Valentine’s Day At The Zoo (A Short Story)
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
“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
“Guys, let’s do what we came to do and leave.” Jabari
said as he pulled out a small notepad from inside his
“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 damn 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.
“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
“Hey, why…wait, why do these crocs look dead? Are you
sure they are alive?” Kelvin said, pulling Jabari back to
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“The lion is out! The lion is out!” They didn’t wait to see
who was saying it before they bolted towards the
“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
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
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
You May Also Like :
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
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
“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
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
Kevin and Victor looked at each other and then fixed
their focus back on him. “Did you fight the lion?” Victor
“No. Better than that. I got the girl.”