La Ménagerie de Mange
by Megan Anne Rogers
Families flocked here on the daily and Lance could never understand why. Sure, La Ménagerie de Mange offered only the finest and most unique dining experiences for their tourists, but surely, they had heard of the disappearances. All those kids vanishing yet no one had raised suspicion yet. Perhaps they were all too blinded by the opportunity to sink their teeth into the flesh of a mastodon clone or genetically enhanced capybaras.
Lance pushed his custodial bin past the main entrance so he could scope out the crowds. The summer heat filled families with energy and anxiety to go out. Where to go? Not Disney again. The rides are so mundane. Why not go to the only zoo in the nation that offers up their animals for dinner? Exotic three course meals you can’t find anywhere else! Lance ran his tongue over his teeth. The crowd was especially packed today. A disappearance was sure to go unnoticed.
In the past, there were concerned parents who tried to ignite investigations. Authorities called, a few of the animal caretakers taken downtown, but nothing came of it. Perhaps one of the animals snatched the child? It’s not exactly the Ménagerie’s fault if parents can’t keep an eye on their children. After all, the jaguars and panthers are allowed free range from 1pm-3pm. Lance was then snapped out of his thoughts as a hand slapped him on the back.
“Ah, Monsieur Long, I see you are looking out into the people,” Mr. Krane said through a phony French accent. “Any possible victims amongst them?”
Lance laughed lightly, rolling his shoulders to rid of Krane’s hand. “Can’t say for sure.”
Mr. Krane smiled beneath his oily clown makeup. “You don’t have to lie to me. No one can hear us and if so, like they could really prove anything.”
Lance flitted his eyes down and bit his cheek. It was bad enough to work for a man as sleazy as Krane but listening to his drawn-out speech while he’s wearing his getup made Lance’s stomach churn.
“I’ll find one, sir. Leave it to me.”
Krane gave a curt nod then wandered off to the main gate. He had balloons in one hand and toy whistles in the other. The Ménagerie was known for its hospitality towards children. Another ruse to lure them in, Lance thought.
He continued to push his bin past the people, yielding every other step as children ran by. The elk and the caribou were walking freely this morning allowing the tourists to pet them and count their points. Yes, what a great souvenir to take home after dinner. Should we hang the antlers over the mantel or over the T.V.? The Ménagerie was not wasteful and only wanted the best for their guests. Lance never understood the desire to eat these animals. The need to eat any animal, really.
He followed the swarm of onlookers who awed at the height of the zebras and the length of the boas. What mass! What a great meal they’d make. Lance pushed through, keeping his eyes opened for a chance. Kids were running everywhere and so were the parents. Everyone wanted to view the animals and pick the very best for their choice of dinner. Lance tried to look busy. Pick up a bottle here, sweep up spilled popcorn there. All the while attempting to be inconspicuous as he picked his target.
A young boy, no more than six, was standing beside his parents as they filled out their order onto the electronic tablet attached to the ostrich pin. One ostrich for the entre and three kiwi birds for an appetizer was what the tablet repeated back. Lance moved in closer to the family. The boy was kicking dirt through the fence onto the resting birds. Well, for his conscious sake, at least Lance would be taking a brat.
The Ménagerie was on a budget. Cloning extinct species from frozen preserved tissues and butchering every animal ordered was beginning to drain the business. Using cheaper meats like beef and pork was out of the question. However, finding alternative meats was practically free if not profitable. Parents wouldn’t suspect a thing. Their child may be missing from their side but not from the dinner table.
As the dinner hour came, Lance changed out of his disguise and into his true uniform. The dining hall was one of grand expectations. Chandeliers made of skeletons, booths lined with furs, and feathers arranged as center pieces were sure to keep the parents occupied as Chief Krane prepared their meal. Lance didn’t need to wear face paint to hide his identity. No one would care to meet the face of the custodian. No one wanted to take their gaze off their prized meal on legs. No one watched their children closely enough.
Lance brought out the appetizers to the parents and poured their wine. Where is Lysander? I don’t know, dear, I could have sworn he was with us the whole day. Oh, he must be around here somewhere. Don’t worry, I bet he is with that clown, you know how he loves them. Lance laughed when they laughed, brought out the desert menu, even juggled ice cubes. They were well entertained. Too caught up in the extravagance to question the size of the silver platter Lance brought before them.
“Madam and Monsieur, your dinner is servi.”
Megan Anne Rogers is currently earning her bachelor's degree in English Education and Creative Writing. Her short story pieces are often inspired by the original Twilight Zone and include twists of her rather dry humor.