VALENTINE’S DAY AT THE ZOO … Part 1

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.”

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2



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