Margaret thought she heard a suppressed roar coming from the kitchen. Before the turgid novel, she’d been reading a book about the history of al Qaeda; in it, the author told about Taliban members who had broken into an Afghan zoo. One man decreed the bear’s “beard” too short and cut off the animal’s nose; another zealot leaped into the lion’s den yelling, “I am the lion now!” The lion killed him. The noseless bear survived.
When Margaret had first read that passage, she’d been appalled. Those kinds of men had to be contained. The longer she spent away from the book, though, the more the lesson changed. Now she thought the story meant something else entirely. Such as: Do not underestimate the strength of animals.
It’s a little story, a little series of moments, but they’re all the right moments, and written in the right words. (I admire the way Lepucki writes animals, in particular. Also the way she writes people talking to animals.)
Sidenote: I love short-shorts and am hoping to brainwash — er, lovingly guide — my students into loving them, too. My class is reading Margaret Atwood’s short piece “Women’s Novels” in conjunction with Lady Oracle, and they’ll read JCO’s “Love, Forever” in a few more weeks. (I was obsessed with Murder in the Dark when I was in high school. It was weird but satisfying to put on my syllabus something I used to read in the breaks between class periods.)