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Chapter 76
I got into the habit of cleaning up after Richard Parker. Assoon as I became aware that he had had a bowel movement,I went about getting to it, a risky operation involving nudginghis feces my way with the gaff and reaching for them from thetarpaulin. Feces can be infected with parasites. This does notmatter with animals in the wild since they rarely spend anytime next to their feces and mostly have a neutral relationshipto them; tree dwellers hardly see them at all and land animalsnormally excrete and move on. In the compact territory of azoo, however, the case is quite different, and to leave feces inan animal's enclosure is to invite reinfection by encouraging theanimal to eat them, animals being gluttons for anything thatremotely resembles food. That is why enclosures are cleaned,out of concern for the intestinal health of animals, not to sparethe eyes and noses of visitors. But upholding the Patel family'sreputation for high standards in zookeeping was not myconcern in the case at hand. In a matter of weeks RichardParker became constipated and his bowel movements came nomore than once a month, so my dangerous janitoring washardly worth it from a sanitary point of view. It was foranother reason that I did it: it was because the first timeRichard Parker relieved himself in the lifeboat, I noticed that hetried to hide the result. The significance of this was not lost onme. To display his feces openly, to flaunt the smell of them,would have been a sign of social dominance. Conversely, tohide them, or try to, was a sign of deference – of deference tome.
I could tell that it made him nervous. He stayed low, hishead cocked bac............
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