Two Girls Contemplate What Gorillas Do at Night by Angela Readman
They stand outside the enclosure, just like last Thursday. Ever since her father won passes at work, Neko drags May to the zoo after school. It would be wasteful not to. The frozen yogurt stand’s closed. They observe the gorilla without sprinkles.
Kyoto sits on a rock, knuckles under his chin. Thinking. People point. Children laugh, their voices sharpened by seeing animals do anything.
Neko brushes dust off her kilt and knots her fingers. Kyoto flexes his biceps. May grabs her camera. There are a hundred pictures on her memory now, but none look like standing here feels.
The afternoon sun circles the cage and picks through fur. The girls think it looks like someone looking for a lost silver chain.
May walks home, fingertips pattering her satchel. She missed piano practise, but she got a decent photo of Kyoto for her art portfolio. Neko’s never into that stuff anymore; she has a boyfriend instead. He gave her a keyring shaped like a tortoise. It’s probably love.
It’ll be dark soon, a pelt of frost settles on the lawn, creaking under her feet.
The kitchen is steamy, May’s mother stands by the sink draining pasta. She dyed her hair a week ago, but one grey strand already springs from her crown.
‘Do you like the eggplant?’ she asks her new boyfriend, fiddling with her freshly blonde hair.
‘I do,’ he says. His oily mouth is full.
May chews in silence, wondering what gorillas do at night. The silver on his back looked like unravelled moonlight.
It’s only soap, but Neko pretends its perfume when Lars nuzzles her neck. He must do it quietly. Officially, he’s already left; her parents are in bed.
They’ve already done it twice, but this time he looks at her while he’s inside and asks if she’s close. She tells him she is. She feels close to something, but she’s not sure what it is.
Lars comes, zips his flies, kisses her another goodbye and goes.
Neko closes the door and picks up the winter gloves he left on the counter. Kyoto’s broad palms looked similar, like, if he got the chance, he could drive anywhere.
She puts on a glove and runs a sole leather finger across her cheek. It’s her favourite part of the evening, the perfection of absent fingers moving over her skin, imagining.
Angela Readman’s stories have won the National Flash Fiction Day Competition, The Costa Short Story Award, & The Mslexia Story Competition. Her debut story collection, Don’t Try this at Home (And Other Stories) won The Rubbery Book Award & was shortlisted in the Edgehill Short Story Prize. She is also a published poet, her latest book, The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in 2016.