Travel Thursday: The Girl With Three Left Feet, Part 5

While we waited for the museum to close, with me having nothing to do but answer her occasional absent-minded mutterings as she caught up on ignored work, I ruminated on things I’d put on my brain’s back burner the last couple of weeks. Like the news item that some students had invented an alarm clock that monitored the user’s brainwaves and worked out the best time to wake you up. I didn’t know how good an idea that was: what if the damned thing thought the best time for me to wake was around four? Or noon, on a day I had to be at work by nine? Plus having to wear a headband equipped with electrodes tended to get in the way of romance. . .
No better wake-up than the way Shan had done this morning, of course; you’d think students would know that, but if they were the scientist egghead type. . . wait a minute, Shan was the scientist egghead type.
I glanced over, but she hadn’t been able to read my mind this time.
A possibly better, and certainly funnier, idea was the alarm that rang and then ran away and hid, so that the sleeper had to get up to turn it off. No snooze button there, but considering how slowly some people woke up, they might be late for work by the time they chased the little critter down. And the batteries would run down quickly. . .
I was startled out of my reverie of imagining my little travel alarm skittering away on tiny sneaker-soled feet by her sudden jump out of her chair. “Time to go!”
I grinned as I realized I’d successfully distracted myself long enough, but that didn’t last as we went out, especially when the elevator door opened. “I knew it.”
“Museums are fuckin’ creepy in the dark. Scary.”
She laughed.
“Hey, I saw a vampire movie that was filmed here. I didn’t think reality would be worse, but it is.”
“Think about the blonde in that movie. You’ll feel better.”
I brightened, more than she’d hoped, so she smacked my shoulder to bring me down.
“Typical female, scientist or not. Playing both sides.”
“You’re talking your way out of sex, buddy.”
“With some women that might be true, not with you.”
“So that’s the downside of letting a guy know me so well!” she mourned.
“Yeah, now I know you watch vampire movies. That ‘Enchanted April’ crap you tried to pull last time–”
“I’m versatile in my viewing habits!”
There were other things she was versatile in, but it wouldn’t do me any good to mention that now. Maybe later. “Hey, As long as we’re here, let’s go borrow the gold exhibit.”
“Vault’s probably closed,” she grinned.
“Gold’s not in the vault.”
“True.” She still had her downloaded notes in her pocket, so she checked. “More than two thousand gem and mineral specimens are on view in the Gem and Mineral Hall.”
“Good name for it. Couldn’t they find a jewelry store to sponsor it, like everything else here?”
“My office isn’t sponsored.”
“I’ll call Hustler.”
“Ha ha. The hall features one of the largest gold exhibits in the world, and includes over three hundred pounds of natural gold along with gold mining artifacts and other memorabilia.” Patting me on the shoulder, she soothed, “All that gold would be too heavy to carry out.”
“You’d like the gems more anyway, right?”
“Abso-tively! The walk-through Hixon Gem Vault–see, that one’s sponsored!–houses such spectacular treasures as exquisite star rubies, emeralds and sapphires.”
“Emeralds are so much better than diamonds.”
She beamed. “Glad you agree! Now steal some of those to match my eyes.”
“Your eyes are already emeralds.”
“Party pooper.”
“Besides, there’s probably a permanent guard there.”
“You were thinking of checking it again?”
“Not really. Too deep into the museum, especially since no one saw the guy running through the halls.”
“With that reasoning,” she pointed out, “he probably wouldn’t have gotten to the second floor.”
“Still. . .”
“What is it you don’t want to check out again up there?”
Knowing she shouldn’t have bothered trying to fool me, she mentioned the bird exhibit. “It was spooky even in the daytime.” She checked the papers. “Begun with two hundred fifty specimens in 1913–”
“Right when it opened? First curator musta loved the feathery things.”
“The Museum’s ornithological collection now numbers more than 104,000 birds, including more California condors than any other institution in the world. Yippee!”
“But that wasn’t the exhibit. Doesn’t that one have a name and/or sponsor?”
“Probably not a sponsor, but someone who loved birds enough to donate enough money to get it built.”
“Like a guy donated to have gems in a vault?”
“That is kinda weird. Here it is! Animated birds, three walk-through habitats and twenty-seven separate learning stations are featured in the popular Schreiber Hall of Birds.”
“Ah, Schreiber, I knew her well.”
“I’m not Horatio, and how’d you know it was a woman?”
“Don’t know this Schreiber, and the only one I do know is a woman. Nice Shakespeare catch, by the way, Little Miss Scientist.”
She looked proud of herself. “More than five hundred birds from around the world are on display. Didn’t seem like all that many.”
“You didn’t go into the treetops.”
“Oh yeah, I was flirting with those tourists.”
“The birds could learn lessons from you.”
She didn’t know where I was going with that, but had to of course pretend she did. “I thought we were going straight to Ken’s clue.”
“Yeah, let’s do that. Do you know where it is?”
“Um. . . no. In one of the animal exhibit halls, obviously, but I don’t remember seeing it.”
“Great, the biggest exhibit space, just what my legs need.”
The halls with the animals were even more spooky, so we refrained from speaking. . . until I ruined it with, “That silverback is staring at me!”
She turned quickly, then just as fast jumped behind me. “Shit, he is!”
“It’s gonna be a long night. . .”
And it was, with plenty of surprises, like the chimps on the ceiling that neither of us had noticed before. I had spotted the doors in the dark corridors by the lonely stairs that might lead to the animal enclosures, though there might be corridors behind them too; I’d forgotten to ask. Though I couldn’t mention that, or else I wouldn’t be able to continue joking about her kudu thing. {It should not be considered hypocrisy by any means.}
“Isn’t it kinda funny how some of the animals are behind glass and others in the open?”
“And it’s not the dangerous ones behind glass,” I smirked, pointing to the lion. “Ah, look there on the wall near the floor.”
“What am I looking for? Oh, that little round thing?”
“Yeah, looks like a sensor. But it’s so low it’d be easy enough to step over. . . unless they’re expecting that and the real alarm is higher–”
“Okay, that’s a never-ending argument. Check out that Arabian oryx thing.”
I squinted to read the plaque in the dim light. “From Arabia, supposedly the foundation for the myth of the unicorn. Hey, this should be your favorite animal.”
She put her fists on her hips. “Am I that much of a girly-girl?”
She squealed, clapped her hands together near her chest like a cheerleader, and snuggled up to me. “You really DO know me!”
I gave her a little smack on the ass to keep it from getting too romantical, and also because she had a really cute squeal I wanted to hear again.
A few minutes later we reached the huge bison exhibit at the end. “Good thing we don’t have to search all of that thing,” she muttered. “Is that real dust or just light-brown carpet?”
“Be glad they didn’t go too realistic and put browner stuff on the floor.”
“Yeech! Downside of animals, huh?”
“Not too many hundreds of years ago it was the same for humans.”
She didn’t see any reason to answer that, so we stayed quiet for a few minutes, until she proclaimed, “Standing is tiring too. Let’s start back.”
We’d been up and down just about every corridor and stairway sometime during this long day, and this one more than once, so I was starting to drag again. Her natural perkiness, however, was making up for whatever her volleyball thighs had lost. And her natural clumsiness, which had so far not been evident during the day, came back with a vengeance as she leaned forward to frown at something in the leopard exhibit when she took a header into it. Finding herself unhurt, she heaved a heavy sigh of relief as she kneeled up and stretched, accidentally hitting the feline’s ass, but not enough to knock it over. “I spanked the kitty,” she giggled.
“Sounds naughty. How loud did you scream?”
It took her a while to get it, then she blushed. “Not THAT!”
From there we enjoyed the comfortable silence as we continued walking down the long hall, then passed through the connector to the other side of the exhibit. The little dome at the top of the connecting hall made me think vampires would love to roost there, and I was too done in to get any help from the blonde in the movie, but as long as I didn’t hear any flapping wings. . .
“Maybe grandpa was just being poetical about the kudu thing, greater or not,” she groused, “cuz I don’t remember any such name.”
“I suppose we can press every eye in the damned place,” I muttered, trying to keep on topic.
And suddenly, there it was. . .
In an appropriately hushed and reverential tone, Shannon actressed, “The gosh durn thang do exist!”
Needing to control my excitement, curiosity, and for some reason mounting horniness, all at once, I took a deep breath and read the educational board in front of the exhibit. “The greater kudu is considered by many to be the most handsome of the tragelaphine antelopes, which includes the bongo, eland, nyala, bushbuck and sitatunga.”
“Well, what else need be said?” she sarcasted, a little nastily.
“Kudus, both the greater kudu and its close cousin the lesser kudu, have stripes and spots on the body, and most have a chevron of white hair on the forehead between the eyes.”
She checked the dead animal in front of her; yep so far.
“Greater and lesser kudu males have long, spiral horns. Yeah, watch out for those, you ballerina, you.”
She spared a moment to show me her favorite finger.
“These beautifully shaped horns have long been prized in Africa for use as musical instruments, honey containers and symbolic ritual objects. In some cultures the horns are thought to be the dwelling places of powerful spirits, and in others they are a symbol for male potency.”
“Damn, I hate assholes who kill animals because they can’t get it up!”
“They obviously never met you. The horns are seldom used in defense against predators, nor are they an impediment in wooded habitats–the kudu tilts the chin up and lays the horns against the back, moving easily through dense bush. Kudus frequently use their horns in wrestling matches, locking them together and then trying to push or wrestle the opponent into submission. They have also been observed in a form of play, tossing broken branches into the air with their horns and catching them as they fall.”
“That’s cool!” she squealed. “Wonder how it got its name.”
“I remember one time in Kenya when the guide pointed out an antelope-type being that he called a Kirk’s dik-dik. You don’t have to be a Trekkie to get why that one’s so funny.”
She actually was a Trekkie, so she laughed for a while, telling me she’d dreamed of fucking Spock, but not the captain.
“I took you for more of the Picard type.”
“Give me a wig and I’ll be your Dax,” she smiled sweetly. Unable to contain her curiosity any longer, she stepped into the exhibit and immediately started poking and prodding the eyes. I tried not to check out her ass, even though it was pointed right at me, so I kept reading.
“They have a bluish-gray, grayish-brown or rust hide, with lateral white stripes, a crest of long hair along the spine, and a fringe under the chin.”
“I like fringe,” she said in as high a voice as she could manage, tickling the fringe in question. The animal had no response to that.
“Their cryptic coloring and markings protect kudus by camouflaging them. If alarmed they usually stand still and are very difficult to spot.”
“That sounds dumb,” she mused, but didn’t let it distract her.
“Farmers in areas inhabited by the kudu must take into account, when building their fences, the animal’s ability to easily leap obstacles two and a half meters in height. Hmmm, volleyball mascot,” I joked. “How depressing must it be to be a lesser kudu?”
For once she didn’t answer, and even told me to shut for a moment, which hardly mattered as her hand acted like a hammer on the poor kudu’s eyes. . .

To be continued. . .



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