Published by KYSO Flash in April 2017
She rouses first, puts on a robe, sits up in bed. “Do you mind?” Taking his sated groan for assent, she reaches for the remote, snaps on the set. “Look, George, zebras! A huge herd.”
He opens an eye. It is a BBC nature program. The sonorous voice of David Attenborough accompanies a huge herd of zebras, a kaleidoscope of undulating black and white stripes against a sere landscape of ocher sand and azure sky. The collective noun comes to him: A dazzle of zebras. Perfect. An almost hypnotic chiaroscuro oscillation.
“Good,” he says drowsily, patting her swollen belly.
She insists; he props up on an elbow just as a stallion mounts a mare; the camera catches the enormous cock. He feels his arouse again.
His interest is aroused too. Mensa members, he tells himself, love to learn. He sits up, folds her under his arm, and they watch. In the next few minutes, a lion kills catches the stallion when it wanders away from the others, and kills it. The zebras shoulder together defensively, but do not intervene. Within a few days, the mare finds another mate to protect her. Soon, swollen-bellied, she joins the massive dazzle in a thousand-mile trek across Africa seeking forage and water.
Before reaching their destination, she delivers. Then a lesson in survival of the fittest: Males’ instinct is to nurture only their own seed. Her new stallion stomps her foal to death. The camera eye does not blink at the gore. The mare tries to rescue it, but cannot.
Carol turns her face into his chest. “Oh my God, George! Brutal. Turn it off!”
Mesmerized, he lets the television play. The other zebras, impassive, unmoved by her loss, plod on; the mare has no choice but to join them. The fruit of her loins, now carrion, will feed the vultures and hyenas.
George pats his wife’s shoulder with vague, distracted reassurance. They have been together five months. They met at a concert, went to her apartment. Met again. A week later, she was pregnant. Now they are happily married.
There had been others, she acknowledged at the beginning, but never said how recently.
He wonders: What if the baby doesn’t look like him? Isn’t as smart as he is?