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Phoebe’s Zoo Photograph

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Neil Blick

In a secret compartment of her gold Oroton Glomesh shoulder wallet, there is a concealed zipped pocket. Probably designed to hold cash. In it, Phoebe has something more valuable than money, a photo of her two children, Molly and Dean, four and six at the time, on another special day at the Zoo. Phoebe had taken it as her trophy snapshot of an almost perfectly-designed event that precisely fitted her construct of mothering perfection, an unflawed presentation to the world she had successfully fashioned for all to see and herself to believe.

‘My children love the Zoo’. That is what Phoebe told people. ‘I take them so often they know the Zoo like their own kingdom’. Her Zoo stories were all enclosed in a package of experiences that could be told to smiling strangers who listened and heard about birds, reptiles, exotic animals, and her children. Her regular trips would eventually combine into one long near-perfect memory, her story to resort to when difficult, unwelcome thoughts arrived.

Lions, tigers, elephants and creatures contained by cages and small hutches, or wandering between tall trees restrained by electric fences and strong bars; this memory would be much more than everyone else’s Zoo memories because Phoebe’s were shaped by her own inner Menagerie. Like a photograph album the Zoo provided coloured images crafted of Dean and Molly, memories with concrete pathways, clear edges and strong metal walls to keep him out.

In Phoebe’s photo her children are dressed in matching Paddington Bear duffle coats, red hoods up, their perfect button blue eyes wide-open, looking straight at her. Chocolate ice cream-lined lips frame their wide smiles, held just long enough for her to catch their compliance and then the click of her Olympus. 

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