Fall 2023, Volume 35

Fiction by Addison Hoggard


There is a boy alone where he shouldn't be. He’s lost, weeping in front of the tamarins. I don’t want to care, but the problem is that he looks like Luke, with his Pokémon backpack and curly-cropped hair. Luke doesnt look like this now—who knows what he looks like now? But thats how he looked when he was that age. The other problem is that the tamarins, Delilah and Drake, are annoyed. 

Mr. Averett, come help this kid. 
This kid is annoying the shit out of me. 

The tamarins are my neighbors. A lovely couple, really the best of neighbors. They dont make too many requests of me, they respect quiet hours, they know not to ask about my family, and sometimes, Delilah invites me over for dinner. As all good neighbors do. 

They like me well enough, even though they dont care much for the other humans. The visitors, the zookeepers. Its not entirely their fault—we live in a far-flung corner of the zoo. The few people that do make it over are all tired and uninspiring. They reek of sweat and suburbia. 

The only downside to living next door to the tamarins is their lack of patience, especially when it comes to human children. They pull their mustaches, distort their whiskered faces, screech like sirens. I don t understand their problem with kids, but then again, I m not too fond of the little buggers myself. 

I weigh the risks. Do I help the kid and risk being exposed? If I don't help the kid, maybe he will go on being lost, and next thing I know there will be more people snooping around. 

Mr. Averett, I cant take any more of this whining! 

With all of my practiced stealth, I slip away from Tamarinthia and weave through the thick stalks of bamboo that hide my home from view. I cut the tamarins a look as I pass. 

This is your kind, Drake says, dont blame us. 

The boy stops crying when he sees me. A new type of fear grips him: stranger danger. I imagine Im the strangest stranger this boy has ever seen. But lord, he looks just like my Luke. Are you lost?” 

The boy pouts his lips and nods. A water bottle in the shape of a giraffe s head trembles in his hands. 

Whats your name? 


Where are your parents, Jack?”

He takes stock of me. Are you a wizard?” 

Im a zookeeper,” I say. 

He grabs my hand, the fear fades. 

Drake caws from his enclosure. Hah, zookeeper!?

Last time I saw mommy was the big elephants. But I wanted to see lions again because theyre my favorite. But then I got lost.” 

Okay,” I say, Ill take you somewhere she can find you.” 

I lead him fast through the zoo. Its a slow day, thank god, so the paths around Tamarinthia are pretty much deserted. The few people that do pop up here and there are easy enough to avoid. 

This is as far as I can go,” I say as we near the red pandas. There are too many people crowded around those fluffy critters for me to risk it. Go straight, youll get to a security hut.” 

Why cant you go with me?” 

Ive got work to do.” I take a step away. Uh, kid, whats in your backpack? Snacks?”

He unzips it, peers inside. Granola bar, apple sauce.” 

Give them to me.” 


The lions love those. Ill tell them its from you. From Jake—I mean, Jack.” 

I flee back to Tamarinthia with the loot in hand. 


The thing I love most about Tamarinthia is that it disappeared. I have inhabited the prefab shack hidden behind the tamarins for 40 years in one way or another. It was put up to serve as a base of operations for the janitor in charge of cleaning around the small aviary, the glass tunnels that snake through the prairie dog enclosure, and the pavement around the tamarins. 

Id already been working at the zoo for two years when they first built Tamarinthia. I remember it went up so fast; I was told thats the beauty of prefab buildings, they go up quick and easy. Sturdy, but simple to disassemble when the time comes. The zoo bigwigs told me: This is to make your job easier, Mr. Averett, so no more complaints about how we don t value our janitorial staff, alright?  

Luke also loved Tamarinthia when he was younger. Hes the one that started calling it that. I had to bring him to work with me a lot because we couldnt afford a sitter and Laura had a big-time inner-city office gig. She and I decided that the zoo would be more enriching for him than the gray confines of a cubicle, and I never minded him tagging along. 

He was an easy kid. If he wasnt wandering around looking at the animals, he was in Tamarinthia playing Pokémon, eyes glued to his GameBoy. I used to fear that that tiny machine, really the only thing that made him happy, was rotting his brain. Even more so when the church threw a fit about Pokémania like it was a coming Cat-5 hurricane. It made him happy, though, and made being a dad easier. 

He used to show me his monsters, blobs of pixels on a hard-to-see screen, and tell me their mishmashed names. He somehow memorized a hundred or so of those franken-words but hated when Id quiz him on the proper nomenclature of the zoos residents. How hard is it to remember saguinus? Ursus? Lupus

Hed take breaks from the game to stare at the tamarins, rubbing his face and questioning the absence of hair. You have all these creatures just like a Pokémon trainer,” hed say to me. I didnt have the heart to tell him that I was more similar to the cleaning lady at this school than to the characters on his GameBoy screen. 

It was 2011 when Tamarinthia started to fade. It was a shit week. At that point, Laura and I had been divorced for a few years. Luke had just turned 17. He was the age to make his own decisions about which parent he spent his time with. He didn t choose me. 

So when the zoo directors, in their stiff black suits and sharp ties, came and spouted a bunch of nonsense at me, I didnt question it. New best-zoo-practices, yadda-yadda, hide unsightly things, create the illusion, bla-bla, immerse the visitors—no—guests. I was relieved to have an excuse to let the ivy climb, to let the bamboo soar. I learned that its true, what they say about bamboo. You can hear it growing if you listen. The first night I spent in Tamarinthia, after the tamarins went to sleep, the sound of the bamboo stretching was so loud I d dreamed I woke up atop a sky-scraping shoot and had to brush the clouds from my beard. 

The second night came soon after. Then the third. The fourth and the fifth. Tamarinthia took me with it. 

About three years after that first night, I stopped leaving the zoo at all. I stopped cleaning. And not too long after that, the zoo mustve thought Id gone missing, quit, or otherwise left this life, as I stopped receiving checks and another janitor, a middle-aged man with fox-fur hair, appeared in my area. They built a mud-hut with a thatched roof, an exotic and ugly fungus-shaped lesion, to be used as the fox-mans new supply shed. 

When Delilah and Drake moved in after the old tamarins died, they helped me adjust to life in the zoo. We learned how to make it work together. They greeted me every morning, said goodnight to me before they tucked each other into bed. I like their company. Humans are social beasts, after all. 


Delilah and Drake wake me up before the sun and their cries mean danger. I jump up, my feet scrape the concrete-slab floor. It can t be the zookeepers, not this early, and it shouldnt be the janitor. Did that snot-nose kid say something? I peek through the crack where the roof meets the walls. 

Its fox-fur, though he looks more vulpes lagopus than vulpes vulpes these days. His hair glows like first-sun snow. Hes got a pair of metal cutters, the silver blades glint in the security lights. 

No way is he going to fuck with my neighbors. 

I stop myself from barging out. So, what? I run out there, give old foxy a good scare, and then? Hed tell someone, for sure, then they d come looking. Better to wait for security, surely they must know. They mustve spotted him coming through the gates. Or maybe he came over the wall? Maybe they didn t see him come in at all. These new, lazy-ass guards tend to keep to their compound over by the leopards. Its been years since they made regular rounds out this way. 

He cuts the chain link, the scrape of the blades is a sound felt in the fingernails. Delilah and Drake s screams grow more shrill, panicked. I slip out the door, ease my way through the bamboo grove. The fox nearly has a hole to slide through. I grab a stray stick and strike. 

The tamarins are quiet. The aftershocks of near disaster. They watch with liquid eyes, comb their mustaches anxiously. Foxy is crumpled on the concrete. His white hair looks redder than ever. Jesus, how hard did I hit him? And why did I hit him on the head? Fuck, Im an idiot. 

Delilah and Drake bow. Thank you, thank you. 

I nudge fox-fur with my foot. He doesnt even twitch. 

Hes probably knocked out, Drake says. 

We wait in silence. The rising sun cuts through the bamboo and sends slashes of light over the fox. It twinkles in the blood. 

I check his wrist. Its cold and still. Rubbery. 

I didnt mean to kill him, just scare him away. 

You protected us. He deserved it. 

You did the right thing. 

I shuffle back to Tamarinthia, curl up on the moldy cushions, and shut my eyes before the zoo starts to whir. The zoo is the quietest at this hour, around 5:30 or so. The nocturnals are settling in and the diurnals are still waking up. No matter how peaceful this hypno-limbo is, my mind wont hush. 


The zookeepers are in a tizzy. They bicker and yell at each other, scold the security guards, cuss the air. Delilah and Drake try to explain what happened, but the khakis dont get it. They are kind to the tamarins, check them for wounds, try to counsel their traumas away. Who protected you? they ask over and over. Who? As if they even had a chance at understanding. 

I can t see all thats happening from Tamarinthia, but I recognize the radio chatter of the police. The zipping sound is harder to place. I decide its the seal of a body bag. The police say, it s like he was clubbed by a gorilla, to which the zookeepers chide, the only large primates at this zoo are the humans

Then what on earth could have done this? 

Id always daydreamed about killing someone. Not because I actually wanted to or anything like that. Ive just got a lot of rage. 

In those fantasies, its never an accident. And I always, always, imagined the persons face when it happens. An understanding blink turns to a questioning frown turns to a crumpled nose turns to an accepting gasp, placid eyes that blur. That s the best part, watching the face. 

I hadnt seen fox-furs face at all, though. I scratch the inside of my palm. There s dried blood. It s a bit disappointing—if I had known I was going to kill him, I would have really done it. I would ve tucked into him like a lioness. 

I pull out my old wallet from under the cushions and pinch the photograph from its trifold. In it, Luke is thirteen years old and stands in front of a span of misty green mountains. It was taken somewhere along the Blue Ridge, I remember, but I cant place the overlook. Somewhere near Mount Pisgah. The date reads APRIL 4 2007. He s grumpy, as he always was at that age. I never understood why. This was before Laura and I started fighting. What did he have to be so sad about? 

I open up the kids granola bar and take a bite. Its gooey, chocolatey. I havent eaten something sweet in months. I chew slowly, letting the oil coat my tongue. If the lions were really his favorite, then wasnt it strange that the kid had a giraffe water bottle and not a lion? I guess we teach them young to settle. 


Despite the zoo being closed, theres too much movement around Tamarinthia for me to move, to even make a sound. A pandemonium of reporters are on the scene parroting each other endlessly. 

Thankful Id already done a bit of foraging the day before, I unravel one-and-a-half hotdogs from the paper bag Id found them in. They re the real deal; the buns are still soft, the mustard and ketchup is still in place. I eat them quietly, pacing my chews with the voices outside. The mustard is a lot tangier than I remember. The café mustve had a contract change or something. 

Whats that shed? The one just over there? 

Hotdog catches in my throat. I stand, trying not to cough. 

Shed? What shed? 

Isnt that what it is? Over in the bamboo? 

Oh, that old thing—it used to be storage or something a long time ago. 

Have the police investigated it? 

Why would the police waste their time poking around an overgrown tool shed when the real matter at hand here is an attempted poaching of two precious tamarins? This is a real problem in America, you realize? These animals are maladjusted to life outside, they belong in the zoo. 

So the man who was trying to poach the monkeys

tamarins, he was a janitor here? 

I ease off the balls of my feet. 

The stick leans against the wall. White hairs knot in the bark near the wide end. It s starting to smell rancid—or maybe it s the hotdogs? 


There are too many guards around for me to leave Tamarinthia so I m forced to reckon with the yellow stain of the prefab walls. From what I can tell from overheard conversations, the zoo has brought on more security, they re going to install new cameras and whatnot. Its funny to me that the khakis and the guards are all so shocked that something like this could happen. People working with animals all day like to draw those lines, I think, between what actions are animal and what actions are human. They forget that humans are capable of so much twisted shit. They forget that theres a reason humans are the ones putting animals in zoos and not the other way around. 

I press my body hard into my bedding. My back and head hurt. My limbs forget their purpose. They feel like jelly. The 6x8 rectangle of mold and dust is growing smaller by the second. 

I used to have so many of Lukes drawings from when he was a kid taped up on the walls. Pictures of animals and Pokémon or strange mash-ups of the two. Tamarinthia was a place for fantastical colors, a temple to his imagination. I shouldnt have thrown them all away. I remember, as I was taking them down, thinking that it was something no parent should do. 

Luke told me he was gay on his seventeenth birthday. 

I made the drive into the city to pick him up from Laura s townhouse. I had to stop for gas on the way. I had planned on taking him out for pizza that night, but that trip to the pump put pizza out of the question. I was so upset about that, not being able to get him pizza, and I prayed that hed be alright eating the frozen Stouffers lasagna that I had at home, but then I remembered hed gone vegan when he was fifteen. I cussed up a storm. It didnt matter anyways—when I arrived at Lauras, she informed me that she had bought him a car, a foreign and hybrid thing, and that he was probably on the way to my apartment already. And so then I cussed her out, too, because she definitely couldve called. It felt like sabotage, though I know that it wasnt. They didnt care enough to think, which hurt a hell of a lot more. 

When I got back to my shit-hole apartment, sure enough, Luke was in the parking lot leaning against a shiny blue car with a Save the Whales sticker freshly pressed to the bumper. I gave him a hug that he squirmed away from. He wasted no time. No, Im not coming in, Im not staying, I just wanted to come tell you in person, Im not coming around anymore, Im done with this, you always make me feel like shit, I dont care how you feel.”I had a million questions, each of which no doubt more artful than the last, but all I could think was that Laura already knew, this was all her doing, yet again shes made me out to be some monster incapable of understanding. I never had a chance. 

I didnt mean to hit him. Or half of the things I said to him that day. 

He push-started his blue car and buzzed out into traffic. The smooth hum of the hybrid engine lacked the finality I expected, that I craved. I at least wanted to hear the pistons firing, something loud to match the groaning in my head, the pain in my fist. Something to make me believe it was real. 

Laura called me that night to tell me something expected: You re an animal. 

I wanted to say Im only human, but hung up the phone instead. 


Voices outside jolt me awake. 

What is that old shack, anyways? 

Some of the old-guard told me it used to be a janitor s shed. Id never even noticed it before all this. 

Do you think that son-of-a-bitch used it? 

Nah, I dont think you can even get to it anymore. He was using that hut by the prairie dogs. 

Dont you think we ought to check it out? 

Delilah and Drake start to call out. I peer through the slats in the door. Everything is fuzzy in the morning light, but I can see them: two guards, standing between the tamarins and the edge of the bamboo grove. 

Better just let it be. I hear managements going to tear it down soon. With all this fuss about the tamarins, theyre thinking this part of the zoo is going to be a lot busier.  

I run my fingers along the wall, following a water stain all the way to the floor. 

When the guards move away, I slip through the grove to see the tamarins. They meet me at the fence. Delilah passes me a sweet potato through the wire, and Drake a carrot. I thank them through mouthfuls. 

Mr. Averett, what will you do? 

I want to stay. Tamarinthia is all I know, its all Ive got. 

But you have to go. Drake scratches at his white handlebars. Youre not like the other humans, Mr. Averett. You smell wild, you smell free. If they catch you in here, theyll hurt you. 

I dont want to leave. Ill find a way, Ill move every night if I have to. I cant go back out there. 

Delilah grabs my thumb through the chain link. Mr. Averett, we want to go, too, we need your help. 

What? Why? I told you, I don t want to leave. You dont know what its like out there. 

Please, Delilah says, I cant take anymore. 

Why do you want to leave so bad? 

She cups a hand over her beanie-baby belly. Drake squints his eyes and flicks his tail. Shes pregnant, he says, last time they took our babies away. Our twins. We cant go through that again—we have to leave before the keepers find out. 

I cough, my throat dry as sand. Where would we go? 

It doesnt matter, Mr. Averett, please—I cant take it anymore.
I dont have any money. 

What if we steal some from the keepers, little by little? They fidget with each others fingers. 

Mr. Averett, the zoo is no place for an animal.


Delilah and Drake try their best to execute the plan. After two days, we realized it wasnt going to work. Turns out khakis carry nothing more than pocket change when theyre on the clock. If I had as much money as them, Id walk around with my pockets bulging twenty-four-seven. I wanted to help the pot by breaking into the gift shop or zoo offices, but with all the extra security, I decided it was impossible. 

So, at the ass-crack of dawn on reopening day, I sneak over to tell Delilah and Drake that todays the day, no matter what. Im going to cut them out just before the gates open, then they ll ride in my backpack all the way to freedom. We have to go today, I explain, before they can get the new cameras in place. Before things get crazy. 

But how will we get out?

Were going right out the front gate. No one recognizes me, no one knows me. 

Delilah casts her hands through the wire and grabs my pinky finger. Well be together, Mr. Averett, no matter where we go. 

I walk away before they can see me cry. 

Back in Tamarinthia, I grab the old backpack from the corner. I had only accumulated a few random objects that were lost but not important enough to be found. The backpack was one of those things; a ratty camo sack that had once belonged to a middle schooler. I leave the rest of the spread on the floor and take one last look at Luke s picture. If I took anything, it would be this, but I know that taking this picture along would be like walking into a clean house with muddy shoes. 

The rumble of cars pulling into the parking lot has already started. Its going to be a busy morning. Everyone trying to get a glimpse of the crime scene. I dont want Delilah and Drake to go through that, to see how the people are more interested in the faded blood stain on the concrete than they are in them. Humans at their worst. 

Wire cutters in hand, I creep through the bamboo, savoring every shoot of it as I go. When we re out of here, I think, we ought to live somewhere with bamboo. Delilah and Drake meet me at the fence, each carrying an armful of produce. 

I didnt tell you to bring food, its going to be too heavy! 

Drake sticks out his chest. I have to provide for my family. The food is non-negotiable. 

Delilah bounces up and down. Cut! Cut! Cut! 

I get to work. The cutters are rusty, it takes a lot of wiggling and squeezing to get through the chain link. I peel back an opening, just big enough for them to slip into the bag. I zip them up and sling them over my shoulder, mindful of Delilah s pregnant belly. 

Its gonna be bumpy, I say as the bell chimes the opening of the gates. Delilah and Drake speak in low growls, excited by the fresh smells. The weight is hard on my spine. 

People look at me. Kids point. Its been so long since Ive been seen by this many people. I wonder how I look; no doubt more interesting to them than any of the animals they d find in these walls. I move forward, holding the right strap tight with both hands. 

Almost to the gate, someone grabs the handle of the backpack. They dont mean to snatch it, but in my near-sprint, thats what it feels like. I fall on the concrete, twist my body to avoid hurting the tamarins. 

The man standing above me is taller than I have ever been. His khaki short-shorts make me think hes a keeper, at first, but his black t-shirt doesnt fit the bill. 


Drake whispers: Whats happening? Mr. Averett, you need to move! 

I dont know. I dont have a clue. 

Who are you talking to?” 

I shake my head. 


The man grabs my arm and pulls me up. Hes got a black mustache, handlebar style, almost as wispy as Drakes. Paul Averett?” 


Its me,” he takes a breath, Luke.” He looks at me with a mix of pity and awe, the same expression he used to look at the zoo animals with. I cant believe it,” he squeezes both of my arms, I thought you were dead. So many years I spent looking for you.” 

I clutch the strap. 

It was like you disappeared, I called the zoo over and over and they said you stopped coming to work. No one knew where to find you.” He fiddles with his mustache. But then I saw the tamarins on the news, I thought maybe I could come back, that Id find you here. I mean, I knew it was a long-shot”—he holds his hands out—“but here you are!” 

I look towards the gate. The crowd floods through. 

Jesus, you havent been taking care of yourself at all, have you?” 

I have to go.” 

He blinks. Huh? No—cant we talk?”

I dash towards the exit and he makes a proper snatch. The rip is a sonic boom. All eyes on us. Delilah and Drake leap to the pavement, veggies and fruit fly through the air and splatter on the ground. The tamarins look from Luke to me, turn to look at the crowd of horrified, gasping faces that surround us. Mouths open, a hundred black holes all ooh-ing. Someone yells from the crowd, Throw him in a cage! Lock him up! The tamarins speak in clicks and squawks, I cant tell what they re saying. 

Luke, pale and huffing, stares at the tamarins. 

I hit the concrete hard with the weight of another body holding me down. A big, built body. Ribs break. That must be the feeling. It s hard to breathe. The body comes undone so easily. It pops apart. 

Delilah and Drake pull at their mustaches. They hiss and bare their fangs. Theyre so loud that people start to run away with their children. The tamarins pound the concrete with their fists, wail to the dome of sky above. I cant understand them. When the khakis come, I look away. 

Luke howls, too, no more intelligible than the tamarins. I cant tell whether hes barking at me or the guard thats crushing me down into the dirty pavement. 

The guard relents. He rolls off of me and pulls me to my feet. The pain. Each breath is a lance through the lungs. Luke holds me on my feet. Cant you see he needs help!?” 

The guard jostles me, hits my arm. You a poacher or one of those commie animal rights people? 

The handcuffs are too big, they knock against my narrow wrists. The guard takes me from Luke, holds me like a dirty napkin. Luke caws like a hawk, a long and warbling note that rings for miles and miles. 

I try to tell him. 

Tamarinthia. Do you remember? Tamarinthia? 

I hope he goes, finds that old picture of him. Finds the bloodied stick. Maybe hell understand. Tamarinthia. I hope Delilah and Drake tell him the story. Theres no way hell understand. 

Will he see it? Tamarinthia? Through all the bamboo and vines? Before they tear it apart? Will he know? I am only human? 



BIO: Addison Hoggard (he/him) is a writer hailing from the rural inner banks of North Carolina. He is interested in questions of home, language, and identity, as well as how those three things clash. He is currently based in Aizuwakamatsu, Japan.