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    Valentine’s Day at the Zoo

    By

    Kayode Odusanya

    Rain in February was very rare in Nigeria. The rainy season usually slip in around April, after the dry season had gone from October to March, with a little Harmattan period around the last month of the year. So it bugged people out that it was raining in February, and on Valentine’s Day at that.

    Rain drops made a continuous thudding sound on the zinc roof as Jabari and his friends walked down the pathway from the entrance of the zoo. Victor, the tallest of the three shook the black umbrella here and there before folding it and clipping it. He went to edge of the elevated pathway to look up at the high walls that surrounded the zoo and got a bit dizzy. He rubbed his neck slowly for a few seconds before running off to catch up with his friends.

    The zoo was built in the middle of the city on reclaimed land by the Government. People still couldn’t believe the Governor of Lagos state had completed the project within 3 years; exactly on schedule. Even though the place was still a work in progress, the Crocodiles, Monkeys, Baboons, Hyenas, Giraffes, and Ostriches were already getting used to their new habitat as they had been there for at least three weeks before the zoo officially opened yesterday.

    The zoo was a small one, just on about an acre of land. If looked at from above, it had a hexagonal shape, and each side of the hexagon represented where each animal type was kept. The main pathway ran from one end of the zoo to the other, dividing the hexagon in two. The cages were on both sides of the pathway, with connecting bridges running from each animal cage to the elevated pathway.

    “Guys, I heard this place used to be a cemetery?” Kelvin said as he strutted along. Although not as tall as Victor, his muscular physique made him more of the alpha male in the group.
    “Lies made up by the opposition to discredit what the Governor is doing.” Jabari said without breaking strides. At 5 ft 6 and a slim physique, he was the smallest of the three but with the biggest brains.
    “Are you sure? I am getting a certain chilly feeling as I walk through this place.”
    “That’s because it’s raining Einstein!” Victor said as he walked up from behind and poked Kelvin on the side with the umbrella in his hand. Kevin turned around and chased him around with his fists in the air for a few seconds, trying to catch his friend, and occasionally pulling up his sagging pants. He gave up after a while and walked back to Jabari’s side. “Mr. saggy pants, hope you know sagging originated from the male prisons, where…”
    “Shut up! you this erinaceous human being.” Kelvin said as he turned around angrily to face Victor.
    “What!!?” Victor said out loud and laughed. “How do those girls cope with you and your gibberish sounding words?”
    “Guys, let’s do what we came to do and leave.” Jabari said as he pulled out a small notepad from inside his breast-pocket.
    “Hmm! You didn’t tell me you had a date, or where do you have to be?” Victor said as he came up on Jabari’s side and placed his hand on his shoulders. “Or, have you finally gotten the nerve to talk to Kiki?”
    “Have you guys noticed we haven’t seen anyone since we walked in here?” Jabari said.
    “Don’t change the subject on me.” Victor said and rested his weight on his friend.
    “Leave him alone, you this big, fat bully.” Kelvin said and hit the back of Victor’s head. “By the way, who is Kiki? Is she in our class?”
    “When you are never in class, how would you know who she is? There are only five girls in our…”
    “Just answer the d--n question. God! You talk too much.” Kevin said, cutting Victor off.
    He frowned for a while, and then his facial expression changed to a smile. They had stopped walking now as they were at the cage that contained the crocodiles. Jabari started jotting down something and Kelvin searched Victor’s eyes for answers.
    “She’s the one with the big dreamy eyes.”
    “You mean the slim light skinned girl with long hair?” Kelvin said with his eyes popping out.
    “Yea.”
    “Oh!” He exclaimed and tapped Jabari’s shoulder before saying, “Sorry my friend, that girl is out of your league.”
    “Whatever, let’s go to the next cage.” Jabari said before moving along.
    “Hey, why…wait, why do these crocs look dead? Are you sure they are alive?” Kelvin said, pulling Jabari back to the cage.
    “Don’t be deceived. They can be very swift when they need to catch a prey. Come on, let’s go.” He said and Kelvin moved back a few inches from the cage out of fear.

    As Jabari turned around, he saw a group of people approaching them from the left side of the zoo. The connecting bridges were still under construction and didn’t have roofs, so the people had their umbrellas up. Jabari recognized a kid walking in front of someone carrying a red umbrella and smiled at him. The boy shouted, “Uncle!” as he ran towards him. The girl that was with the kid struggled to pull him back and she lost her balance. Jabari was bent down on the floor greeting the boy when he noticed the girl trying to gain her balance as she slid down the bridge. He instinctively put the kid aside, and rushed forward to catch the girl. She fell forward into his arms. As she pulled away, apologizing, he saw that it was her.
    “Hey. I know you?” She said with a curious look on her face. She had on a white sleeveless cotton mini gown with red sandals to match.
    “Yea, You…Umm! We are in the same department. You are…” He was saying but had to stop to give the kid, some attention as the little boy had been tugging at his shirt and shouting, “Uncle!” all along. He picked the boy up, threw him up in the in the air once, and then dropped him before facing her.
    “How do know my cousin?” She said with a smile on her face as she ran her hand throw her hair and gently massaged her neck, while still holding up her red umbrella.
    “He’s your cousin?” He said.
    “Yea…I know what you are thinking. My aunt married…” She was saying and then stopped when her eyes caught the attention of the two people behind him. “Hey! How are you guys doing? I didn’t see you before.” She said with a little wave at Kevin and Victor, and then looked back at Jabari before saying, “So, Umm! You were telling me how you know my cousin?”
    “Yea, I actually taught at his school last year before I got in to study Zoology.”
    “Oh, now it all makes sense.” When Jabari looked at her like he was trying to figure what she meant, she added, “I mean, with him calling you uncle and all that.”
    “Oh, okay. Yea.” He said and laughed lightly.
    When the silence became uncomfortable, she said, “We are going this way to see the giraffes, I guess I would see you around?”
    “Yea, I guess I would see you around.” He said as he bent down to hug the kid and gently pushed him forward towards Kiki.
    When she was beyond earshot, Kelvin walked up to him and said, “That was your shot, why didn’t you continue the interlocution?”
    “Dude, you have started again. What the hell does that mean?” Victor said and Kelvin shut him a mean stare.
    “I bet you one thousand bucks she is going to look back in, 1, 2, 3…” Victor stopped counting when she did look back. Her umbrella stylishly covered part of her face, but a small smile could be seen on her lips. “Come on dude. This is your cue.” Kelvin continued, urging his friend on.
    “Guys, why does she still have the umbrella up?” Victor asked, with his eyes squinted.
    “That’s because she is still mesmerized by my boy here,” Kelvin said with a big smile on his face. “Just walk to her. You didn’t even ask for her name?”
    “I know her name.”
    “Oh my!” Kelvin said and hit his head with his palm. “Do I have to teach you everything?”
    “Come on guys! Professor Ojo is waiting for us. We have to check-out the other animals.” Jabari said and climbed the steps of the bridge his dream girl had almost fallen off of a couple of minutes ago.
    “Come on! Come on! Victor, talk some sense into your friend.” Kelvin said as he turned to Victor, but Victor made a sign like he was zipping his lips. “Oh my lord, you guys are hebetudinous.
    “Alright, you need to stop this right now.” Victor said and was charging towards his friend when a loud voice made him stop. They all stayed alert and then the voice came again.
    “The lion is out! The lion is out!” They didn’t wait to see who was saying it before they bolted towards the entrance.
    “Guys!” Jabari shouted out and stopped, “Kiki is still in there.” They all looked indecisive, and then Jabari ran back towards the zoo as his two friends followed suit reluctantly. There was chaos everywhere as people ran for their lives. The man that owned the voice they had heard earlier appeared from one of the connecting bridges, signaling with his hand for them to turn around.
    “The lion jumped out of its cage. Go back! Go back!” He shouted out as he approached them. He had an overall on that matched the color of the zoo’s walls. He ran passed them and stopped for a second to look at them confused, and then he continued his run for the exit.
    The friends continued a slow jog, searching every corner with scared eyes till they saw the lion run across the path in a flash and they all stopped. The three of them searched each other’s eyes for a second and then Jabari grabbed the umbrella in Victor’s hand and shouted out, “You guys run and get help.” He took a deep breath and ran towards the direction the lion had disappeared into.

    ………………..

    The umbrella was positioned in his hand like how a combat ready soldier would hold an AK-47 Rifle. He was soaking wet, and would occasionally wipe off rain water from his face with his shoulder as he walked through the grass. He tiptoed over to a cage with ‘Jackal’ boldly written on it in red, and saw the whimpering animal at one corner greatly shaken up. A large bird flew out of a three close by and it made him jump. He turned around quickly, and caught sight of red object moving from side to side a few feet away from him, on the last bridge that connected the center pathway with the corners of the hexagonal shaped zoo.

    When he walked closer, he saw it was the umbrella Kiki had been holding earlier and his heart skipped a bit. He hastened his steps. As he climbed up the bridge, he saw her hiding, pressed up on a wall, with her hands covering her little cousin’s mouth. Her eyes grew bigger as he attempted to approach where she was. Even before he turned around, he knew what she had seen. Staring at him as he turned one eighty degrees was the lion.

    He had watched many lion themed movies in the past, but seeing a lion in real life was something different. The enormous looking animal was at least 50 feet away but he could feel its domineering presence like it was right in front of him. Jabari stood still and tried to calculate his next move. There was a reason the lion was called the king of the jungle, and this male lion was about to do what it was genetically wired to do when threatened.

    First came the ground shaking roar that hit him like a sonic boom. And then apex predator charged towards him. He looked death in the eye and did the unimaginable.

    ………………..

    He raised the umbrella over his head, pumped out his chest, and shouted at the top of his voice. The lion stopped about ten feet away from him; with its thin tail wagging from one side to the other, it checked Jabari out for a second and then turned around and walked away. Jabari stopped the howling, and gently walked backwards up the wooden bridge towards where Kiki was. When he was beside her, he dropped the umbrella, carried the kid, held Kiki by her hand and led her towards the entrance. Two men dressed in khakis and t shirt carrying dart guns ran towards them from the entrance and quietly asked where the lion was. Jabari pointed towards the southwest side of the zoo and continued walking.

    As they walked through the metal revolving door, the crowd outside searched their eyes for answers. A lady in a white and red polka dot dress ran towards them and grabbed the boy from Jabari’s hands. He could tell she had been crying and guessed she was Kiki’s aunt. She carried the kid with one hand, and held Kiki in a tight embrace. People from the crowd were throwing all sorts of questions at him, but he was searching for his friends and just pushed through the multitude. The adrenaline rush was gone now and his hands had started to shake. Just then, he felt a soft hand grab him by the arm and pull him back. He turned around and she ran into his arms and held him tight as she started to cry.

    She pulled away after a while and looked him in the eyes. As they stood there, searching each other’s eyes, Jabari said, “I think I better go and find my friends now.” With a smile on her face, she leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek.
    “I guess I’ll see you in school.” She said as she walked backwards towards where her aunt and cousin were standing.
    “Yes. We will see in school.” Jabari said as he watched her walk away, not believing how his luck had changed in the last few minutes. As he was basking in the euphoria of what had just happened, he heard two people arguing behind him; accusing each other of abandoning their friend. He turned around and they shouted at the top of their lungs when they saw him. Victor carried him in the air and turned him round and round.

    After the initial celebration, they faced him and barraged him with series of questions. “Guys, honestly, if I told you what happened, you would never believe me.” Jabari said.
    Kevin and Victor looked at each other and then fixed their focus back on him. “Did you fight the lion?” Victor asked.
    “No. Better than that. I got the girl.”

    The End

    [hupso]

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    #976625 Reply
    ⓞⓝⓔⓐⓛ32ⓞⓝⓔⓐⓛ32
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    Hahaha.

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    #976636 Reply
    Etz d'bramoEtz d’bramo
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    wow! this is very interesting..

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    #976658 Reply
    Wordsmith PublicationWordsmith Publication
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    Okay

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    #976764 Reply
    jummybabejummybabe
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    wow finally.

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    #976768 Reply
    Lexxxino™Lexxxino™
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    .Wehdon…. I love your guts……guys dont ever try that ooooooooooo

    forget the animal planet show…..i can never enter a place where a lion is on rampage

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    #976827 Reply
    chilovelychilovely
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    very interesting

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    #976881 Reply
    AvatarMartin
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    Not so fast,love d story

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Reply To: Valentine's Day At The Zoo (A Short Story By Kayode Odusanya)
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