This is my favorite part of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen:
I open the orangutan’s door and set a pan of fruits, vegetables, and nuts on the floor. As I close it, her long arm reaches through the bars. She points at an orange in another pan.
“That? You want that?”
She continues to point, blinking at me with close-set eyes. Her features are concave, her face a wide platter fringed with red hair. She’s the most outrageous and beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
“Here,” I say, handing her the orange. “You can have it.”
She takes it and sets it on the floor. Then she reaches out again. After several seconds of serious misgivings, I hold out my hand. She wraps her long fingers around it, then lets go. She sits on her haunches and peels her orange.
I stare in amazement. She was thanking me.
Such a powerful image.