Chapter 1 Thursday Afternoon
Drained after the meeting with his film professor, Brian wandered the streets around Washington Square, trying to chose where to have dinner. At a street corner, while deciding which way to go, he ran into a friend--a fellow film student, and animal rights advocate.
"Evan. Am I wishy-washy?"
"What? Why do you ask?"
Brian looked down at the sidewalk. "I just had a meeting with my advisor. He said I do good work but I'll never be great unless I can single-mindedly commit myself to what I'm working on. I don't know if I'm able to. I can't even decide on where I'm going to eat dinner."
Evan laughed. "You're going to eat at Angelo's, and you're going to have the lasagna."
"So am I. The lasagna's great."
"Your a great help." Brian refocused his eyes past Evan, on to the street light. Nice technique. Pull focus slowly. I've got to use this in a film. He decided that when his friend left, he'd cross the street whichever way was green. Consciously then, he refocused back on Evan. "Look. I know in the past, I was indecisive, but now I don't really know. I don't know if I can really believe in something or even make my own decisions."
"Don't be silly," said Evan, "You're more committed than most, and Monday we're going to do this zoo thing. Speaking of that, how long do you think Operation Zoo's going to go on."
"I don't know."
"You're the president," said Evan, "If you don't know, who does?"
"Joshua, probably." Brian looked dejectedly down at his feet.
"You're just frazzled, "said Evan gently, "I get ragged myself whenever I have to meet with my advisor. Go and get dinner, and I'll see you later at the meeting."
"I have to see him again Saturday," said Brian.
"Who? Your professor?. On a week-end?"
"Yeah. It's a lab video shoot. He says I should come prepared to explain myself."
"What does that mean?" asked Evan.
Brian shook his head. "Haven't a clue."
"Well, don't worry about it," said Evan, walking off, "Go eat dinner."
Brian watched Evan go, and still wondering if he could make decisions for himself, he went into Angelo's for the lasagna.
After dinner, Brian did feel better. He browsed the bookstores of Washington Square, then noticing that time was short, jogged over to Founders' Hall, took the steps two at a time, and burst into the meeting room. He was the CALF president, and he was determined to show he could lead.
There were Calfers already there when he arrived - most of the NYU crowd and a contingent from Columbia University. Jack, his vice-president was already there but surprisingly Joshua, CALF's benefactor wasn't. That was just as well, for although friendly and free with his money in the CALF cause, Joshua was creepy. Brian couldn't put his finger on just why he felt uncomfortable in Joshua's presence. Maybe it was because Joshua was trying too hard to be one of them, and the guy was about three times their age.
Brian gaveled the meeting to order by slamming his film textbook to the desk. There was only one agenda item - Operation Zoo. They had gone over it many times, but it was a scary project, and the Calfers seemed to feel better about it by talking.
Ten minutes into the meeting, Brian noticed Joshua come in through the rear door, and some of the Calfers looked over their shoulders to follow Brian's gaze. Brian paused momentarily to give Joshua a cheery wave of welcome while Jack, the Vice-president, gave his usual scowl. Joshua walked along the blackboard paneled room and took his seat near the front.
Brian, feeling like an innocent babe in the presence of the worldly and polished Joshua, continued as best he could.
"Operation Zoo has lots of support." Brian explained, "The Columbia contingent is here with us tonight. Princeton is coming, Brooklyn College, City College, even a few from Harvard."
The group laughed at the mention of Harvard.
"No really," Brian continued, "There'll be a few from Harvard, at least one anyway. All together though, we can expect about 60 or 70. But listen. We all know were taking over the zoo as a protest against all zoos, but it's very important that we film everything. With good editing, the video will live forever as a testament for our cause."
Brian was playing to Joshua, but from the corner of his eye, saw that Jack looked disgusted and was fidgeting.
"Would you like to add something, Jack?"
Jack seized the podium and re-iterated the plan, this time unfolding it as a military campaign. While Jack expounded on his approach to Operation Zoo, Brian thought back to how it started. It actually had been his idea, but it wasnt initially to be a take-over. He just wanted to smuggle a few CALF banners into the zoo, have Calfers hand out pamphlets, and video the whole thing including, if they were lucky, some police brutality. He'd probably have been taken in to a Bronx police station, but it was unlikely he'd have been booked. His parents would have been called, of course and he'd get a world class lecture, but that would be the end of it. But that was before Joshua.
It was actually Jack that suggested the take-over, but it was obviously all bravado. CALF didn't have the resources to pull it off. And Brian was pretty sure that Jack really didn't want another big confrontation with the police. Brian smiled, remembering back when Joshua offered his money and organizational abilities for a zoo take-over. Jack looked astonished for a moment, but then adopted the idea as his own, and then bullied the CALF membership into it. Brian thought back on it and wondered again about his indecisiveness.
Brian snapped back to the present at the sound of Jack banging his fist on the lectern. He had finished organizing Mondays logistics, telling them who would be carrying camcorders, and who would be carrying AK-47s. Jack was definitely not going to be carrying a camcorder.
"Now," said Jack, "theres the matter of the hostages."
"Hostages?" shouted one of the members from the back, a Columbia student, "Who said anything about hostages?"
"We have to take hostages," answered Jack, "Otherwise the police will just rush the zoo and well be toast."
There was a moment of silence. Brian watched the Calfers. Some of them, he could tell, were beginning to appreciate what they were going to do. Brian raised his hand to protest, but Jack ignored him.
"Well only take a small number of hostages." Jack rubbed his arm, and winced almost as if he were in pain. Brian had often wondered at that nervous action. "Well treat them okay, you know, free food and all that. In fact, let's call them guests not hostages."
"Yeah, Right! The Zoo Resort. Ignore the assault rifles please." said someone from the rear.
"Shut up," Jack barked, and then softened his voice. "Look. Some of them will probably be on our side, most of them probably."
"Yeah, Sure," said a Columbia student under his breath.
Jack stared the dissenters to silence, nodded to Brian and sat down.
Brian addressed some of the logistical details. He suggested that the membership bring their sleeping bags to the Sunday meeting and bring other personal items with them during the actual Operation Zoo take over on Monday. If they really wanted, they could roll some school books in with the sleeping bags.
Brian went on to make arrangements for the dress rehearsal in the morning, and the Sunday zero hour rehearsal. Everyone knew that they should also have a Saturday run through, but there was a big-name rock concert in Washington Square Park and many CALFers wanted to go to it. The take over would be on the following Monday, at 16 hundred hours, 4 PM, zero-hour.
"Okay guys," said Brian, "see you tomorrow morning at 10:30 at the Bronxdale gate. Oh Wait!"
Brian really wanted to end the meeting right there, but he felt obligated to ask Joshua, their benefactor, if he wanted to say anything. "Mr. Cave.You've made this all possible. Would you like to say something to the group?"
From his seat, Joshua laughed. "You know better than that Brian." He said, "Call me Joshua. Not Mr. Cave. Makes me sound like an old codger."
The membership laughed politely while Joshua moved to the podium.
"We will make history on Monday," said Joshua, "We'll go in early. Our hired 'Big Apple On Location' trucks will get there at noon sharp with the cameras and provisions, enough food for a week. Ill drive in with the military equipment. Everybody at the zoo thinks well be filming a TV special, and film it we will. Its our film. Its about us, CALF, our cause. Monday we seize the zoo in the cause of animal rights."
Brian felt distinctly uneasy as Joshua stepped from the lectern, patted him on the shoulder and sat down. It was almost as if Joshua were rallying his troops before battle. Brian didn't like the idea of a battle, and despite the applause for Joshua's speech, he doubted if the Calfers wanted a fight with the police either. Brian wondered why he couldn't do anything about it. He was after all, the CALF president, but he felt like one of Joshua's followers--a sheep. But then again, a take-over would get peoples attention for animal rights, so maybe it was a good idea after all. Brian wondered if he were thinking his own thoughts, or merely Joshua's.
Following the meeting, there was the usual soft drinks, chips and cookies. And Joshua ordered out for a few pizzas, and paid for them.