by D. Harlan Wilson

She had stuffed the shoulders of her periwinkle blouse with socks. She said she never wore socks anyway so what’s the difference?

I found myself on the street, lying beneath a double-decker bus, staring at a rusty gasket set against an ominous canvas of fiberoptics. I blinked. I crawled out from underneath the bus, hailed a taxi and told it to take me home.

“Where’s home?” said the taxi driver.

“Home. Home.”

“Home,” he reiterated.

At home, she tried to eat the pasta without boiling it. She rested the long, hard strings of linguine on a plate and stabbed them with a fork. “It’s not working,” she complained. “I can’t pick it up.” She stabbed the pasta with increasing angst until it had been broken into small enough pieces to nibble. “It doesn’t taste the same,” she noted.

I found myself on a rooftop looking across the landscape of the city. Spires, steeples, mirrored skyscrapers surrounded me in every direction. The sky was blue and quiet and it was hot. On an adjacent rooftop, a giraffe stared at me. Its long, spotted neck buckled in the wind. But its gaze never wavered.

I jumped off the rooftop and pulled the string on my parachute just in time, although I skinned a knee, and I had to dive out of the way of oncoming traffic. On the sidewalk, I cut the parachute loose and bought a newspaper from a kiosk. I opened the newspaper to the business section. This picture was on the front page:

head of a giraffe

There was no title, no caption, no accompanying story. Beneath the picture rained the sharp columns of the stock market.

I walked home.

She had stripped the hides from all of the umbrellas and stitched together a vast cape. She demonstrated how the cape might also function as a flag, given a tall steel pole. Additionally, the cape could be used as a tent during jungle excursions. She set it up in the living room, using kitchen knives for tent clips, stabbing the fabric of the umbrellas into the carpet, urging me to pretend the walls were deep, dark foliage, a rain forest, full of monkeys and wild things and other preternatural beasts that had existed on earth for millions of years, that were prepared to eat trespassers even if their flesh disagreed with the most sensitive palate.

I found myself at the zoo. All of the zookeepers had been locked in the cages by the giraffes. They were everywhere, immobile and quiet, loitering. I recognized one of them from the rooftop. I tried to get its attention, waving my arms, but it either didn’t see me, or ignored me. I stroked its leg. It made a chirping noise.

The zookeepers pleaded with me to set them free. I said I would have to think about it and went to use the toilet.

When I came out, she was waiting for me.

She had climbed atop my giraffe and was trying to ride it. “Giddyap!” she shouted, thumping platform heels against its belly. The zookeepers cheered her on.

The giraffe swatted her with its tail. She flipped backwards over a fence. A loud crash preceded a tsunami of curses. She climbed over the fence, caught her dress on a picket, and somersaulted onto the asphalt with a great tearing of fabric. She stood, dazed. She realized she was naked from the waist down and tried to cover herself. She yelled at me, insisted it was my fault. Everybody watched her quietly—giraffes, zookeepers, me.

I told her it wasn’t what I had imagined. She asked what I meant by that. I said she knew what I meant and we should leave it at that. She accused me of breaking her heart. I apologized.

I climbed onto the giraffe and whispered into its ear. It loped out of the zoo.

The other giraffes followed us. We made our way through the city in a long, proud parade. People gathered on the sidewalks. Soon it was a full-fledged extravaganza, comparable to New Year’s Day. As the applause and cries of joy grew louder, I leaned my cheek against the soft neck of the giraffe and fell asleep, dreaming of nothing, waiting for the animal to take me home.


D. Harlan Wilson is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, literary critic, screenwriter, editor, and English professor. His story, "Circus," appeared in Issue #3 of The Cafe Irreal; "The Cape" in Issue #6; and "Dandies and Flânuers " in Issue #12.