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Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Animal" by Terry Madden

First appeared in WotF 30. Author website.

In a world with few wild animals, Mackenzie works at an endangered-species facility, out by the expanding casinos, but few visit.  Does anyone want to support it?  Federal agent, Dr. Harper, visits in what looks like an attempted shutdown.  Meanwhile, in the lab the assistant Mackenzie can't afford to work overtime with the animals .  They drug the gorillas and remove a human baby from one of the gorillas.  This turns out to be a stunt to get people to care about animals again.

Spoiler:  It appears Mackenzie wants to implant the genetically mutated embryo of a favored gorilla, Tituba.  Where?  If there are few animals but humans....

As a biology major and teacher myself, I'm a little dubious that humans will ever feel cold-hearted toward animals.  Every year I had at least two or three in a class who wanted to be veterinarians.  As they got older, several doubted they could, and often were heart-broken.  One parent placed all of her kid's dreams of being a vet upon me.  I would do whatever I could to help.  Nonetheless, becoming a vet is difficult, with the effort and responsibility having to come from the kid....

Kids are crazy for animals.  No doubt those passionate about animals think anyone not as passionate as cold-hearted, so that it feels you're surrounded by indifference.  No matter, we can grant this improbability.  It makes for good drama.

This story feels a bit rushed although it may be intended as a kind of experimental, read-between-the-lines tale.  Nothing wrong with that.  It's just atypical in its manner of telling.

While the title's not engaging, it has interesting play with the story's theme.  Is it intended as positive or pejorative?  Who is the animal referred to?

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