When Gorillas Sleep
This short short story features in ‘Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand’, published by Canterbury University Press with the support of Creative New Zealand.
I never touched the gorilla, I say. I got better things to do. Then the park ranger plonks his canvas bag on the table and pulls out a tranquiliser gun and we all stare at the gun and I know it will have my finger prints all over it and then he’s saying, funny how you target the adolescent males, none of the silverbacks are shot, and I just about blurt out that’s just chance, that is, but I hold my tongue and I’m thinking of fingerprints and even nose prints because each Ugandan gorilla has got its own, nobody else like it. Listen up! The park ranger bangs the table with his fist. A drop of sweat runs down his forehead. You think we’re going to sit here, twiddle our thumbs while Rome burns? He leans forward, tells me the whole conservation programme is under threat, the government can pull its funding just like that and he’s not going to see his job go down the tubes. Listen up!
I never touched the gorilla, I say. And then he tells me to think back to Lake Bunyonyi reserve yesterday afternoon and what was I doing there? He knows I was there, he has proof. Didn’t I know there was cameras in the trees?
All the candelabra trees? I ask. I’m just stalling for time. I’m just stalling. I’m just. I stare out the window. The trees have red leaves shaped like hearts.
You ever laid your hand on a gorilla’s chest? You ever felt the warmth of wiry hair, the roughness under your palm? Ever lain down with your brother, your ear listening to his heart beat?
From Bonsai. Best Small Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand
A version of this work was published in New Flash Fiction Review (2016).