Olivier strains to look at the fortress through his binoculars. The gate is open, but something must have gone wrong. Ingo should have sent the go-signal by now. Nervously, Olivier lights a cigarette and surveys his army. All of the animals are lurking in the bushes impatiently. They’ve waited a very long time to get their revenge and there will be no mercy.
DJ Daddy Dove has set up his sound system on the back of an elephant, ready to blast the attack music. This had been an immediate point of contention for the elephant.
“What do elephants do when they attack? That’s right. They toot. Elephants have tooted in battle for as long as I can remember. I would be violating the legacy of my ancestors, Olivier. You can’t do this to me.”
“And doves are DJs. It’s always been that why. Now, stop acting like a child.”
“This is an outrage!”
Olivier turned his face towards the elephant very slowly, looked deep into the elephant’s eyes, and waited. The elephant soon turned away in fear. Ocelots can be very persuasive.
As Olivier takes the final drag on his cigarette, he sees the long-awaited flash of light from one of the towers. He calmly puts on his eye patch, straightens his navy double-breasted uniform, and swings himself onto the back of the Zebraffe Kuku. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He turns to his cohorts and yells “ATTACK!”. The dove digs his claws into the elephant’s hide and puts on the ancient battle song of his people. Bonanza.
All of the animals leap out of the bushes and race towards the gates at their own respective paces but with one collective goal: Justice.
Meanwhile, Mr Lush is hanging upside down from a branch in the tiger enclosure. Two tigers after gallantly introducing themselves as Paul and Maul, respectively, (for some reason, Lush immediately felt that Paul seemed like the more likeable of the two) circle under him. Both tigers seem rather impatient (lots of hemming and hawing) for Mr Mahto to give them permission to tear Lush apart and decorate their enclosure with his entrails. However, they both fully understand Mr Mahto’s philosophy that good things come to those who wait. The whole scene takes Mr Lush back to his Eton days. Some older boys had kidnapped a drunken Lush and hung him upside down from the chandelier in the dining hall. Over the years, Lush had often asked himself which was worse: the intermittent vomiting or the children’s laughter. Mahto interrupts Lush’s musings by gently moving the needle on a giant gramophone. He has chosen Vivaldi’s Spring movement from The Four Seasons. The song blasts out at near-deafening volume.
“What a pleb,” thinks Lush. “Surely, Winter would have been more appropriate. Some people just don’t understand the arts, I suppose. In any case, àchacun ses gouttes“, he laughs to himself hubristically.
Mahto lifts the needle almost immediately (making one question why he even put the song on in the first place) and addresses our hero in a soft voice: “My dear Mr Lush, it’s so lovely of you to have dropped in for a visit. As luck would have it, there is a matter I had been meaning to discuss with you. As you may recall, a motorcycle with two sidecars was stolen from my garage recently. Now, don’t worry. I am a forgiving man and I consider that a mere trifle. That being said, that motorcycle was not the only thing that you stole from me. Also taken from my possession were two Zebraffes. While I admit I was never particularly fond of those two (nor they of me, incidentally. Among my many failings, I could be a very demanding father at times), your theft did end up costing me quite a lot of money and I am indeed very fond of money. Worst of all, though, worse than the theft, worse than the financial cost, is the cost to my reputation. I have a little saying that I like to use for my customers. I like to say that the customer is king. I think we can both agree that it is not very regal to arrive here after a 14-hour flight, only to be told that the Zebraffes you were promised are no longer available. Furthermore, while I may be the custodian of this humble fortress, I am not its proprietor. Needless to say, my employer was less than impressed to have lost out on his investment.”
Mahto lifts the needle on the gramophone again. “Please do forgive me my little quirks. I admit that I have a penchantfor the dramatique.” As he places the needle on the record and makes the subtlest movement of his thumb and forefinger, Maul’s right claw slashes the pleated front of Lush’s Turndown & Asshair evening shirt, missing his chest by a deliberately narrow margin. Lush’s first thought is that the new styling of the shirt, while avantgarde, arguably suits his recently torn trousers much better. He doffs his imaginary cap to Maul’s sartorial eye. He considers complimenting him on his work but thinks better of it. In his experience, tigers take themselves dreadfully seriously. Mahto stops the music again. “Where are the Zebraffes, Mr Lush?”
Meanwhile, Olivier’s forces have reached top speed. While the penguins are lagging a little behind, little Napoleon urges them forward. “If Mahto has hurt Lush, let’s just say that Kenny Kangaroo will have to put on his judge’s robes.”
As Paul and Maul roar in amusement at the tattoo of a broken heart on his chest (what a romantic he had been in his formative years!), Lush sees his life flash before his eyes. Disappointment, his and others’, is the key theme. He hears the first notes of his death song playing in his head. Much to his surprise, it is Spicks and Specksby the BeeGees.
“For the final time, Mr Lush, where are the Zebraffes?” Receiving no response, he snaps his fingers, but the sound is drowned out by music and various animal noises. Paul, Maul, and Mahto all turn in unison and see a mass of wild animals storming the gates. A small marten is also busying himself with the task of opening all of the animal enclosures. Mahto isn’t all-too concerned until he spies Olivier wearing an eye patch and his double-breasted uniform and riding on one of the Zebraffes. Olivier looks towards Mahto. One eye meets two. Olivier ties a red bandana around his forehead and pulls out his secret weapon, Dieter, the sea cucumber. He then directs Kuku towards the tiger enclosure
“Mr Mahto, fancy seeing you here. It’s been such a long time.” Mahto is speechless with fear. Olivier lifts Dieter threateningly. “I’m talking to you, Mr Mahto.” Mahto begins to tremble.
Paul turns to Mahto and says: “You never said anything about sea cucumbers. We quit.” Paul and Maul slowly walk towards the gate Ingo Messerschnitt is in the process of opening. As they pass Lush, Maul whispers:
“No hard feelings, eh? Let’s grab a beer some time.”
“Yes, of course. I look forward to it,” replies Lush. “Maybe I was wrong about that one”, he thinks to himself.
Olivier persists. “It would seem that the feline’s got your tongue. I’ll make it easy for you. You have two options. Either you stay in the enclosure and you choose your punishment yourself or you leave the enclosure and let the other animals decide.”
Mahto is a broken man. He knows what the cucumber means. He crashes down into his chair next to the gramophone. Lush, though quietly annoyed that no one has thought to help him down, doesn’t wish to interrupt the scene playing out before his eyes. Mahto slowly raises his head. He points a trembling index finger at Dieter. Olivier nods gently, almost affectionately. He whispers in Dieter’s ear and it’s over in a flash. The sea cucumber fires its projectile and Mahto slumps to the floor. Lush is shocked.
Not only has he never seen a dead body before, he also didn’t know what we all know, namely that sea cucumbers can kill people. Olivier lifts his eye patch and winks as only ocelots can. With a snap of his paws, Olivier has Barry Baboon free Lush. Unfortunately, in his excitement, Barry has forgotten that his human cousins are not particularly agile. As Lush crashes down onto his face, the last sound he hears is a deep, horrified groan.
Am I dead? Have I ever lived? Or am I only truly alive now? – Mr Lush
Seconds, minutes, or hours later (Lush’s wristwatch, as reliably as ever, gives no information), Lush wakes up on a stretcher with Olivier standing over him. “Your coronation ceremony will begin soon.”
Lush turns his head towards Olivier, closes his eyes, and nods.
“Now, off to the meerkat hospital”, Olivier calls to the ant paramedics. Limply, Lush waves goodbye to Olivier as the ants carry him off towards the sunrise. MM/EG/DC