(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017
It was about midnight when the house phone rang. All of the humans were asleep; Banana the python, Marbles the gecko, and two of the frogs were still up playing poker. Banana was their best poker player, since she had no eyelids to blink and no limbs with which to fidget. So long as she made sure her body was wrapped up comfortably tight at the start of the game, no one could tell whether she was bluffing. The frogs always lost - they couldn't help doing mini-hops whenever they had a good hand, or ribbiting loudly at a bad hand. It was a wonder why they still played, but they loved the game, and the others needed them to make up the numbers.
The poker-players ignored the ringing phone. They didn't like talking to strangers over the telephone, and in any case a midnight call was bound to be a wrong number. Humans were diurnal and considered it rude to make phone calls after 9 o'clock.
The ringing stopped. "Your turn, Marbles," said Banana, with all her cards propped up neatly on top of her coil. They were playing at the dining table, watched by the goldfish (whose names were Bubbles and Croissant). The fish had never been able to figure out what the game was about, since they tended to blurt out everything on top of their heads, and the concept of NOT saying something was beyond them.
"Raise you two large crickets," said Marbles, and hustled two crickets across the table. The crickets rolled their eyes and trotted over in resignation to sit next to the other large and small crickets next to Banana. They all knew that Banana wouldn't ever eat crickets, so they were only participating as tokens and would be going back to their holding tank after the game. One of the crickets had even brought along a carrot slice as a snack, just in case the poker game went for longer than expected. The cricket species generally had a pretty philosophical view of things - life was short on the bottom rung of the ladder, so........ whatever!
Before Rocket Frog could take his turn, the telephone began to ring again. "Oh geeze, lost my thought, lost my thought!" exclaimed Rocket Frog and threw down his cards in annoyance. This time the telephone didn't stop; it rang and rang and rang and rang. "I don't think they're going to give up! We better get Mr Keeper to answer that."
They decided to call it a night. Marbles and the frogs went home for refreshments, the crickets went back to bed, happy to see another sun rising, and Banana was charged with the job of slithering all the way over to Mr and Mrs Keeper's bedroom. She had to slap Mr Keeper on the face several times with her tail before he finally mumbled, "Whaaaaat?"
"Phone!" said Banana, and waved her tail in the general direction of the kitchen.
Whoever it was certainly seemed very determined, and Mr Keeper had to struggle out of bed, bleary-eyed. He had had a particularly trying day. One of the guinea pigs, very likely Blacky, had chewed through TWO tyres of the double-decker bus they recently bought, and the whole vehicle had tilted dangerously to one side. It had taken Mr Keeper all afternoon of calling around to find suitable tyres and replace the broken ones, fortunately before the bus could collapse into the garage.
"Hello?" said Mr Keeper into the phone, his tone understandably irritated. But then he suddenly stood up straight and came completely awake in a split second, "Oh hi Mum! How's things?"
Banana and all the residents of the fish tanks on the kitchen bench listened in with interest; eavesdropping was one of their favourite pastimes. "Weren't you just in Iceland or something last week? Yes I know, we haven't seen you and Dad for two years... No we're all good.... Yes I changed jobs..." Mr Keeper winked at the animals and they smiled back conspiratorially. "Ah-huh... You're at the airport now? Where are you going this time?" His eyes became wider and wider. "Sorry Mum, which airport did you say, I'm sure I heard you wrong......... WHAT?? You're joking right??? You're arriving here TOMORROW??? Oh no, that's not what I mean, of course we'd love to see you!"
Mr Keeper didn't look as if love was exactly on his mind right now. In fact, his hand was visibly shaking as he eventually hung up the phone, and he glanced around the living room with a stunned expression.
"Err... are you all right, Mr Keeper?" asked Banana worriedly. "Sit down before you fall down!"
Mr Keeper sat, and dropped his head into his hands.
"What's wrong? What's wrong?" asked Bubbles the goldfish.
"Heart attack! Must be heart attack!" remarked Croissant the other goldfish.
"No, I'm fine, don't worry!" interjected Mr Keeper, taking a big breath. "Really I'm fine, Mum took me by surprise, that's all. They're coming to visit tomorrow!"
"Coming where?" asked Marbles, having returned with the frogs to check out all the fuss. "Here? Your parents are coming to visit us? That would be fun, we'd love to meet them!"
"Yeah right! Yeah right!" chirped all four of the frogs excitedly.
Mr Keeper exclaimed, "Fun?? How do I explain to them that I'm hired by a group of ANIMALS, and that you guys actually own the house, and that you TALK?"
"What wrong with that?" asked Marbles, highly offended.
Banana explained to him, "Humans think animals can only be pets. They own us. And they think we can't communicate."
Marbles scoffed, "We just don't want to communicate with THEM most of the time! And anyway, have you ever seen Mrs Keeper talk to her plants? Now THAT'S weird, who's ever heard of plants talking??"
"That's beside the point, we're not talking about Mrs Keeper and her plants, though that IS weird," said Banana, ever practical. "Let's deal with Mr Keeper's problem for now, yes? Well, his problem is our problem, isn't it? He's a part of Sunny Zoo too."
"Yeah right! Yeah right!" agreed the frogs.
"Actually, I don't see that it needs to be a problem at all," said Banana thoughtfully. "We have a couple of humans visiting, they probably won't stay long, so we can just pretend we're normal pets for a day or two right? Like not talking in their presence.... and not order Mr Keeper around for a while.... "
"Yeah right! Yeah right!" agreed the frogs, thinking it sounded like a fun adventure.
Mr Keeper exclaimed gratefully, "It would be great if you could help out! My mother said they'll only be here overnight, they're actually on their way to New Zealand to attend a friend's wedding. Third husband or something."
"Ah..." all the animals nodded knowingly. They were very familiar with polygamy.
Marbles was still disgruntled about having to stay in the closet so to speak: "Are you sure you wouldn't like to just own up to your parents and tell them the truth? That you're working for the Federation of Liberated Ingenious Pets, the most marvellous organisation on the planet? It's something to be proud of, you should stand up tall and...."
"Err... maybe not just yet?" said Mr Keeper hurriedly. "I'll tell them next time, if that's all right with you! Thank you guys for helping me out!"
The animals were always happy to help Mr Keeper out. Although as it turned out, not all of the animals were terribly good at helping, even if they tried. Or especially when they tried!
The Sunny Zoo
The animals at the Sunny Zoo enjoy their many freedoms, including having access to the Internet and a blog.
(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017