Jusine loved going to the zoo. She had fond memories of her grandmother and dad taking her to the zoo when she was a little girl. She always liked to look at the different animals and sometimes she even got to feed them. That all depended on what animal though. Jusine wasn’t going near the goats. She had a dream that a goat with big horns and a bad temper bit her on the leg and she wasn’t taking any chances.
Jusine twenty years later still waited in anticipation of the zoo being opened for the year. They closed the zoo in her town in the winter and reopened it in the summer. Jusine usually went alone. It was sort of her “Me time” away from work, school, and her daily stressful life. Today she was standing at the entrance which said, “Welcome to the Oak Zoo.” She was finally here. The 30 minute drive was all worth it once she walked passed the gates and was greeted by one of the zookeepers. “Welcome, enjoy your time here.” She nodded and walked past him and grabbed a paper map near the table at the entrance. She really didn’t need one since she knew the zoo like the back of her hand.
“ Hello, everyone.” Jusine said passing by the monkeys. She hoped that the monkeys were in a good mood. Last time one of them threw poop at her. She barely missed getting a handful of poop which would have landed on her new jacket. Thankfully, she ducked in time. Her dodge ball skills came in handy that day. She laughed as she passed them and waved. And Gus, her favorite monkey waved back. At least she thought that was a wave.
“See ya, Gus.” She shouted as she walked.
As she passed the monkey cage she heard a voice. She turned around and there was nobody there.
“Wow, I am hearing things.”
“Hey Jus, it’s me. You aren’t hearing things. Over here.”
“Okay, I am tripping. I knew I should have eaten lunch before I came. Apparently, the hunger is making me delirious.” Jus said aloud to nobody.
“Over here. Turn around.”
She turned around and her favorite monkey, Gus, was waving and appeared to be talking to her. She knew that couldn’t be right. Monkey’s don’t talk and people can’t understand monkeys even if they do talk. But, Gus seemed to be talking and she understood him.
“You hear me don’t you and you understand me don’t you?” Gus screeched.
“Are you talking to me?”
“Um-mm, do you see anyone else around here? Yeah, I am talking to you. Come here.”
“Are you going to throw poop on me?” She asked still in disbelief that she was talking to a monkey.
“Why would I do that?”
“You tried to do it before. Remember? “
“Jus, that wasn’t poop. That was food.” Gus laughed.
“Well, can you tell me how I can understand you?” Jus asked.
“You have the gift.”
“You have always had the power to talk to animals since you were little. But, you were too afraid of it.”
Jus didn’t know rather to run away or keep talking to Gus. She had always felt like the animals were talking to her but when she tried to tell her dad he would say that animals can’t talk to people. She believed that. Well, she did until now. Now, she was talking to a monkey. Actually, talking to a monkey. What are the odds?
“Hey, you, guess what?”
“You can also understand all the rest of the animals too.”
“Yeah, you can. George has something to tell you.”
“Who is George?” Jus asked, looking puzzled.
“George is the goat.”
“Oh no, no, no. I am not talking to any goats. Goats are bad news.”
“What did a goat ever do to you?” Gus asked, swinging across his cage.
“Well, nothing really. But, I had a dream.”
“Oh the billy goat dream?” Gus asked.
“How did you know about that?”
“I overheard you talking about it once to your dad.”
“Why didn’t you say anything then?” Jus asked.
“You weren’t ready to hear me.”
“And what makes you think I am ready now?”
“You are talking to me aren’t you?”
Jus looked a little embarrassed and then a little confused. How could this monkey know her so well? A monkey, a freaking’ monkey. Maybe she was dreaming. She had to pinch herself and wake up. That’s it, this is all a dream.
“I guess so.”
“Well, go on over there to George. He is in the baby goat section. Like I need to tell you. You know where we all are.”
“What does George want?”
“He wants your help.”
“Help with what? What can I possibly do for George?”
“You’ll see now go. Here comes a little kid. You wouldn’t want the kid to think you are nuts standing here talking to a monkey do you?” Gus screeched again and swung to the other side of the cage near the other two monkeys in the cage with him.
“Okay, I have officially lost my mind. I have the power to talk to animals? I must be losing it. I just had a whole conversation with a monkey. A monkey!”
“Hey, hey, hey, come here.”
Jus was afraid to turn around to see who or what animal was talking to her now. She closed her eyes for a minute in case she was dreaming and when she opened them she would be in her bedroom and this talking to monkey business would have never happened.
“Jus, did you hear me? Over here.”
She opened her eyes and she was still at the zoo and was now looking at a talking turtle. The turtle was sitting on top of a rock in a cage surrounded by water, plants and another turtle.
“Hey, you got any real food?” The turtle, Myrtle asked.
“Nope. I got nothing.” Jus replied still in shock that she was now understanding a turtle.
“Darn, I could use some food other than lettuce.” Myrtle the turtle said.
“I am sure they will feed you soon.” Jus told the turtle.
Jus walked around the zoo and she talked to every single animal and even the birds in the zoo. It was like she was talking to her best friends.
Jus didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. Her best friend, Nora, loved animals as much as she did and they would spend long summer days sketching the animals they saw at the zoo when they couldn’t get to the zoo. Nora was the better artist. Jus tried her best and Nora always said that Jus sketches were just as good as hers. Jus knew she was just trying to make her feel good. They grew up and went to high school and that’s when they grew apart. Jus still saw Nora in passing. They would pass each other in the halls of the school and occasionally had lunch together but both had moved on to new friends. Nora was friends with the smart popular kids and Jus was friends with two not so popular girls, the quiet ones like herself.
By the time they graduated from high school they barely spoke to each other. They still were friends but not nearly as close as they were before high school. One day Jus phone rang, two years after they graduated. She will never forget that day. She was at home in her room trying to write a paper for her college English class and her mom called her to the phone. Jus thought it was probably one of her college friends struggling with the paper like she was and they could complain about how boring the whole class was and how hard it was to get started on the paper.
Jus was only on the phone for a few minutes when she dropped the phone and fell to her knees. Jus let out a cry that she didn’t even recognize was coming from her own body. It was a primal yell. A sound she didn’t even know she could make. Jus mom came running into the kitchen where the phone was and where Jus was and picked her up gently off the floor and hugged her, hugged her harder than she ever remembered hugging her in her whole life.
Nora was dead. Gone just like that. How could she be gone? Not her. Jus didn’t remember much about the days that followed. It was like she was in a daze just walking around going about her business but not really feeling or caring about anything. Nora was always in her thoughts from the time she woke up to the time she went to sleep.
After Jus left the zoo she had Nora on her mind again, heavily on her mind. George, the goat told her something that only she and Nora had shared with each other when they were 8 years old. George told her that the animals needed her. She and Nora wanted to be Veterinarians when they grew up and they would always say that the animals needed them. They were going to both go to Vet school together and together buy a farm and when they weren’t taking care of animals at work they would enjoy their farm with lots of animals. That was their dream.
Jus settled into bed, adjusting the pillows as she did every night when she went to bed and she looked up at the ceiling. She closed her eyes and knew she would never forget this day. The day she realized her super power in life. Her super power was calling her to take care of the animals like she and Nora promised to do all those years ago.
“Thank you Gus, thank you Myrtle and George and thank you especially Nora. I love you to the moon and back. Today I learned that I am super.