A/N: Another new story, ye gods. How did I manage that? I am amazed at my efficiency. As of yet, I haven't the foggiest idea of how this story will go. There might not be any major plot if I keep going like this, so I'd better get planning. But you know the drill, anyway. I'm hoping I can get a good balance of cute and sad in this one, as so far I seem to always swing it one way or another. I will update as and when the inspiration arrives, but I'll try not to be too irregular. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my new story :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing! Don't shoot!
Also, thanks to GrowlyNoir and icey. summer02 for being amazing, always reviewing and helping to inspire me :D
Vince was doing his daily rounds of the animal cages, doling out food to them. He was making slow progress, as he stopped at every other cage to have a chat to his friends. Currently, he was sitting in the leopard cage, cross legged on the ground as Kali, the female leopard, rested her head on his lap. He stroked the soft fur between her ears as she purred.
"How are the cubs?" He asked her. She simply purred louder, but he heard the words in his head:
"Growing fast. They'll soon be full grown."
"What about Amarah?" Amarah was the smallest of the cubs, and they hadn't been sure if he'd survive.
"Amarah is better. Thanks to you."
"No, Kali, it was you who made him better. You're his mum after all."
"That is true as well." She lifted her head from Vince's lap and stood up. "I must go, Vince. My cubs need feeding. Thank you for the food."
"Okay. See you tomorrow." Kali nuzzled his hand once more and went into the shelter at the end of the enclosure. Vince got up and swept the bark chips off his jeans before leaving the cage. Next were the lemurs, and as soon as he opened the cage, they were all over him. Jai on his head, Asha on his shoulder, Kazumi climbing his legs, and Avani trying to get into his jacket pocket to see if he had any treats in there. He put down the bucket of fruit and tried to detach them all so he could get on with it.
"Guys, come on!" He said, laughing. "I'm trying to feed you." They stayed where they were, squeaking and chattering away to him.
"We're so pleased to see you!" Jai cried.
"We've missed you!" Kazumi agreed. Vince started to pick up fruit from the bucket and feed them where they were.
"I only came yesterday." He said.
"Yes, but you had Hairy-face with you then." Hairy-face was what most of the animals called Howard, despite the fact that most of them also had hairy faces. They thought that humans shouldn't have facial hair, and for that reason weren't too keen on Bainbridge either.
"Don't call him that." Vince chastised them, but he had trouble stifling his laughter.
"You don't talk to us when you're with him." Avani said.
"He thinks it's creepy."
"That's because he's stupid."
"He's my friend."
"Well, he isn't ours." Vince suddenly felt a wet sensation on the back of his head, and Jai jumped down onto the floor.
"Did you just drop mango in my hair? Urgh, it'll be all sticky!" He removed the offending piece of fruit and chucked it down. Jai managed to look ashamed, and went to sit on the rope frame in the corner.
"Sorry." He muttered. Vince sighed.
"It doesn't matter." He kept feeding them the fruit, and Jai came back for some more. But a few moments later, Howard came to the door of the enclosure.
"Urgh, it's Hairy-face!" Asha cried, and they all leapt off of Vince and hid in the shrubbery.
"What's up?" Vince said.
"Bainbridge wants to see us." Howard said. Vince nodded, emptied the rest of the fruit onto the enclosure floor, and left. He dumped the bucket outside the keepers' hut and followed Howard to Bainbridge's office.
They entered the office and stood opposite the desk where Bainbridge sat. Bob Fossil stood next to him, twiddling his fingers and staring at him with a strange look in his eye.
"So." Bainbridge began. "I expect you would like to know why I called you here."
"Well... Yes." Howard replied bemusedly.
"I expect you want to know what is happening."
"I expect you are curious as to the reasoning of this summons."
"Get on with it, will you?" Howard said, rolling his eyes. Vince just stood there, pulling at the dried mango juice in his hair, barely listening.
"Very well." Bainbridge cleared his throat and said: "The zoo is to be closed down."
"Again?" Howard looked sceptical, but Vince's eyes were wide and he was horrified.
"Why?" He demanded.
"Unfortunately, there have been several excessive areas of expenditure, and we have gone bankrupt."
"That means we spent too much money and now there's none left." Fossil put in. Bainbridge glared at him to shut him up and continued:
"There's nothing we can do other than sell up."
"But you can't sell the zoo!" Vince protested. "We won't have anywhere to go!"
"I'm sorry, but there is no other choice." It was the most human they had ever seen Dixon Bainbridge. He seemed ashamed. Remorseful, even. Vince felt an odd urge to pat him on the back and tell him it would be alright. But he knew it wouldn't be, and at the moment he was more concerned about the fact that he could lose this place. He loved it here. Suddenly, the office seemed stifling. He couldn't stand to be in here a second longer. He walked out, leaving Howard alone with his bosses.
"He's taken it badly." He said apologetically. "I'll go and talk to him." He hurried after his friend, following him into the keepers' hut. Vince went and sat on a chair near the window as Howard closed the door.
"Hey. It's gonna be okay, Vince." Howard said, walking over to him.
"No it isn't. We live here, in this hut. The animals live in their cages. The animals are my friends. What am I gonna do without them, Howard?"
"You'll still have me."
"Not much of a deal." Vince muttered under his breath. Howard didn't hear.
"And anyway, we can go into the city. We can get other jobs."
"But what about the other keepers? Where are they gonna go? What about Naboo? And Bollo? I don't want to leave."
"Look, just... Take it easy, alright? Calm down. It'll be fine. We'll find a way to sort everything out, don't worry." Vince sighed and looked up at Howard.
"We always do, don't we?"
"Yeah. C'mon. Let's finish the rounds together, right?"
"Yeah." Vince smiled and they headed off to feed the rest of the animals.
That evening, Vince went to visit Naboo. He knocked on the door of his small living area and waited. He heard a drowsy call of 'Come in' and entered. Naboo was lying on the sofa staring at the ceiling, a fug of smoke from his hookah filling the room.
"Alright, Vince." He said.
"Alright Naboo." Vince half-smiled and sat down on a chair across the room.
"What's up?" Naboo sat up to look at Vince properly. Vince decided to get right to the point.
"They're closing the zoo. What are we gonna do?" For a moment, the shaman's normally indifferent facade was shattered by a look of shock.
"Why are they closin' the zoo?" He asked.
"They've gone bankrupt. They have to sell up." Naboo fought to get his poker face back, although it wasn't easy.
"Okay. So why did you come to me?"
"I thought you might know what to do. I don't want to get separated from you and Bollo and all the animals."
"What about Howard?"
"And Howard, yeah."
"Look, I'm not sure at the minute. I'll think of somethin', right?"
"Yeah." Vince sighed. "It'll probably be alright anyway, won't it? They'll have some madcap scheme to get out of selling this place. Or me and Howard can help." Vince brightened up. "Yeah. It'll be fine. See you, Naboo."
"Bye." Vince wandered out, and Naboo was left sitting on the sofa in the semi-dark room, watching the smoke curl around him. Selling up, eh? He'd have to sort them all out, otherwise there was going to be trouble.
Wow. Chapter one is over. I think I wrote it in the course of about an hour. I am so full of ideas today! Anyway, reviews would be awesome as I'd love to know what you think so far and I like finding out what people like about my writing and what I could improve on. Much love xx