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Meerkats

Saturday night, Brent and I went to the San Francisco Zoo. It smelled of popcorn and warm sugar. Whistling ducks actually whistled. Tiger cubs wrestled for custody of a red plastic ball. We traded shiny golden tokens for a spin on the carousel. Small pirates threatened to careen into my knees with their glowing swords, purchased by parents seeking—and finding—glowing small faces. I stayed up past my bed time.

The meerkats, however, did not. For once, they relaxed their vigilance and slept in a soft pile of cuteness. Their usual plots to escape dreamed in their little skulls until morning, when the urge to continually survey the area for threats, to dig with frantic urgency, and to stretch out into long exclamation marks of fur would waken refreshed and ready for another busy day.

The meerkats are my favorites. I do love the behaviors that I anthropomorphize as semi-paranoid. They act like members of some resistance movement, always glancing over their shoulders and giving secret handshakes. They are up to something and it probably involves escape.

They also know how to play. All that careful watching is likely to erupt into the kind of behavior that gets kids sent outside so as not to damage the furniture or mark the walls. This is where they differ, I imagine, from their human counterparts: some of those party members seem pretty grim.

Now, maybe if they were furry and cute…

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