The author (Thomas French) of this new book Zoo Story was on Dennis Prager’s radio show last week:
He’s in his den in the night house. He wants one of his favorite keepers, Andrea Schuch, to show him a little skin. Nothing too explicit. Just a glimpse of her shoulder.
Andrea knows Herman has no control over these impulses. As far as she’s concerned, it costs her nothing to make him happy.
“Then we go on with our lives,” she says.
How many human females express similar sentiments about their husbands? Just let him have what he wants, and everyone can continue with their day.
Only Herman is not human. And not all the female primate keepers are comfortable being regarded as a sex object by a chimp. They adore Herman. But please. There are limits.
“It makes me crazy,” another keeper tells Andrea. This other keeper is blond. Herman has a special thing for blonds.
Andrea smiles. “It is a little crazy,” she admits.
The other keeper says she ignores Herman’s requests.
“I don’t like to encourage that kind of behavior.”
Lee Ann Rottman, who has known Herman longer than any of the keepers, does not make a big deal of Herman’s quirks. Of all the animals in the zoo, the curator loves Herman the most. She admires his kindness. She notices how he watches out for the others in his group – his acceptance of the lowly Bamboo, the way he puts up with the brattish behavior of Alex, the adolescent.
“Herman,” says Lee Ann, “is a gentle soul.”
At the end of a hard day, she sits in the night house and pours her heart out to him.
“If I could meet a man like Herman,” she says, “I would marry him.”