside Chris and several other keepers, and he was spewing out threats. More specifically, bomb threats.

Should they evacuate the zoo? Where would he put a bomb? In the Gift Shop? Beneath the alligator exhibit among the pipes leading to its water supply? Or maybe somewhere more secluded; was the poor, lonely Kookaburra, tucked away in the back corner of the zoo, about to be blown to pieces?

The director and a pair of policemen who arrived to arrest Niko soon after the threats were made discovered security footage of Niko simply searching the basement, seemingly with no plan, and then leaving everything the way it was before. However, previous footage of the storage area downstairs revealed that he had stolen fertilizer several days ago after the zoo had closed. Suddenly, he became a firearm addict with enough fertilizer to blow up the entire pavilion and enough brimming cockiness to brag to the police chief’s face about a bomb he’d made on his days off. “Well, it’s done, so I don’t have anything else to do on my days off anymore. Thought I’d come in and see something interesting.”

Already, the bomb squad had arrived and searched the zoo with their dogs—which provoked a significant increase in roars, howls, and scratching of the exhibit walls throughout the zoo. Nearly all guests cut their visits short now that their children had been sufficiently frightened by the over-agitated lions and leopards—though entirely unphased by the cute German Shepherds sniffing their strollers—but the zoo didn’t close.

After hours of investigation and needless worry, it was confirmed that, as expected, Niko had not in fact brought a bomb to the zoo though he was finally banned from stepping foot on zoo grounds again. Weeks of further investigation both in his home and of his firearm collection would ensue. However, the zoo seemed, for the moment, to be the work place of one less manic employee.

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