A story by Mark Smith (part 6/7)
So I ended up living on the street in the back of a small truck. I had a friend who owned the truck, and he agreed to swap his truck for my car for two weeks. The truck had no facilities at all except that it was enclosed. I slept in my sleeping bag in the back on the metal frame. There was just room enough for me and my belongings. To take showers, I used the sports facilities at San Diego State University. US universities generally don’t lock everything in sight up like KTH does, and in appearance I fit right in, so it was easy to do. I brushed my teeth and shaved at the local McDonalds every morning. The most uncertain part was that it was illegal to live in a car on the street in San Diego, and if I got caught by the cops it would not have turned out well. I ended up parking the truck on the street next to the University where all the fraternity houses were. The kids who lived there partied continuously, and the city police generally avoided going down the street near them because they might see things that would be hard for them to ignore. So I slept in the truck there. It was noisy and not very comfortable, but it wasn’t so bad for two weeks. The frat rats in one of the houses ended up adopting me, but only in the evenings. They would sometimes come out and we would sit around in their front yard and talk. I never saw the inside of the house.
One unexpected benefit was that the keepers in the snake and lizard house totally approved of my truck. Trucks were good. Trucks were manly. Especially that one which was dented and rusty and looked like something one would go out hunting or fishing in. I was OK with them after that.
I guess I should tell how the internship ended. In thinking about it, the ending fit perfectly into the entire summer. Not that the summer had been bad. Except for my run-ins with various military minded people, working at the zoo had been good. I loved the animals, or at least most of them. But I hadn’t finished what the internship had hired me to do. I was really worried about that, and it was hard for me to work on anything or read anything in the evenings because I was living in the truck.
After the dragons destroyed their new digs and the curator asked me to try out the devices that the dragons were supposed to swallow on the Water Monitors, I knew that I had to do that. It helped salvage things for me because after the dragons’ enclosure got wrecked I felt that I had totally failed somehow. There wasn’t anyway to use what I had done or even show that it maybe worked. But now I had the Water Monitors. Compared to the dragons, the monitors were friendly. They mostly just sunbathed all day, but at food time, which was only about once a week, they would gather around their keeper while he fed them. You’d never do that with the dragons. The monitor keeper didn’t have to wear armor or worry about being eaten. The monitors could move much faster than the dragons even though they were still pretty big. I was supposed to feed one of them a transmitter I had built that would wirelessly send what the temperature inside of the lizard was. The environment inside of a giant lizard is pretty rough, and we didn’t know if the transmitter would get dissolved, or if the batteries would leak or what. The trick now was to get one of the monitor lizards to swallow it.
I shouldn’t have worried. It was too easy. I tied the transmitter up in one of the monitors’ food items which was a large dead rat. I then went into the Monitors’ enclosure. The keeper was there happily washing out the enclosure with a hose. All the enclosures had hoses and huge drains for washing everything out. The drains had covers which were there to prevent leaves and other bigger stuff from going down the drain, and the keeper was cleaning all that away too. I remember he smiled and waved when I came into the enclosure with my transmitter inside of the rat. Then the monitors saw me and the rat, and they came running. There were a lot of them, and I only had one rat. Bad idea. I gave it to the first monitor who reached me, but the others were right behind and they got into an incredible fight. The keeper came running with the water hose to try to break it up, but the monitor with the rat had gotten away and was running with all the others behind. It ran right around the keeper who had not had a chance to put the cover back over the drain. Yeah. The Water Monitor ran into the drain and disappeared. Rat, transmitter, and all.
I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure I was going to get into horrible trouble. I had caused the unthinkable! A zoo escape!
Stay tuned for Part 7, the end of the story!