ONE: The Sealkeeper’s Sadness
The sealkeeper’s determination compelled Peter to visit the Gorky Park Zoo every day. During lunch, and sometimes after work, he’d sit on the bench across from the exhibit and study the woman.
He could tell that she shared his daily struggle to get out of bed. She walked like he did—consciously putting one foot out into the world, then the other, convinced that if the next step were not taken, he would stop moving forever.
Yet the keeper carried her burdens with a certainty and grace. Her blue eyes never dimmed or turned gray with disappointment, like his wife’s did. This blue was steadfast—like she had discovered a secret that allowed her to be as comfortable as possible with personal failure or grief. In filthy overalls and rubber boots, she endured life in a way that reminded Peter of Yelena in Uncle Vanya, or Peggy Lee in Is That All There Is?
The keeper disappeared behind a small concrete building, and Peter strolled up to the pen. The biggest animal noticed him and climbed out of the small pool. He swaggered up to the visitor, maneuvering on two enormous front flippers, leaving the smaller hind appendages to sashay from side to side like the train of an elaborate gown. The animal snorted when he reached the chain-link fence.
Such a curious creature, Peter thought. Wet and slick, the animal seemed half dog, half serpent. Large, black eyeballs bulged out of each side of its narrow, v-shaped head. To focus on objects up close, the animal had to lift its chin and turn its face in profile and focus with only one eye. Peter had heard the keeper refer to this animal as “Sputnik.” He looked at the sign on the pen: “Zalophus californianus.” The California sea lion.
“Is it a wonderful place to be from? California?” Peter inquired in English. “How do you like Russia?” He wondered how much of the old Russia—the Soviet Union—the animal had observed or smelled. The animal’s left eyeball quivered in Peter’s direction. Sputnik’s down-turned mouth, were it worn by a human, might signify worry, concern, even alarm. But on a sea lion, what?
“Sputnik! Here! Now!” the keeper called from behind the exhibit. Sputnik cocked his head in his master’s direction, but did not go. Instead, he turned back to the man in the suit and brought a hind flipper up to one side of his belly and scratched it. He studied Peter with an eye that blinked in time with the scratching flipper.
The keeper returned to the pen area. “Move away from the fence,” she commanded of Peter in the same way that she spoke to the animals. “I need to lock him up now.” Peter nodded and backed off. He wondered what she meant by that. Could this animal escape over a ten-foot fence? None of the other animals were being rounded up and put inside the enclosure for the night. He watched as the trainer bribed Sputnik with a dead fish. The two disappeared into the building. He could hear a cage being closed and locked.
Peter looked at his watch. He’d stayed later than usual. But he decided he might as well hang on and wait for the woman to leave. He weighed ideas about how to start a conversation with her as he lit a cigarette and studied the other animals—two small spotted seals and three smaller versions of Sputnik.
“Do you always lock him up at night?” Peter asked, when the keeper finally appeared again.
“That seal. The sea lion. Why is he locked up at night and not the others?”
“Oh,” she said. “It’s mating season. He’s of danger to the others.” She smiled politely and turned in the direction of the park entrance. Though she had changed her clothes, Peter could still smell fish—and worse—on the woman. Nonetheless, he joined her when she began walking.
“How is that,” he asked. “How is he a danger?”
She stopped and looked at Peter crossly, then took a breath and answered softly. “He killed his own pup last year trying to mate again with the female. He gets too rough. And the zoo cannot afford to feed any more animals.” She stopped and began searching in her purse for something. Her skin was ruddy, but otherwise flawless. Like the animals for which she cared, she was robust in size, but not unattractive.
She pulled a bus pass out of her purse. “Excuse me,” she whispered, then turned and walked away.
It didn’t seem to Peter that the sealkeeper’s unhappiness came, like his own, from her job. Anyone in Moscow who still had a job after the fall of the Soviet Union was glad to have it, and it seemed to him that animal keeping was a profession of choice like acting or performing music. Putting out his cigarette and lighting another, Peter fantasized about the woman’s sadness. A drunken boss? Her sick mother? A philandering mate?
Peter hadn’t been much of a husband himself. It wasn’t that he cheated or didn’t provide for his wife and two young sons. His job as a salesman, then manager, at the first Ford dealership in Russia put them in a new privileged class. But that seemed to be the problem. Since he had left the theatre, he began to spend more and more time in bars. Making money made him drink. And drinking made his wife angry. Eventually, she kicked him out of their home. The millennium, not to mention his 50th birthday, approached and he seemed to have little to show for it.
Capitalism was not the miracle drug Peter once believed Russia needed. While men and women, considered too old to work, were forced to live on the streets, he was buying his son expensive basketball shoes with little lights on them. Nothing made sense to him.
Peter first stopped at the zoo to change his daily routine and avoid the bars. Although the psychiatrist he’d been seeing was of little help—the doctor admitted to being more depressed than his patients. He’d wisely advised Peter to quit drinking. The keeper’s grace had kept him from drinking for more than a month now.
Peter put out his cigarette and stared at a small monkey in a tiny, rusted pen. The animal was slamming a stone against the pen floor and trying to peel it as if it were a nut. It stopped and looked up at Peter briefly, then turned away and began sucking on the rock.
The next day Peter timed his lunch hour with feeding time at the seal pen. When the keeper was finished feeding the animals, Peter got up from the bench and called to the woman, “I have some fresh bread and caviar. Please join me.” The woman looked up at him, puzzled and resistant.
“Please? I have to go back to work and it will just spoil if I don’t finish it.”
The keeper walked up to Peter from inside the cage and looked around, then took the sandwich. “Thanks,” she said.
It alarmed Peter that she did not remove her rubber gloves to take his gift. Sputnik, nose up and following the aroma of sturgeon eggs, quickly sashayed over to his keeper, who flipped the food into his twitching mouth. Were Peter feeling better, this might have left him angry. Instead, he accepted the rejection with the same dull pinch he took everything these days.
Plodding back toward his empty apartment, Peter stopped and looked back at the seal pen. An old man had replaced him in front of it. He turned and looked at Peter much in the same bug-eyed but furtive way the pigeons on the street eyed him. Peter glared at the man and walked away. I haven’t got any money for those who beg, he thought. My wife just asked me for a divorce.
The same man was sitting on Peter’s bench when he returned the next day. When he sat, the man got up and strode to the seal pen fence. He said something to the keeper. She laughed and kissed him on the cheek through the fence.
Peter looked down at the lunch he bought, but could not eat and called out to the man. “You! Would you like some bread and caviar?”
“Thank you,” said the man sitting next to Peter on the bench. He smelled like he had no home. He ate all of Peter’s lunch without stopping to breathe. Peter gave him his can of Pepsi.
“Do you know her? The sealkeeper?” Peter asked.
The old man swallowed, nodding. “Yes, I used to work here. Catherine.”
Catherine. Peter committed the name to memory as he watched her in the pen. She’d thrown a ball to Sputnik who was now balancing it on his nose.
After another gulp of Pepsi, the man gestured toward Sputnik. “You know how he does that? He can’t balance the ball on his nose any better than we can. But look closely, at his whiskers.”
Peter got up and walked to the pen. The animal had thick, fir tree, needle-like whiskers that curled at the ends and cradled the ball. Nothing Peter had experienced since the fall of the Soviet Union was as it first appeared.
Sputnik noticed Peter with one eye, dropped the ball and swaggered toward the fence. He dragged with him a huge pile of soft, green scat. The sealkeeper glared at Peter. She had obviously thrown the ball to Sputnik to keep him busy while she cleaned the pen.
“Sorry,” Peter said. He shrugged and moved back toward the old man sitting on the bench.
“Have you known Catherine long?”
“I used to be a custodian here ...but they ran out of money to pay me,” he replied. “I guess I’ve known her for about five . . . ” The man stopped in mid-thought, digging around in the pockets to his worn, wool coat. Peter offered the man a cigarette. The man waved him off, but changed his mind when he saw Peter’s were American. Peter lit it and one for himself.
“Tell me about her. Catherine.”
The man smiled. “She’s not married, if that’s what you mean.”
“No,” Peter said, “I’m more interested in her . . . work.”
The man shrugged. “Sad times, sad times.” he said with a certain melody, as if it were a song refrain. The man finally found what he was looking for and began picking his teeth with a metal paper clip. Peter watched the man pick and spit. Then the man sighed and said, “Who isn’t?”
“She won’t talk to me,” Peter said, without looking at the man. When the man got up, Peter grabbed him by the sleeve. “Wait. I think we . . . the keeper and me . . . we share something . . .” Peter was stunned by his desperate inquiry to a stranger. Nonetheless, he continued. “More than the sadness.”
The man seemed alarmed, or at the very least, surprised. Embarrassed, Peter got up and collected his things. The man took the garbage from Peter. “I’ll handle this,” he said.
“Will you be having lunch here again tomorrow?”
“I’ll see what I can find out.”
It hadn’t occurred to Peter until he returned to the showroom that he didn’t get the man’s name. He was not sure he even told the man his own. But that’s the way things had become for him—rushed and indifferent. He sifted through the mail on his desk and glanced at the business magazines. They carried hundreds of articles and ads about new ventures, which were unimaginable in Soviet times, a year or two ago.
He stared at the photos of the Russians who had quickly prospered. Their exploits were treated with the same gravity as Soviet war heroes once were. But to Peter, they all looked tired and overfed. They seemed boring. Serious, but boring. Peter wondered if he appeared this way to the keeper.
Then, an item in one of the business columns caught his eye. Vladimir Valentin had recently bought and revived a decrepit shipping and fishing fleet out of Vladivostok. Peter owed his success at Ford to this boyhood friend. The Bronco he sold Vlad was his first sale.
He was thrilled to get the job when the small theatre troupe in which he belonged collapsed after the state funding they relied on suddenly disappeared. Peter was certain he got the job because he was the only Russian applicant fluent in spoken and written English. But he was completely in the dark about Ford and cars in general. He’d never owned a car or a driver’s license. When the Americans talked about the Taurus model, Peter thought it very clever of the Americans to name a model after a fierce Russian literary character, Taras Bulba. But when he finally saw the name of the model in print and figured out that it referred to the astrological sign, he was thankful that he never brought it up with his American colleagues. They often laughed at him when he said something naïve about cars or business. Embarrassed by his ignorance, Peter eventually memorized the words in every Ford Motor Company brochure as if they were the lines for King Lear.
TWO: Master of Distraction
He was sweeping the showroom floor when Vlad came to buy his Bronco. At seven feet tall and more than 300 pounds, the Cossack blocked the sunlight pouring through the showroom’s glass doors. Startled by the sudden eclipse, Peter turned and dropped his broom.
“Vladimir Valentin,” he managed. “Come in. Come in!”
Vlad had to bend over to fit through the door. Then he entombed his boyhood friend in a hug.
“Pyotr! What? You are working here?”
“Yes, a few months now.” The old friends conversed in English, a tradition they had kept since they learned the language, side by side, in a Moscow grade school.
Vlad wore a rustic goatskin vest over a Levi’s western shirt and jeans. His head was wrapped in a mink Cossack’s hat as big and elaborate as an imperial crown. He took a carton of Marlboros from an inside vest pocket and pulled out a pack. Wads of American dollars followed, fluttering to the floor. Vlad was no stranger to American money and cigarettes. Before everything changed, he had been one of the Soviet Union’s most notorious and elusive black marketers.
Peter gathered the bills from the floor. Vlad lit two cigarettes at once, and then stuffed one between his friend’s lips. Peter nodded with appreciation. He wasn’t making enough money yet to buy American.
The two men smoked in silence. As glad as he was to see Vlad, Peter was uneasy about him showing up out of the blue, especially at his place of business. Vlad wondered if his friend’s position at Ford would make any difference in the transaction that brought him to the showroom.
Finally, Vlad spoke. “So, when we last see each other?” His English was never as good as Peter’s.
Vlad shrugged. His shoulders reminded Peter of mountains.
“Tell me . . . how is your mother,” Peter inquired, “Your father?”
“Fine, fine,” said Vlad. “They live on my ranch.”
“A ranch? Where?”
“In the Caucasus. You should visit sometime.”
Peter nodded and hoped his friend would offer him another Marlboro.
“Galina? Your son,” Vlad inquired.
“We have two boys now,” Peter answered, wondering if Vlad had ever married.
“I’m surprised to find you here,” Vlad said. “I’ve never known you out of the theater. Ever since you were a little boy . . . “
Vlad shrugged again and began to wander the showroom, studying the models. When he reached the Bronco, he opened the door and climbed in. The suspension grunted.
“The Ford Bronco,” Peter announced, slipping into the passenger seat.
“I know,” said Vlad, running his fingers over the steering wheel. He put his cigarette out in the pristine ashtray, lit another two Marlboros and gave one to his friend.
Peter made a mental note to clean out the ashtray before his boss got back from lunch. “Uh, what are you doing now?”
“Capitalism is crushing the Black Market,” said Vlad. “But, still a little . . . here and a little there . . . ” He looked around the showroom to confirm that he and his friend were alone. “I’ve had several new businesses. For a while I sold adventure to bored Americans.”
“Adventure,” Peter mumbled, then cleared his throat. “What do you mean?”
“Polar bear hunting expeditions . . . rides on nuclear subs . . . ”
“Nuclear subs? How did you manage that?”
“I didn’t,” grunted Vlad. “I sold them the ride. They never saw the sub.”
Vlad put his second cigarette out in the Bronco’s ashtray and crumpled up the empty pack. When his friend opened the carton again, Peter gestured toward the American currency.
“But you seem to be doing very well.”
“Not really.” Vlad pulled a few bills out of the carton and gave them to Peter. “Half are bad. Look—President Grant’s head is too big for his shoulders, and this paper is cheap.” He grunted. “Nothing can ever be done right in Russia. Nothing.” Vlad lit another cigarette. Peter noticed that he smoked only half of each. “But things will get better. Soon I will have my currency printed in China.”
Vlad offered Peter another cigarette, but Peter waved him off. He was beginning to wonder if the experienced con man was really surprised to find him at Ford. He began to shake as he thought about what Vlad might have come to the dealership to do. He decided to change the subject.
“Ever check out the sound system?” He slapped a cassette he carried in his suit pocket into the dashboard player. A passage from On the Steppes of Central Asia began. “Dolby,” Peter noted. Cigarette smoke swirled in time to the melodious music. Vlad began moving his hands in the air as if conducting the Bolshoi orchestra. “Imagine,” Peter boomed, “listening to a fine recording of On the Steppes of Central Asia on the steppes of Central Asia!”
Vlad laughed. Peter turned down the volume. “Eh, I’d suggest we go for a ride,” said Peter. “But as you can see, I am the only employee here.”
“No need,” said Vlad. “I have driven Bronco before.”
“You have?” Peter marveled. “What did you think?”
“Nice ride. How much do you want for it?”
“Uh, Rubles? Foreign?”
“American!” Vlad snorted.
Peter jumped out of the car and consulted the window sticker. “Eh, it’s fully . . . loaded . . .” Suddenly, the sales brochures Peter had memorized as if they were scripts gushed out of his mouth. “With tax and our very reasonable maintenance packages that will keep your mind at ease, $45, 575.06—American, of course.”
Vlad got out of the Bronco. His face registered no expressions as he fingered the vehicle’s frame. Peter opened the hood. “It’s got multiple valve arrangement that promotes high flow breathing and rapid burn combustion for a higher power output.” Vlad joined his friend under the hood, then moved away to study the frame some more.
“Rack and pinion steering, power disk brakes, firm front sports seating designed to hold occupants in place, especially when cornering,” Peter said, dropping the hood. “Listen to that. Solid steel!”
“Okay,” Vlad said, pulling two packs of Marlboros out of the carton and handing them to Peter. The big man emptied his carton of the cash and began counting it out on the hood.
“Uh, let’s go into the office,” Peter said in the smoothest way he could. He was too new to have known what to do next. He would try to stall Vlad until the Americans returned.
Vlad followed Peter into his office and resumed counting the money.
“Emm, can I get you any tea?”
“No,” said Vlad. “I’m in hurry.”
Vlad sorted the bills in two piles—one counterfeit, one not. Dollar bills looked so small in his hands. When he finished, he took one of the piles and began counting out loud in hundred, then fifty-dollar bills, organizing piles of a thousand dollars each and counting out loud.
“One hundred two hundred, three hundred, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine hundred, one thousand. One, two, two fifty, three, four, five fifty, six . . .” Vlad’s voice trailed off as Peter carefully eyed the bills. In time, Vlad filled the desk with piles and then began laying them out on the floor, still counting.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine . . . that’s ten thousand.” Vlad took some more bills from the Marlboro carton and carefully examined one. He looked at Peter and shook his head. “Bad bill,” he said stuffing it into his pants pocket. “Now, where was I?”
Peter anxiously watched the dealership door and went through several desk drawers before he found the sales papers he needed. He neatly arranged them more than once before Vlad finished counting. Finally, Vlad sat down on the floor in the middle of the ring of money piles and lit another cigarette. It bounced from the tip of his lips as he spoke.
“What a pain in ass, huh?” Vlad said. “I’ll be glad when I get my American Express card.” Peter handed his friend an ashtray. “America stopped printing their thousand dollar bills in 1969.” He sat back on an elbow and blew a smoke ring. “Can you imagine how big our pants would bulge if Russia stopped printing thousand ruble notes?”
Peter laughed, but only because his friend had.
“An old lady would need Bronco just to carry enough money for dozen eggs!” Vlad cackled at his own joke then rounded up all the cash and handed it to Peter. He studied the pile in Peter’s arms and gestured toward it.
“Here, let me have one of those hundreds back . . . just for a moment. I want to show you something . . . another imperfection.”
Peter handed the bill to Vlad, who neatly lined it up with the bill from his pants pocket. “See? On this bill, Benjamin Franklin is smiling. On this one, he is not. Which one do you prefer?”
This was beginning to feel to Peter like the shell games the young Vlad once proffered in Moscow subway stations. He studied the bills. He really had no idea, but there was something goofy about Ben Franklin’s teeth in the smiling image, so he chose the other.
“Very good, my friend. Very good.” Vlad handed the valid currency back to Peter with one hand and put out his other hand. “Now, the keys?”
“Oh, yes . . . but you still need to sign some papers.”
“You sign them for me, okay?”
Before Peter could answer, his American colleagues returned.
“I think I just sold the Bronco,” Peter whispered to his boss, who was examining the piles of cash as if the piles were produced in an archeological dig.
After the papers were signed, Vlad insisted that his longtime friend ride out of the showroom with him. At the edge of the street Peter got out and Vlad shoved some hundreds in his pocket. “These are for you. Galina and your kids. Just don’t flash them around any Americans or anyone else who may be smart enough to notice that Mr. Franklin is smiling.”
Peter stared at the counterfeits. He’d never use them.
“I wish you the best of luck, my friend,” Vlad said. “And remember—no one ever smiles on the face of money. No Czars. No Presidents. Not the Queen of England.”
Vlad’s purchase had included more service contracts than he could use. But he never showed up at the dealership again. Peter assumed that his old friend was, as usual, on the lam. The last contact he had had with him was by phone, about a year before Galina kicked him out of the house. Vlad mentioned something about being sued by an armless Texan over a polar bear hunting incident.
Peter stared at Vlad’s portrait in the magazine. Vladivostok was probably a good place for him to hang out. The new government in Moscow had so much on its plate that a maritime business four thousand miles away was well beyond the reach of much scrutiny.
Peter tore out the page containing Vlad’s Pacific Coast address and threw the rest of the magazine in the trash. Maybe he could take a vacation with his boys. Perhaps the summer train-ride across Siberia. They could spend some time on the coast, maybe see Vlad’s fleet of ships, and then fly back to Moscow in time for the boys to resume school. Peter took the page to the showroom receptionist and asked her to make a Rolodex card for Vlad. That was the only business he transacted that afternoon.
The next morning Peter awoke from an anxious dream about a Mustang without headlights that would only move in reverse. Cold and dark outside, it was impossible to discern what time or day it was, or even which season. He thought about burying himself under the covers and calling in sick, but the promise he had made to himself to keep one foot moving in front of the other once again succeeded in getting him out of bed. He turned on the T.V. and learned that it was the 29th of April. Out of his window it looked more like October. The sky was gray and heavy wind had blown what few leaves the trees had already produced to the icy streets. He’d need his winter coat. He had some black tea and took a shower. As usual, he thought about the sealkeeper and now, the old man.
On his way to work Peter noticed an old woman in the park, lying flat out on her stomach. At first he thought she was dead, but as he inched toward her she drew her hands up and rested her left cheek on them. She wasn’t covered with newspapers or old blankets like most of the people Peter never imagined he would ever see on the streets of Moscow.
It was early, but a nearby American designer fashion store was already open. The only warm thing he could find there was a long, black sequin-trimmed Angora sweater on the sale rack. He purchased the sweater and turned down the offer of a shopping bag. On his way through the park, he bit off the plastic cord to the price tag, spit it into the grass and left the paper tag to the wind. When he draped the elegant garment over the woman’s shoulders, she registered no acknowledgement. He also felt nothing.
By mid-day, heavy fits of rain pounded Moscow. Peter was exhausted from helping one of his new salespeople dicker with an old woman over an economy model. The woman knew what she wanted within ten minutes of coming through the doors, but the deal took three hours to close because she didn’t understand the point of maintenance contracts. “It’s a new car,” she bellowed. “I don’t expect it to fall apart!”
“It’s an investment,” Peter countered. “Don’t you want to spend a little more to protect your investment?”
“No!” she screeched, convinced that she was being cheated. Then she slammed her umbrella on the car’s hood so hard, she dented it. Peter gave up, even though the contract was required. He couldn’t give the woman her keys and get her out the door fast enough.
At noon he bundled up, borrowed an umbrella and headed for the zoo, stopping on the way to buy two cups of cabbage soup to go. The old man was there, trying to keep dry under the canopy of the ancient pine behind the bench at the seal exhibit. Handing the man a cup of soup, he said, “My name is Peter.”
“Yuri,” said the man. “Thank you for this. Bless you.” Peter took a sip of his soup. It was still hot enough to burn his tongue. But Yuri took the lid off his cup and impatiently held it out in the rain. His face disappeared behind the steam as he drank the whole cup in one swallow. Peter sipped and stared at the seals—probably the only creatures in Moscow indifferent to the foul weather. Sputnik swam fast circles in the small pool as the others slept on the pavement in the freezing rain.
“They want to kill him.” Yuri said, gesturing towards Sputnik. “He’s too big. He eats too much. He’s a nuisance. He killed a baby sea lion last year. But the management of this place isn’t any better. Just last week, they killed an old elephant with an infected feet. Shot her. Not because they couldn’t heal her, but because they couldn’t afford the medicine.” The zoo’s director hired a butcher to hack the animal to pieces and haul it away. “Catherine knows they sold the meat and is afraid they will do the same with Sputnik,” Yuri added. “Sometimes she sleeps here at night, right next to the cage.”
“Why don’t they just find another zoo for him?”
“No one wants him. She’s cared for him since he was about a year old,” Yuri said. He swept the inside of the soup cup with his tongue for any remaining traces of fat, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Thank you,” he said to Peter. “Did I thank you?”
A figure in a dark green slicker and rubber pants and boots rounded the corner with a bucket. Face obscured by the slicker hood, it would have been impossible to tell if it was a man or woman, but Peter immediately recognized Catherine’s gait. She opened the cage door and dumped a bucket of fish into the pool. All the seals rushed in. At first Sputnik barked at the others in a vain attempt to protect his territory, then he focused on snapping up as many fish as he could before the others got any. At one point, he stole one right out of the mouth of one of the spotted seals. A small fish flew out of the pool in the frenzy. Catherine picked it up and skillfully slid it into the spotted seal’s mouth.
The way she stood, with her arms around the bucket against her stomach, reminded Peter of the way his wife Galina had once held each of their two sons in her burgeoning belly. A tear joined the puddle of rainwater at his feet. When he looked up again, Catherine was moving slightly, her shoulders jerking up and down in small fits, shuddering, laughing softly, or crying. Peter couldn’t tell which.
That afternoon he hatched a plan.
Vlad returned Peter’s call a few days later and Peter rushed to the zoo with the news. “I have a friend,” he told Catherine, his hands holding her shoulders so tightly she must have thought him a madman, “he can take Sputnik back to California!”
“California?” Catherine managed. “Why?”
“To save him,” Peter said, “Yuri told me—“
“Are you insane?” Throwing her arms up, she burst from Peter’s grasp. He took a step back—in awe of the sad woman’s fury.
“They don’t want him,” she howled. “There are too many Zalophus in zoos already. I’ve tried. I’ve tried . . . he was taken from where he belonged and now there is no going back!” She dissolved in tears.
Peter understood the sealkeeper’s frustration and wanted to embrace and console her. Instead, he took another step away from her. If she rejected him one more time, he was afraid he would never try to comfort her again.
Sputnik sat by the pool with his head cocked to one side, one earflap slightly lifted, as if he knew they were discussing his fate. Peter left the zoo. Where in the world, he wondered, would Sputnik—or he—ever be wanted or needed again?
Read the rest of Neon Promises at: https://writeon.amazon.com/read/story/Denize_Springer_NEON_PROMISES/amzn1.ignite.story.21d9185c63ee4de7e0530100007f4b03?ref_=ign_s_rt_st_1&segment=amzn1.ignite.segment.21d9185c63f04de7e0530100007f4b03
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