Joanna was the person in charge while the zoo was closed. She wasn’t the girl who fed fish to the dolphins while they were doing their show, or the one that joined the visitors in each stop in order to tell them everything about the animal they were watching. She was just the girl that fed the animal after hours, when everything was quiet and most creatures were sleeping or, on the contrary, just waking up from their slumber. She preferred like that as she had never been a person of the spotlight.
What she loved more than anything was joining the scientists, the men and women that worked hard in laboratories trying to discover a cure for the many animal diseases that most humans knew nothing about. Just like them, she felt that by learning about those diseases and destroying them, they could all be able to make the human race more resistant and the whole world would see a surge in numbers for many species that had been threatened for years without a reason.
However, Joanna had only been in school for two years. She hadn’t even completed the first half of her education. She couldn’t be allowed yet to a laboratory or anything like that. If she had a job there being so young, it was because she had almost begged for it. She needed that job to help out at home, where her mother was too fragile to work in anything and her sister Julie was still in school, so she couldn’t be able to help. It was her obligation to bring money to home.
Of course, taking care of the animals didn’t pay as much as one would think, but it didn’t pay as badly as other jobs such as waitress ones and so on. The thing was she was in charge of feeding them and cleaning their habitats, which could be really disgusting sometimes. The animals didn’t mind doing their business anywhere they wanted, so her work was sometimes a little bit of a challenge because of many factors. And she also had to do some security work, for a couple of hours.
Joanna actually liked her job. It wasn’t prestigious or different every day, but she did learn a lot of stuff about the animals by just watching them. Besides, the zoo was normally very quiet at night, so she could wander around just thinking about her stuff, her life. It wasn’t that she loved to do that, but everyone needs a place where they can stop for a while and just think about how life is going for them and if they want something more out of it. Of course, the conclusion was, every time, that she would like to have an easier life than the one she had.
Her shift began when the doors of the zoo closed, at five in the afternoon. She had to stay there for five hours, until the security team hired by the zoo’s administration would come in to do their rounds. They stayed until opening time, at nine o’clock the following morning. So she didn’t have to stay that long but it was a lot of work packed in just a few hours. She had to clean everything and make it look as if it was new in that time, which was hard but she always made it.
The only times she was afraid of anything was when she had to clean and then feed the creatures in the Komodo dragon habitat. There were five dragons, all adults with a very bad mood. She had to put the food in a special space for them to run towards it and then she could trap them in that place for a while, as she cleaned the habitat as fast as she could. This could only last for a while, as Komodo dragons eat extremely fast and they don’t care about small spaces at all.
It was scary but entertaining to see all those majestic creatures during the night. Joanna felt she had a private glimpse into the lives of the animals that people rarely saw. She felt annoyed when she thought about all the people that visited the zoo and never learned anything about any of the animals. It was supposed to be a place for education but most people just used it as a park that you pay to go in. Some couldn’t care less about the animals, they just wanted a place to chill with their kids.
She would often think about how the world could be changed by just ending the whole zoo system. Of course, she was one of its employees but the truth was that, as a student on the subject, she thought that zoos were not really the best way to get to know an animal’s ay of doing things, his way of life. That’s what science needed to know but by standing in front of a cage watching a bird, you don’t really learn a lot about it except that it needs a bigger space to fly and be comfortable.
One of her ideas for the future was to create some sort of tour agency that would be specialized in getting people in and around ecosystems that have a lot to teach to humans. She would only take adults in those trips and only the ones that proof that they want to be there to learn and not only to take a nice little stroll around the jungle. They don’t have to be scientists or anything related, just interested in animals, like she was. She even had a three at home and her parents had never being against it because she actually did a great job taking care of them.
Her cat was called Tigress, as she looked like a small tiger. Her dog’s name was Sherlock, as he was very good at finding stuff, although he had been much better when younger. He was now a little bit slow when looking for anything, yet he still was able to find things all around the house. The last member of her animal group was Ranger, a big hamster she had received as a gift from her ex-boyfriend. She had wanted to get rid of it after they had broken up, but the creature was so adorable she decided to keep it.
When she wasn’t taking care of the animals in the zoo, she took care of the animals at home. And she also had to help her mother and sister, so her work was never really done, only on Sundays when she was given the chance of sleeping late and just enjoy herself by doing things that most girls her age enjoyed like going out to the mall or watching movies and television shows. She rarely did any of that though, as she preferred resting at home with all of her pets.
Joanna’s story is not one that’s fun and interesting, as many others. She’s just an average person, struggling to come out alive of a situation in her life that seems to go on forever. But she knows, she trusts, that one change it will all change. She will finish college and her mother will get better. Her sister will grow older and will be able to help her around the house more and she may realize all of her dream, the ones she thinks about when she walks around the zoo at night.
She’s not dreaming too much, she doesn’t think so. Joanna is just an average person, a normal person hoping for something to progress in her life. And she knows it happened because of the animal, because even them are not always the same every single day. They might not be people but they do have temperaments and attitudes. They do change their minds and customs. So, if they change, why not her? Besides, she had way to many plans not to make them a reality.
Meanwhile, she cleans their shit and gives them meat or corn or whatever it is that she has to give them as food. And she has learned to enjoy it because she’s at peace with them, more than when she shares the room with another person, fellow human.