“In the Zoo” is a story told within a frame. It begins and ends in the Denver, Colorado, zoo, where two middle-aged women are sitting on a bench, eating popcorn and watching the animals. Neither of them lives in Denver; Daisy has just come there to put her sister, the narrator, on a train heading east. After her departure, Daisy will return to her own home west of Denver. Neither sister has any intention of visiting Adams, Colorado, the nearby town where they spent their childhood. However, when Daisy observes that the blind polar bear reminds her of Mr. Murphy, the sisters are thrust back into a time and place they can never forget.
After the deaths of their parents, the two little girls were sent to Adams, where arrangements had been made for a Mrs. Placer to keep them in her boardinghouse. Mrs. Placer believed that everyone and everything in the world was a fraud. Aided by her embittered lodgers, she pursued her life’s work, decoding conversations to reveal hidden insults and to ferret out evil intentions. She taught the girls to distrust everyone—their classmates, their teachers, even the tradesmen whom they encountered.
Their only friend was Mr. Murphy, an alcoholic with a collection of pets, including two capuchin monkeys. Mr. Murphy welcomed the girls’ visits to his menagerie. One day, he gave them a puppy, which they named Laddy, and when they presented him as a future watchdog, Mrs. Placer let them keep him. Laddy was an...
(The entire section is 544 words.)