Right after they leave Mr. Pignati’s house, John drags Lorraine to Tony’s Market, because it is the only place that will sell kids beer. John thinks Tony pays off the police to leave him alone, but Lorraine just thinks Tony believes in the old days when they thought a little alcohol was good for everyone. It shows the basic difference in the way John and Lorraine look at life. John justifies his decision to cash the check by insisting if they don’t cash it, Mr. Pignati will know “something is funny and call the police.”
It is John who suggests that they ought to pay Mr. Pignati back for the $10 by going with him to the zoo. His convoluted logic of “use an old man by getting $10 from him and then pay him back by going somewhere with him” just makes Lorraine crazy.
When Lorraine arrives home late, we are introduced to her mother who works as a private duty nurse. Her father had left fifteen years before and then died nine years after he left. Her mother, according to Lorraine, has a “real hang-up” about men and boys, believing they only use women. Lorraine muses to herself about how her mother, a pretty woman who seldom smiles, became that way. She thinks she needs three years of intensive psychoanalysis, so she lies to her about where she’s been and with whom. Her mother steals food and other necessities from the homes of her patients. She rationalizes this behavior by pointing out that she’s worth much more than they pay her. She also gets paid under the table by a funeral home for encouraging the family of a patient who died to call them. Lorraine knows that if she did anything like stealing, her mother would probably beat her. Furthermore, her mother doesn’t encourage Lorraine to stay in school or study hard. In fact, she’d be surprised if she knew Lorraine wanted to be a writer. Before she goes to bed, Lorraine calls John and they agree to go to the zoo with Mr. Pignati the next day.
The teens cut school to go to the zoo, which is easy, because a student who works in the office loves John and she’ll make sure nothing about their cutting school will be sent home. John has made arrangements with the Pigman to meet him at the zoo at 10:00 AM. Lorraine wears her Ben Franklin sunglasses so everyone will look at her. Lorraine observes that she didn’t want to go to the zoo that day, because she was bothered by animals in cages and zoo keepers who have no compassion for them. She claims that she knows how the minds of animals work.
When Mr. Pignati arrives, Lorraine immediately feels sorry for him. She thinks that he smiles all the time to hide his anxiety. She feels anxious herself, because she knows that things are going to “get involved.” After the fact, she can see there were plenty of bad omens within the first few minutes of his arrival and that she should have left on the spot. The first omen is the antagonistic way a vendor sells them four bags of peanuts. Second, Lorraine is attacked by a peacock. Third, she walks up to the glass of the bat exhibit where a ten year old kid is sitting with his face right up next to it. Lorraine says that he isn’t looking at the bats, but rather at her looking at the bats, making it seems as if he is on the inside looking out. It is very creepy.
Then, Mr. Pignati introduces them to his reason for coming to the zoo every day: Bobo, the ugliest, most vicious looking baboon Lorraine had ever seen. Mr. Pignati has a very friendly relationship with this ape, feeding him peanuts and talking to him like a long-lost friend. He barely even notices when John and Lorraine leave, promising to return in twenty minutes. The two teens take a ride on the touring car of a small train which is filled with gruesome scenes: a striped hyena dubbed the “raider of graves,” two hippos described as “secreting a fluid the color of blood,” and the alligators being fed huge chunks of meat and bone. This is the last omen.
When they return to Bobo’s cage, both John and Lorraine begin imitating the chimps and the gorilla in loud, obnoxious screams. At first, Mr. Pignati looks angry, but then, he suddenly begins to do the same thing, acting like any little kid would have done. They leave the zoo together.
John’s belief that Tony pays off the police while Lorraine believes that he just thinks everyone should indulge in a little alcohol show that he is much more of a cynic and she is willing to believe the best about anyone. She is a good, compassionate girl, in spite of a home life where she must lie to a bitter mother who never encourages her or compliments her. She lives within a double standard where her mother’s actions, though immoral at best and illegal at worst, are acceptable, while Lorraine knows she must never be caught doing the same thing.
The reader is given even more insight into what makes Lorraine tick when she says she wears the Ben Franklin glasses so everyone will look at her (she needs the acceptance of others) and when she claims she knows how the minds of animals work. Despite having a mother who could have made Lorraine as bitter as she is, Lorraine has become a very compassionate individual. She is more than willing to give love and only needs a little attention once in awhile to reassure her that she has value.
Lorraine senses, now that Mrs. Pignati is dead and upon thinking back to that day, there were omens she should have recognized. It’s as if her own anxiety actually let her down - she let down her guard and all the events that follow should never have happened. It leaves us wondering just exactly what they did to this harmless, slightly batty, lonely old man.
The scene in the primate house where Bobo, the chimps, and the gorilla scream back and forth with Lorraine, John, and Mr. Pignati is an example of the child-like relationship that is developing between the three. They are three little kids playing at the zoo. It is the beginning of their bond.
The gruesome scene on the train is a bit of foreshadowing: graves, blood, and meat and bone creating a sense of pain and death. Perhaps Mr. Pignati’s death won’t be so gruesome, but the pain of it is inevitable.