Mr Lush slowly attempts to open his eyes but cannot stop blinking. He is still lying on the floor of Flavio Flamingo’s bar. The Jägermeister seems to have done lasting damage. What has awoken him is the sound of the wild, rhythmic clattering of hooves and paws.
He makes an attempt to get his bearings and is dismayed to find that the dizziness is not the pinnacle of his suffering. Here and there, he spies small remnants of an alcohol-induced mess on his navy double-breasted suit. Kiki and Kuku have likely (so thinks our drinking competition runner-up) wiped the rest away already. “It was probably a better idea to leave me on the floor”, he muses. Unsurprisingly, Lush’s sense of time-and-space is slightly distorted. However, he is feeling brave and, so, glances at his less-than-functional Fiertel wristwatch in the hope that it can return him to reality. Using a convoluted calculating method designed to solve the puzzle of a broken watch, Lush determines that his Jägermeister power failure has cost him somewhere between thirty and forty minutes. Having solved his temporal conundrum, Lush analyses his surroundings. Olivier, wearing an inexplicable officer’s hat and accompanied by the lemur on the piano, is leading the animals in karaoke. Olivier is on the bar with one of the more uniquely dressed gazelles.
As soon as Olivier spots Lush’s attempt to right himself, he gives Kiki a small hand signal. This brings an immediate end to the music (‘Sunny’ by Boney M.). Lush knows to be scared, because the ocelot is drunk and notoriously mischievous. The first tones of Dschinghis Khan’s ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor?’ ring out, sung by a variety of animals.
Lush begins to regret the lack of nightingales in the bar, as a group of singing motorcycle leopards begin to carry the still quasi-motionless Lush. The leopards carry our hero into a small, adjacent flat while the rest of the peacocks, lemurs, crabs, hummingbirds, and at least one ocelot dance a polonaise. “This was definitely Olivier’s idea”, sighs Lush, while attempting to control his nausea. Arriving in a tiled room with a shower cubicle, the Zebraffes and the ocelot are already laughing maniacally. Lush is frantically trying to rescue his tie, as one of the gazelles turns the cold-water tap on.
The next five minutes of Lush’s existence are pure, unbearable cold. All the while, the animal train continues to sing their shanty. Lush is so miserable that he doesn’t even cry for mercy. After what feels like an eternity, in only his underwear, he asks for a bar of soap, a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a hanger (wooden), fresh clothes, and a little bit of respite from his audience. His wishes are granted. His body refreshed (although still with bad breath), he squeezes into his new clothing – a pair of blue jeans, a white undershirt, a leather jacket (all, of course, too small) and a pair of worn out sneakers (too big, of course). Lush has reached the point at which he does not even mind looking ridiculous so long as his clothes are clean. Finally, he hangs his soaking-wet suit and shirt on a dry cleaner’s hanger.
Stepping out into the bar fully-dressed, he is greeted by a collective call of “YOU HAVE PASSED THE TEST OF FIRE”. Lush answers with a weary grin and a middle finger. He begins to ask the good Samaritan leopard whose clothes he is wearing whether he is, by any chance, a fan of the Village People. However, a glimpse at the leopard’s biceps is enough to convince Lush that this is an unwise course of action.
Lush asks one of the hummingbirds for an espresso with lemon juice, a glass of still water, and six slices of dry toast. The music is back on and everyone is dancing (the Zebraffes dancing the macarena is a highlight).
Olivier sidles up to Lush. “Feeling any better?” – “That was a trick, wasn’t it?” The ocelot thinks for a moment before answering: “Necessary evil. It could have been worse…” Lush is less than impressed. Meanwhile, the Zebraffes are currently treating their fellow patrons to a duet of Randy Newman’s ‘Short people’ (the lemur suspects he is being mocked but accompanies on the piano nonetheless).
“Anyway, enjoy yourself. We’ll move on to the next station tomorrow. We’ve got big plans for you.”
Before Lush can even protest, the front door is kicked off its hinges. Gunfire fills the room. The music stops immediately. The first casualty of the evening is the budgerigar doorman who lies crushed under the door. However, this is no time for mourning. Our shooter enters the room. A lion (bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mickey Rourke) arrogantly strides into the room, Tommy Gun in hand. He is wearing black and white correspondent shoes, an off-white three-piece suit, a black and white psychedelic-patterned tie on a black shirt, and a white wide-brimmed fedora. His tailor has expertly cut a hole in the seat of his trousers and intentionally provided the jacket with a central vent to provide the freedom of tail movement required of any respectable lion. He fires another salvo into the ceiling and steps further into the bar. He purposely clicks his metal toe taps on the dirty floor with each step. No one else in the room dares make a move. Olivier and Lush are cowering behind the bar, the Zebraffes behind the curtain of the stage.
The lion, in the manner of a man accustomed to the spotlight, can tell the room is his and begins to speak in a relaxed and smooth voice “Ladies and gentlemen, friends of good entertainment, please, do not be alarmed. I am not here to harm you. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Eduardo Gorgonzoles (but you can all me Ed). The first thing you should know about me is that I’m not a big fan of unnecessary complications. Thankfully, I am here on a very simple mission. My job is to bring in (unfortunately alive)… Just joking! I don’t want to hurt anyone, as I said. My job is to bring in alive an ocelot, a human man, and two giraffe-zebra hybrids. There does need to be any violence at all.
In fact, I have a suggestion. I’m going to sit here on this couch and we’re all just going to listen to a song together and the creatures I’m looking for are just going to turn themselves in. However, in the name of fairness, I should clarify that, should the four not turn themselves in by the time the song is done, I am unlikely to remain as calm as you see me now. If no one has any objections (and I would strongly advise no one to object), I will choose the song. As a fair warning to the pianist,” here Ed takes a few steps back and jumps up and down on the door, further crushing the budgie which has recently ceased to be “should you conceive of perhaps adding new lines or playing at a decelerated pace, you will be sent to meet your maker. Is that clear?” No answer. “I asked a question” Another salvo rings out. A short low “yes” comes back in response. “Outstanding! Là, je dis ‘chapeau’. Now, let me see… What’s a classic song? Ah! I’ve got it. Bad Leroy Brown! However, before I forget: I’ll have a dirty Martini, please, thank you for asking.”
The lemur slowly moves back to his grand piano while a hummingbird reluctantly mixes Ed’s drink.
The lion takes his seat on the aforementioned couch, reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a small vial of catnip and an American $100 bill which he promptly rolls up. He uses the black American Smexypress card in his other hand to create some fine lines on the black marble coffee table in front of him. By the time his drink finally hums onto the table, two lines have already been inhaled. We’re already into the second verse of the song. Lush is so frightened that he doesn’t know how long Olivier has been gone. The Zebraffes remain behind the curtain. Lush begins to ask himself the hard, deeply philosophical questions that one asks when facing one’s untimely demise. “How did I fuck this up? What is this bullshit?”
In the meantime, the last verse has begun as the sadistic lion takes the last sip of his drink. Where is Olivier when you need him? Lush cannot see what is happening in the room from his vantage point. Just as Lush has decided to turn himself in to save the other animals from execution, he hears the lion roar in pain. Lush cannot master his curiosity and takes a quick peek over the bar. Ed’s tail seems to be on fire.
Lush can just about spot Olivier with a bottle in one hand and his Funhill in the other. Our ocelot hero grips the Tommy gun and slides to the back door. “Everyone out.” The now-cowardly lion is still jumping up and down wildly and trying to stomp on his own tail. All of the patrons (including Lush and the Zebraffes) run to the rear exit. The lion springs out of the door through which he entered before disappearing into London’s sewers. Olivier opens fire but misses by Eduardo Gorgonzoles by inches. DC/EG/MM