The Zookeeper

A wee monologue for anyone visiting a zoo over this holiday period... I don't know whether it is more inspired by the story in Daniel, or Animal Magic with Johnny Morris... For those of you too young to know what that is, you don't know what you missed!

It’s not a bad job. Bit smelly at times, specially when I’m on elephants. But recently I’ve been on the lions. Fine so long as you keep them well fed and remember to go in armed with a sharp spear and a bullwhip. As you can see, I have all my limbs intact and fully functional. No. Lions are badly misunderstood. Kings of the jungle they may be... but like all kings they like to just lounge around all day and have other people do everything for them...

Not that I should complain about our King, Darius. He's usually very good. Ever since Darius became king he's taken a real interest in the Royal Zoo... and especially the lions. No, he's a good King... But recently he fell hook line and sinker for the flattery of some of the courtiers... Telling him he was the greatest of the great, a god no less... The last time I came across anything like that it was in steaming piles in the bull elephant enclosure! But he fell for it, and when they suggested that he proclaim a law that the whole country should worship him, and no other god for a month, he thought that was a great idea... So he had the law drawn up, including the promise that anyone who broke it should be fed to the lions... Now why he had to bring my lions into it I'll never know. What people don't realise is that they're on a very balanced diet... Eating lawbreakers could throw them off their stride for a week, and I for one wouldn't want them developing a taste for human beings. It would affect my life assurance premiums no end.

But anyway, he signed it and no sooner was it law than these same courtiers were back saying that one of the King's favourites, Daniel, had broken the law. Now that I could believe, for Daniel was an awkward so and so if there was ever one. He had been a favourite of a few Kings down through the years, but that never stopped him telling them exactly what he thought of them. And what's more he worshipped a strange God. The God of his people Israel. And he insisted on praying to God 3 times a day. A fanatic. But quite a likeable one for all that.

But he wasn't liked by these courtiers. They didn't like a foreigner getting ideas above his station. So it seems as if this whole worshipping the King bit was an attempt to trap Daniel. And he just walked straight into it, refusing to pray to anyone else except the God of Israel.

Darius realised immediately what had happened, but he could do nothing about it. The law was the law. So the King regretfully ordered that Daniel should be thrown into the lion's cage, and everyone thought that Daniel was lion food.

But apparently the King couldn't sleep last night, and rushed down here at first light to find out what had happened to Daniel... And the answer is... Nothing. According to Daniel an angel descended from heaven and closed the mouths of the lions. My eye, I thought... They've probably got some tummy bug or something that has taken their appetite from them... Don't laugh... A lion with a tummy bug is no laughing matter... Nothing worse... With the possible exception of elephants of course...

But anyway, the King fetches Daniel out of the cage and there wasn't a scratch on him. I usually come out in a worse state than he did. So naturally the King is amazed and he orders that that stupid rule about only worshipping him should be wiped out and instead orders that everyone should worship the God of Daniel. Not a bad turn around for old Danny boy. The courtiers must have been fizzing mad. But they didn't get much of a chance to think about what had happened, because before closing the door to the lions' cage, the King ordered that all the courtiers who were behind the whole plot should be thrown in instead, along with their families. Never was one to do anything by halves King Darius... Strange thing was, the lions seemed to get over their tummy bug very quickly... Either that or Daniel’s angel allowed them to open their mouths again... It wasn't a pretty sight. Still, they shouldn't feel too hungry for a while...


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