Fiction: The Panda in Our Logo Has Retired by Sienna Zeilinger

Photo by Amanda Zeilinger

Our first audition of the day was the poison dart frog, and you can imagine how that went.

We accidentally stepped on the Kaua’i cave wolf spider. Actually, we stepped on purpose; we didn’t know it was here for an audition. That part was an accident. We decided we needed to get better with our signage and from then on all prospective logos should bring in a clipboard with their demographic information and history.

Some honeybees teamed up to carry their clipboard as a collective, which we had to admit was impressive, but we couldn’t decide whether they were technically endangered. We sent the swarm out to the courtyard to wait while we pulled up various think-pieces on our smartphones. Tragically, they dispersed.

In the corner we found a white ferula mushroom. We asked it to sit and it did. We asked it to roll over and it did not. We read its clipboard and saw that it had come all the way from Italy. We put on our best Italian accents and cracked jokes about fettuccine ai funghi, but the white ferula mushroom did not laugh, and we made a mark on our own clipboards.

A polar bear made it to the second round automatically. We took it for a video test. We asked it to roar and it started drooling. We decided we could edit out the drool in post. We weren’t sure if we could edit out the shadows around its ribs in post. We decided the polar bear should come back after it bulked up a bit. We couldn’t look too long at the video or at its face. We delivered the news with our gaze directed elsewhere, which is probably how we missed the polar bear taking a bite out of the gaffer’s midsection.

A manatee waddled in affably. We asked it to leave. It cocked its head affably. “You’re only threatened,” we explained. The manatee didn’t understand; it shook its head affably. It did everything affably. We were filled with regret. A manatee would have been perfect. We could picture its goofy little grin on coloring books and baseball hats. We wanted to invite it to come back when it had lost more loved ones, but that seemed gauche. The manatee was still there. Its brain was just the size of a grapefruit. “You’re only threatened,” we said again. We pantomimed. We gestured. We called out various threats. “I’ll come to your estuary and flay your skin with my boat,” we shouted, and finally the manatee got it, bellowing and hurrying away, leaving us with nothing but a trail of brine in its wake.

It was a bummer, we agreed, that the blue whales were busy; that the red wolves were camera-shy. We had been hoping for sea lions, or regular lions. A rockhopper penguin. We would have accepted anything Sumatran—elephant, rhino, orangutan—but the flights were ridiculous. All that jet fuel. Bad for the ozone.

Someone wheeled in a flat pigtoe mussel, as the flat pigtoe mussel could not walk or waddle or fly. It was perched beside a glass of still water with a cardboard straw. We took its clipboard and noted that the flat pigtoe mussel had not been seen since 1980. This might explain the tiny sunglasses and trench coat. This might work, we said to each other. We could sell sunglasses and trench coats. We started to relax. We started to dream big. Someone opened a bottle of champagne.

An assistant came over and handed us a piece of paper folded up small. Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had declared the flat pigtoe mussel likely extinct this past September and had formally proposed its removal from the endangered species list. We hung our heads. What was to become of us?

The flat pigtoe mussel was unperturbed. If it had a stride, it would have taken the news in it. A real class act. We sent it away with good wishes. We didn’t bother asking it to catch the door on the way out, which tended to slam, and which might have reminded us of something irreversible and damning if we were in the habit of looking for symbols where there were none.

Sienna Zeilinger (she/her) lives in Philadelphia, where she’s an MFA candidate at Rutgers-Camden. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, CutBank, HAD, Passages North, and elsewhere.

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