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Renovations to our city zoo were long overdue. The primate house was in particularly bad condition; the yellow tiles that covered the inside of the cages had broken loose from years of incessant pounding, and the animals had begun chewing through the rotten substrate, perhaps out of the dumb anxiety induced by confinement, or perhaps in search of some nutrient that our dated research had overlooked. But because they did not attempt to escape through the holes they had made, repairs were again postponed, and the zoo became such a depressing sight that it was soon abandoned by its visitors, and later, deprived of operating funds, by all but the most essential employees. The occasional elopement was more by accident than intent, as if the animals only wandered out of their cages in their sleep; the custodians soon tired of leading them back to their cages and let them roam unmolested, entrusting their confinement to the low fence that circled the grounds. Sometimes one lost its way through the front gate and strayed into the adjacent city park, and there it usually ended, in the center of a huddle of mute bystanders. Perhaps it was not so strange how at such moments we forgot our own complicity at the very moment it ought to have filled us with shame, how mesmerized we were by the creature gasping at our feet, as if we were hearing the sound of our own breathing for the very first time. Most of us had never seen a thing die so completely by itself, particularly at such close range, and the sight touched us with a horror we had not felt since we were children.



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