“I’m bored,” JaVale McGee announced, throwing his controller on the ground.
“No, you’re just butthurt because you suck at Fortnite,” Nick Young replied from his relaxed position in a recliner, a bag of Doritos resting in between his legs. “That’s not the same as boredom.”
“I’m not even mad right now, for real” JaVale retorted, dipping into his own bag of (differently-flavored) Doritos. “I just realized that I’m not even having fun.” He looked out of the window of their living room and noticed the bright sun and perfectly-cloudless sky. “We should go to the zoo.”
Nick raised his eyebrows. “Well, that was impulsive. I’ll give you a minute to calm down and consider the ramifications of what you just said.”
“What ramifications? It’s just the zoo. It’s not a big deal to go to the zoo.”
Nick pulled the lever on the recliner to extend it to its flattest setting. “It is if your whole plan for the day was to just totally chow down on a mega bag of Doritos.”
“Come on. We’re going to the zoo,” JaVale said, picking up Nick’s limp upper body to try to get him to stand up. “It’ll be good PR for you since you got arrested. And you can just go to sleep in the lizard house if the sun’s too bright for you.”
“Lizards are tight as hell,” Nick admitted. “Alright, I’m getting up, but if we can’t use our status as NBA superstars to swing free concessions, I’m bouncing right the hell out of there.”
“Dude, they’re hiring zookeepers,” JaVale announced excitedly, pointing at a sign in the gift shop. He had just purchased a cap that read “I LOVE THE ZOO” in leopard-print letters, a cap which now rested on his head. “Can you imagine getting into the enclosure with the giraffes and getting to ride them around and stuff?”
“Yeah, like they’d hire you to do anything other than clean up poop,” Nick snorted. In his hands were two plastic bags full of free snacks received from a starstruck girl running the snack stand. “I’m pretty sure care of the animals is left to people who actually understand what kind of care the animals require. Not NBA manchildren who are afflicted with undiagnosed attention disorders.”
But JaVale wasn’t listening. He was already talking with the clerk about the advertised openings. After a brief period of animated conversation, he returned to Nick, who was perusing the coloring books for lack of anything better to do. “They said it’s open interviews so I can interview right now! This is like a dream come true! Are you gonna interview too?”
Nick was already halfway out of the gift shop. “Nah. I’m gonna Uber out of here. Good luck on your new career path.”
JaVale, wearing zoo-branded cargo shorts and a polo shirt that were too small for him, stood in front of his manager, awaiting command like a new military recruit.
“Well, JaVale, since you’re an NBA player, my boss said I have to give you roles with public visibility,” said the manager, an older man named Bob who was clearly annoyed. “Normally you would be cleaning enclosures after the animals had been put away, but you escape poop duty for now. Come on.”
They walked to the back of the penguin exhibit, where Bob handed JaVale a bucket of dead fish. “Here. All you have to do is hold out the fish and they’ll grab it out of your hand. Easy. Remember, those little bastards all look the same so make sure you’re not just feeding the same one over and over.”
JaVale suddenly felt nervous. He didn’t know anything about how to feed penguins. What if they sensed his weakness? But Bob was walking away, seeming to have decided that the task was too simple to require further instruction. With that small amount of confidence returned to him, JaVale entered the enclosure, quickly closing the door to ensure that no captives escaped.
The penguins realized that their dinner had arrived. The ones in the water quickly crawled out, while the ones who had been standing on the rocks began to waddle over to JaVale, their little wings extended out for balance and their tails wagging in excitement. JaVale started to panic seeing the mass of twenty or so birds coming at him.
Remembering that he was supposed to be “publicly visible”, he made his way towards the center of the exhibit, but the penguins were crowding his legs and making it hard to walk. As soon as he grabbed a fish out of the bucket and held it out, it was knocked out of his hand by a hungry beak and there were five penguins noisily squabbling over it. The rest of the penguins were hopping over each other to reach the bucket of delicious fish.
The commotion was making JaVale’s panic worse, and when he slipped on a wet patch, the birds pushed him off balance and he tumbled to the rock. Suddenly, the penguins were crawling all over him trying to get their food, which had spilled mostly on his chest and face. He could do nothing but flail his limbs and plead for help.
“Did you get to ride the giraffes?” Nick asked when JaVale walked back into their apartment.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”