Sam Payne February 2022 Commended

When a Youtube clip of Diego Goes Viral

by Sam Payne

Everyone sees Diego pacing his enclosure, those big bear eyes of his all sad and lonely. But Diego hasn’t been the same since his brother died. There are plans to pair him with Tallulah, a rescued dancing bear who’s a bit of a handful, and even though Diego’s never had a successful relationship the zoo will try anything to make him happy. They explain all of this in a lengthy PR campaign, but people still gather outside the entrance waving placards and chanting no more cages and nobody visits because nobody wants to walk through a full-blown protest. Except Harry. Harry, who works the night shift at Ginsters and owes nineteen grand in payday loans. Harry, who’s been coming here with his daughter every other Saturday for months. What do they think will happen if the zoo closes? This is Diego’s home and it’s no fun having to leave your own home, I can tell you. Harry’s daughter, who once stepped on a spider and cried every night for a week, trails behind as he points out flamingos, llamas, zebras and rhinos, but when they see Diego she stops and her bottom lip wobbles and Harry knows what’s coming and he gets down on his knees and says, shit, none of this is perfect kiddo, you know how it is. Some bears end up in Alaskan rivers slapping salmon up in the air and some bears end up here. That’s just life. And even as he says this, he knows it’s not right, he knows he’s making excuses and his daughter pulls away and Harry looks at Diego, looks into those big bear eyes, all sad and lonely, and all around them baboons shriek, hyenas laugh, and somewhere not far from here, a wolf howls to an absent moon. 

About the Author

Sam Payne lives in the UK and her work has appeared in a variety of places including; Fictive Dream, 100 Word Story and Flashback Fiction. She won Flash 500 in 2020 and prevously placed 3rd in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards. She holds a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Creative Writing. Sam is also a reader at Janus Literary and is on twitter @skpaynewriting


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