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Novel Idea

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Prestige Animals: the Grand Finale!

Do Not Eat The Humans!! Completely exhausted by the US presidential race? Peruse this over your leisurely Friday lunch. Click here for Installment 1 and Installment 2 of Sam’s hilarious, Novel Idea-winning adventure tale. The suspense has been killing you, huh?

Dennis impressed me by thinking quickly. Unfortunately, he didn’t think well. “We’re crocodile inspectors,” he said. Charlene pushed him aside. “What he means is, there’s been an outbreak of avian ’flu in the neighbourhood, and it’s a strain spread by reptiles.” “That’s right,” I said. “Dr Charlene here was telling me that there couldn’t be any crocodiles around here and I was saying that I had to check. Lives are at stake.” Golden Boy looked at us, one at a time, like he was working out who to hurt first. “We’re with the epidemic containment agency,” I said, flashing him my video club card at him. “Do you know anyone who’s been coughing or sniffing?” It was a safe bet. He looked uncertain, and I pressed it home. “If you know where any large reptiles are, we’re sworn to keep it in the strictest confidence. It’s the Vet’s Hippocratic oath.” Golden Boy shoved his pimply nose up in my face. “Yeah?” he said. “How do I know you’re who you say you are?” “Sir, I’m not messing around. Yesterday, I had my finger bitten off by a honey badger.” I held up my hand for him to see. “And I didn’t rat out the man who owned it. I’m just trying to save lives.” He looked me in the eye, but I meant it. Well, most of it. “Get in here,” he sneered.

We were led through a building with bare concrete floors and collapsed walls filled with beautiful paintings, sculptures and several wide-screen TVs. Golden Boy clearly robbed people with taste and money. I tried not to look; I felt the presence of the large men behind me and I didn’t want to give them cause to use their baguettes. Golden Boy opened the back door and showed us his yard. It was raw concrete for two metres, leading to an evil-smelling pit. The bottom was a muddy pond with a small island in the middle, and on the island was a log with its mouth open. The mouth had sharp teeth. “Get on with it and get out,” said Golden Boy.

There was a rope ladder down into the pit. “Guys?” I said, and we went into a huddle. “Any ideas?” I asked. Dennis reached into his pocket and took out a syringe of morphine. “Dennis, you brilliant addicted bastard!” I said. I could tell he regretted showing it. “That was for the ride home,” he said glumly. Charlene nodded at the pit. “There’s no way in hell I’m going down there. They can snap birds out of the air!” she said. “Rock paper scissors?” said Dennis. Golden Boy watched us with suspicion. I waved at him. “You don’t have a rope, do you?” He sneered again, and shouted for one of the big guys, who brought out a long, chewed-looking piece of rope. I dangled it into the pit and waved it over the crocodile’s nose. The crocodile snapped at it at trouser-wetting speed, and tugged hard. I skidded forward on the broken concrete, and the front of my shoes went over the edge of the pit.

All I could see was mud and crocodile. I swung my body back and forward like a clown on a tightrope, and miraculously fell backwards. “Now what?” said Dennis, sounding bored. I got up, rubbing my coccyx, and looked back into the pit. The rope hung out of the crocodile’s mouth like a piece of spaghetti that it couldn’t be bothered to slurp. I pulled up the slack, and tied the rope into a wide noose. I fed it over itself and lowered the noose down the rope, which guided it right to the crocodile’s mouth. A quick flick, it was over the snout, and I pulled the noose tight. The crocodile thrashed twice, then went back to being a log. Even Golden Boy looked impressed. For the first time, Charlene looked at me like I was worth a damn. I raised an eyebrow. “That’s how it’s done,” I said, and tripped into the pit.

“Are you all right?” Charlene called down. I was lying face down in the mud, completely winded, but I did my best to give her the thumbs-up. When I got my breath back, Dennis dropped the syringe to me and I found a soft part on the crocodile’s throat. The needle made an audible popping sound going in. “That should do it!” I called up to Golden Boy. “Antibiotic. You’re all safe now.” I climbed out and we were ushered back through the headquarters. It was one of the biggest reliefs of my life to get back into the horrible alleyway. There were a couple of drug addicts picking through the bins outside the doorway. I could have kissed them on their scabs. “Just one more thing,” said Golden Boy. I turned back to him, and he took out a knife and cut deep slits down the sleeves of my leather jacket. “Tell one person about me or this place and I’ll slice you between your balls and pull them apart slowly,” he said.

We dropped Charlene back at her car, and thanked her. She didn’t look back at us, but she didn’t give us the finger either, which I appreciated. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting our gear together. We had black clothes, rope, a grappling hook made out of the bottom of an office chair, three rolls of duct tape, a thermos of coffee (instant, hot water from the tap) two plastic cups and 50ccs of liquid morphine, which I asked Dennis to leave at home. “It’s only going to get you into trouble, isn’t it?” I said. He nodded sadly, like a four-year-old who’s been caught eating from the sugar bowl again. We got in the car and drove back to Golden Boy’s, parking opposite the alley. After midnight, we heard the gates open, and a black van drove out, followed by Golden Boy’s SUV. “All right!” I said. “Operation Nabzilla is go.”

We stood under the wall again. Dennis threw up the home-made grappling-hook, and it caught on the third try. “You first,” I said. “Why?” said Dennis. “Because I’ve only got nine fingers!” Dennis climbed to the top of the wall. “Can you see it?” I hissed up. “I don’t know. It’s really dark,” he said, leaning forward as far as he could to get a better look. All I could see was his legs. “Be careful you don’t -” I said, as he flipped over the wall. I heard him scream, and there was a splash. “Dennis?” I called in a hoarse whisper. My phone rang, and I answered it. It was Dennis. “Eugene, I’m in… the pit… with the crocodile,” he said. I heard a beeping. “Hang on, I’ve got another call coming in,” I said. “Eugene, don’t you dare hang up on -” The other call was from Charlene. “Get here now,” she said. “Why? We’re kind of in the middle of something,” I said. She lowered her voice. “Golden Boy’s here. And guess what he’s brought with him.”

I parked outside Charlene’s vet clinic, a safe distance from Golden Boy’s SUV and van, and walked around the back. Through a window I could see Charlene in her white coat, and the crocodile asleep on the table. I rapped on the glass and she opened it. “What happened?” I asked. She looked around nervously. “He phoned me half an hour ago and said the crocodile was acting weird so I told him to bring it here.” “What’s wrong with it?” “It was spasming. You should warn Dennis that whatever was in that syringe wasn’t exactly pure. But I’ve sedated it. Where is Dennis, anyway?” “He’s out of trouble. I left him in the crocodile pit.” This gave Charlene a moment’s pause. “Is he okay?” “Yeah. He’s safer there than here, especially if he starts spasming. I have to go back with a longer rope. Now let’s get the crocodile out the window.”

I hadn’t counted on Charlene being against the idea. But she had a point; Golden Boy knew where she worked, so she couldn’t be seen to steal his property. She went back through to the waiting room to discuss the dangers of avian ’flu with Golden Boy and the gang while I awkwardly maneuovred the sleeping crocodile out the open window by myself. I had to leave the muzzle straps on the surgery floor to make it look like it had broken out on its own. Staying as far as possible from the creature’s mouth made moving it less easy. I dragged it by the tail, through the bushes and across the concrete to Dennis’s Golf, and hauled it onto the roof with a muscle-rupturing effort. As I was duct-taping it down I heard the rumbling of the sliding glass door. “What the hell?” said Golden Boy. He stood outside the waiting room with an acned sneer of surprise, flanked by his friends who definitely, definitely weren’t carrying baguettes.

I was bleeding quite badly by the time I reached Mr Grey’s house. He greeted me personally in the lush white foyer. “Ah! The delivery from Dennis Pennant! And a crocodile, no less! Well done.” He poked it with his foot. “I trust you had no problems in acquiring it?” “No,” I said, shaking my head. “Except for the shooting. And the car chase. I had to escape Golden Boy’s gang, understand. And then there was a road-block, so the police started chasing me, too. That helicopter overhead, I think that’s theirs.” I was definitely dizzy. I felt like I was moving backwards down a tunnel. Mr. Grey was staring in disbelief. Behind me, the door burst open and Golden Boy and his thugs pushed their way in. “You! You think you can steal a crocodile from me?” he was shouting at Mr Grey. “You think you can steal a crocodile from Golden Boy? You had this coming, you poncy bastard!” “Bring it on, you pizza-faced prepubescent!” shouted Mr Grey. I started to lose my eyesight. I dropped to my knees, and then to the floor. There were a lot of bangs, and the last thing I remember is someone shouting “Aaaaaaaah! It bit my leg off! It bit my leg off!” I drifted into unconsciousness, smiling.

The police found me asleep among the remains of five and a half gang members, including Mr. Grey and seventy-five percent of Golden Boy. The only reason I’m not in jail was the badger. While I was in custody they did a blood test, and found traces of rabies. I was given the vaccine immediately, and my surprisingly ambitious state-appointed lawyer managed to claim I was officially rabid at the time of my reckless driving and crocodile theft. He got me off with temporary insanity. And that was it. The crocodile was shipped to a game park. Dennis was put off morphine permanently after spending the night spasming in a mud-filled pit owned by a drug lord. Charlene rescued him the next morning, and I was horrified to learn that they bonded over the experience, and started going out. They stayed together until she found out he was stealing her horse tranquillisers. And me, right now, I’m back at the game park, studying to be a game ranger. I’m staying away from people, learning how to deal with animals, and I’m getting a gun. Bliss.

*Thanks to Burnt Umber on Flickr for the pic.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    October 24th, 2008 @12:22 #

    hahahaha brilliant!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    October 24th, 2008 @13:06 #

    rabidly entertaining

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Michelle</a>
    October 27th, 2008 @11:08 #

    In my next life, I want to be a croc-wrangler. Or a writer as good as Sam. I can't decide which is more thrilling...


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