Children bustled past Albert, scarlet balloons bobbing excitedly in their wake. Albert however was focused once more on his battered pocket watch. He had only an hour or he could bid farewell to the city of angels.
Albert was having one of those days, weeks in fact, existences if truth were told. Yet this morning things had taken an upturn when the phone of Albert’s Menagerie of Marvelous Creatures rang for the first time in months. Albert listened earnestly to the impatient voice reeling off a list of requirements for the film Aladdin and his Lamp. Typically Albert managed to drop his pen, abandoning the phone as he scrabbled under his desk. By the time he returned the line was dead. Yet Albert cared little, he had a list he could fulfill! Today was the day he got his break in a city filled with broken people.
That afternoon Albert ushered his asthmatic camel, the limping stallion and the incontinent donkey onto the set. Thankful that (a) no one had noticed the limp and (b) that, Albert aside, the rest of the gathered crew were bite and spittle free. Albert coerced his herd onto a nearby sand dune and under the light of a thousand candles waited. Finally the director Mr Capellani, short and clouded in a permanent cigar fug, wandered onto the set. He eyed Albert’s stock with a stern gaze causing the donkey to empty its bowels noisily onto the dune.
‘Where is my centrepiece?’ Capellani screeched in a voice laden with pepperoni.
‘Centrepiece?’ Albert replied.
Mr Capellani, then Mr Capellani’s assistant, his assistant’s assistant and then several producers all explained, with bursting veins and flailing hands that they were lacking the one thing they needed. And if Albert wanted to work in this town again he’d get it.
Albert scaled the zoo fence, wavering at the top before vaulting into the enclosure, lasso in one hand, a raw steak in the other. All he needed was to be confident, animals respected confidence.
Christ the lion was bigger close up.
The screams of the children drowned out Albert’s as red balloons floated into a clear blue sky.